Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Monkey's Orchid

(Written April 7, 2011.)

Before I go any further, I need to make something very clear: I don’t have a green thumb.  My (rare) visits to a nursery always go something like this: “I’m looking for some [indoor/outdoor] plants that like the [shade/sun]… and that I can’t kill.”  Still, my husband, ever the optimist, will from time to time give me a plant.  So when he bought me an orchid two Mother’s Days ago, I assumed I would enjoy the blooms for a few weeks before the plant went the way of those that came before it.
I never set out to kill my plants, so I did put the orchid in bright, indirect sunlight and sprayed it daily, but when the flowers fell off and the plant threatened to die, I switched to dumping water on its roots once a week.  And I never did trim back the shoots.  Amazingly, several months later, this minimal attention resulted in a second flowering.

Last summer, as the orchid sat bloomless after the second flowers fell off, we learned we were expecting our third child.  And we were elated.  After much consideration, we headed to see the genetic counselor in September for a First Trimester Screen.  Nothing, not even many years training and experience as a genetic counselor myself, could have prepared us for what happened.  The screen was wildly abnormal, so much so that it was hard for the genetic counselor to attach a number to our risk.  Her estimate was about a 70% chance (not 1 in 70) of a major problem – most likely a chromosome condition or heart defect.  We opted to have a CVS (to diagnose any chromosome conditions) and headed home to hug our boys and wait for the results.

It’s hard to describe what those three days of waiting were like.  They were filled with conversations couples should never have to have; many tears; hugs from good friends; awkward conversations with people who had heard the good, but not yet the bad, news; and all the day-to-day activities (dinners, birthday parties, bath times) that just made it seem all the more surreal.

At some point during the weekend, I found myself at the kitchen sink, and the orchid caught my eye.  For on the orchid were two tiny, but undeniable, new shoots.  Was God sending me a sign that everything would be okay?  I don’t know.  But I know that when I saw that orchid I was overcome with the idea that life will carry on.  And I was comforted.  I didn’t know what news we would be receiving in the coming days, but I knew that whatever it was, we would pick ourselves up and carry on.

The phone call came Monday afternoon.  “Katherine, this is Sarah.  I have good news.”  The phone call we dared not hope we would receive.  The initial chromosome results were normal.  Normal.  We hugged, we cried, we smiled till our faces hurt, we called our friends and family who cried with us, we hugged our boys.  We exhaled.

The coming months brought many more hurdles: the final chromosome results, two fetal echocardiograms, numerous ultrasounds, non-stress tests.  I felt a twinge of nerves here and there, but after we got those initial normal results, we never feared the way we had that weekend.  We felt at peace.  Did we somehow know that everything would be okay?  Or did we just know that if we could get through that awful weekend, we could get through anything?

As the baby and I grew, so did the orchid.  Those two shoots turned out to be new plants, complete with roots, leaves, and buds.  And about three days before our new son entered the world, the first two buds burst open into beautiful white flowers.

Monkey is now one week old and thriving.  He eats well, sleeps well, and is easily the most mellow of our children.  (May he always be so!)  The orchid has six blooms on it.

Mister worries that I have attached too much meaning to the orchid and that if it begins to die that I will worry about Monkey.  I know better than that.  But if it dies, I will mourn its loss.  For Mister could have chosen any orchid, or any plant for that matter, but he chose this one.  And this orchid helped get me through the darkest days of my life, days when I struggled to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.  It reminds me of the fragility and miraculousness that is the gift of life.  It will forever be Monkey’s orchid.

Image by Ali Anderson Photography.

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