I remember the car ride leaving the hospital most vividly. My sister had just given birth to my niece, and it was a change I thought I was ready for.
But apparently, I wasn’t.
My brother passed away when I was 15 years old. Between that time and my 17th birthday, my parents almost got divorced, and my older sister moved away halfway across the country and had announced she was pregnant.
I was subject to changes. I was almost used to them, but that didn’t make them any less scary.
My dad and I took a train to Illinois the day before my sister went into labor. It was a long, long train ride. I was excited to see my mom, as she had left for Illinois two weeks prior. I was nervous to see my sister in the vulnerable state that is childbirth. But most of all, I was anxious to meet the new member of my tiny family.
Anxious. A word I knew all too well.
I wasn’t properly diagnosed with anxiety until May of 2017, one month after the birth of my niece. But I had unknowingly struggled with it for quite some time. I had to deal with panic attacks while sitting in my history class. I was too scared to hang out with friends. It has impacted my life more than I care to admit. I didn’t know that it would creep up on me this time too.
When I got to the hospital the first time, I saw my sister, helpless as she was throwing up and in pain from her contractions. It was such a weird thing to see. My sister and I weren’t very close when we were younger, with a five-year age difference between us. I had (only) seen my sister this vulnerable only two times in my life. The first was right after my brother died and I comforted her as she cried, and the second, this moment.
My dad and I left the hospital to go get food and to bring our luggage to the house. I was exhausted as I barely slept the night before on the train. And I was overwhelmed (with) being in a hospital in an unfamiliar state. Very overwhelmed.
My sister gave birth to her daughter around 4 p.m. Kinsley Quinn. On the drive back to the hospital, I was talking to my mom and I was mad at her for not being sentimental enough. She stopped being sentimental after my brother died.
Then, we got back in the room. There was my sister, with a minutes-old baby on her chest. There were other people in the room, my mom, and members of the father’s family, that I knew but wasn’t familiar with. Then I got closer, and I saw her. My niece. Kinsley Quinn. Sucking on my sister’s chest.
The feeling that came over me was immense. It engulfed me from the bottom of my shoes to the top of my head.
I don’t know that baby.
I don’t know these people.
This isn’t my home.
My sister left me to be with that man.
Why isn’t my brother here?
I don’t know that baby.
I don’t know where I am.
I had a panic attack that evening. Which is shameful to admit. Now, when I think back to my niece’s birth, all I can think about is that horrible panic attack.
That moment was when I knew I needed help. I couldn’t keep living my life spending happy moments too afraid to be happy. I couldn’t keep being afraid of change.
The change I went through when I lost my brother was horrible. But this change was good. This change was beautiful. This change brought so much happiness into my life.
I love Kinsley Quinn. Her coming into my life helped me remember that it’s okay to love. It’s okay to not be afraid of the changes that happen naturally, and to not be scared of losing, or loving.
I learned that those two go hand in hand. To feel loss is to feel love. To feel love is to feel loss. And that’s okay. What matters most is how you get through it.