Once upon a random fine day, my twin babies had a medical appointment in a far away land. Land where sick children became healthy, and where hope was restored for all the parents in the world. (Aka, an outpatient office located in a hospital setting about an hour drive from our house.) Which is not at all the point of this story. No, the point of this story exceeds far beyond the needs of my babies. It enters an alternate microcosm of deprived, desolate moms yearning for their silver lining, to be able to cross back and care for their young in a stable fashion. It is about the mom’s pursuit of happiness.
It was early, and our small yet vehement family of 4 was rushing to leave the house by a certain time. No easy feat by any means when involving a wife, her husband, and two infants. One that plunges the whole family unit into an episode of short-term and working memory loss comprised of purposeful and confident trips to different rooms of the house, only to forget exactly what was needed for the trip once they got there. My husband and I both knew the importance of timeliness because we would be the ones suffering the consequences of two cranky babies if we had to wait longer to be seen because we were tardy. Thoughts that only compounded the pressure we already felt and further delayed our departure, naturally. A beautiful paradox, yes.
I made it to the shower and washed my hair, but only had time to brush out one side. I made it to the kitchen to turn on my Nespresso and Aeroccino Machines (because what is a double-espresso latte without frothy milk?), but didn’t get a chance to take that cup to go.
Now that was right when and where the world imploded, then ended. Right in my kitchen in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Okay, not really, but that’s sure how it felt! I managed to get myself and my 3 babies dressed, sporting the only type of day-day outfit of maximum comfort with 3 on-the-go; leggings, a loose sweater, and Uggs.
One thought predominated my mind during the lengthy ride there, giving me abundant time to plot my plan. Since I couldn’t get some at home, how can I get some there? My itchiness and eagerness for coffee manifested into physical symptoms of perspiration and psycho-motor fidgeting in the car. Otherwise known as caffeine withdrawal. Good thing everyone was too occupied to notice (my favorite arrangement); husband was focused on driving and enjoying the music, and babies were napping in their car seats. I was able to “stay in my own head” by fantasizing and ruminating about the perfect cup; thoughts which I think produced my nasal hallucination of the smell.
When we arrived at our destination, my husband went to park the car and I strolled the rest of us to the hospital. When I reached the lobby, security staff asked me which department we needed, to guide us to the right floor.
“The coffee department” I said, chuckling.
They initially had quite a blank, non-amused stare.
“Sorry, I just didn’t have a chance to have some this morning, we were in a rush to leave, we live far, and I’m just exhausted… is there a place I can get a cup?”
They gazed at me, down at my stroller, then back at me, and said “Yeah, the double stroller. We get it. Go to the 12th floor, there’s a hot chocolate/coffee machine there.”
Sparkles must’ve emitted from my eyes as I strolled off replying, “Great, thanks!”
Mind you, that was not the floor nor department where we needed to go for my babies’ appointments. We were tight on time but not late yet, so I decided we had time for this. We had to make time for this. I was determined. Hopeful. Ready.
We got to the 12th floor and strolled to the front desk where I would make my inquiry known. Receptionists saw me and asked, “Which doctor are you here to see, and the patients’ names please? You can also use a self check-in at the Kiosk machine if you wish.”
Under my panting breath, I replied, “No, no, no, no thank you, I was told that there is a coffee machine on this floor. I was hoping to get a cup. So, where is it?”
As if it was ludicrous for them to ask me the most relevant and appropriate question to the situation. But really, what doctor? Didnt they hear the alarm? Don’t they know there was a twin mom there who didn’t get to have her coffee that morning? I was officially a beggar. But the associating feelings of shame were mild in comparison to my cravings so that did not stop me. I don’t think an apocalypse would’ve arrested my search.
The receptionists paused, gazed at me, down at my stroller, then back at me, to say the familiar words “Ah, yes, the double stroller. We get it. Go across this hallway to the other waiting area and make a left. You will see it” They pointed.
By that time, one twin was awake and curiously observing the environment, while the other one was just waking up. Giving each of them a quick caress, I mentally prayed for their continued calmness and understanding that mommy is having a “moment”. I periodically muttered under my breath, “Mommy just needs come coffee. Mommy could just use some coffee right now.” Or in my better moments, narrated our activities; great for their language development and bonding! Good thing I’m a “talker”, as I’ve been told throughout my life. Though, I can definitely wait before they get older and reach the cognitive capacity to look at me and go, “Mommy is so fun. But she is nuts!”
“Thank you!” I replied, already on the move before I finished saying ‘you’. I vaguely heard them cackling as I strolled off, but was so grateful for their contribution to my goal (c.o.f.f.e.e) that I was prepared to forgive way more than a cackle at my expense.
I reached the packed waiting area on the other side, noticing the generally melancholy vibe of the room. Of course, as this happened to be a department treating serious and chronic medical illnesses. The therapist in me started to wonder the life stories and histories of the people in the waiting area…are they going to be okay? Do they have supportive family? Are they complying with their medication? Do they live with co-occurring mental health issues? Substance Abuse?
…and then one of my babies briefly cried out, prompting me to re-focus on my destination and remember we were pressed for time.
And there it was. Jackpot. Treasure. My dearest love. My savior.
THE COFFEE MACHINE
Life was good again. No, really, who cares that I was up most of the night prior, tending to two babies who were screaming on rotation? As if they planned in advance to play tricks on mommy? (Hey, at least they were already collaborating nicely together)Experiencing feelings of rage and anger? Who cares if I had one half-closed, irritated eye from the poor sleep? Life has redeemed itself, and was suddenly very worthy again!
Luckily my babies were relatively quiet, a brief moan here and there, so I focused on preparing my cup. I have my own idiosyncratic operation requiring a specific amount of coffee to milk to creamer ratio. It is always a drawn-out procedure that would appear OCD to the outside observer. Whatever it is, the process and finished result brings me joy.
I prepared a foam to-go cup, stirrer straw, and Stevia packets. As I went to click the button, to my dismay, the machine malfunctioned and showed to be broken!
…But WAS life really all that amazing? I got poor sleep the night before, and get poor sleep on most nights! Who needed this, really? A sense of a bleak future coated my mind, body, and soul. But luckily, didn’t penetrate through which would be much harder to recover from.
Weak and fatigued, I strolled us back to the elevator while beginning to accept the possibility that I was not getting coffee at that time. More withdrawal symptoms emerged in the form of a headache and began following me. Also following me into the elevator, was one of the receptionists from the front desk, from the crew who cackled yet contributed.
She sincerely asked, “So, did you get your coffee??”
With a deep and defeated sigh, I responded, “No, the machine is not working.”
The woman said, “Oh, I can fix that for you! Just let me go to the restroom, then I can go back and take care of it. Come back there in 10 minutes!”
Racing thoughts convulsed through my brain and the mental debate of “To go back, or not to go back? That is the question” transpired. It was about 10 minutes to the time of our appointment. I decided it would be quicker for me to take us to the cafeteria where I would just buy a cup. At that point I’d be willing to drop $50 if it meant I would get it at once. Caffeine dependence much? No wonder it’s in the manual for psychiatric disorders! Debated, though. DSM-V regards it as a condition for “further study”, and ICD-10 contains caffeine dependence syndrome as a diagnosis. It is a stimulant, after all. But you know what? Things could be much worse.
“Thanks so much for the offer, but we just don’t have the time. Where is the nearest cafeteria where I can buy one?”
The nice receptionist smiled and gave me the directions of where to go. Great. My spatial and directional awareness is already subpar, compounded by being pressed for time?! Bad combination! Recipe for anxiety. Why did we have to choose this huge and far hospital with labyrinth of hallways?! Because they have amazing high-rated doctors, right, right.
I gathered all the mental strength I had and managed to stroll us to the cafeteria rather quickly. Only to find that there was a huge line to the register! Why did I imagine a practically empty cafeteria with more cash register staff than patrons? Likely guided by wishful thinking and the logic that money gets you what you want quicker, and of higher quality. Usually, that would be true. But this was turning into a Murphy’s Law type of situation. Envisioning my coffee making process and having to wait out that line, I once again accepted defeat. I just couldn’t tackle that.
Deflated again, I strolled us out of there and suddenly wondered where in his process my husband was. Knowing him, he probably already fixed the broken machine on the 12th floor. I remembered feeling my phone vibrate several times but I was too preoccupied and removed to answer.
Then, my thoughts were distracted by a group of nurses or doctors who were marching in synchrony with cups of coffee in their hands. I projected out to them, “Excuse me! Sorry to bother you, but where did you guys get that coffee?”
At that point I felt like an addict junkie panhandling for my next caffeine fix, running around the hospital with my 2 babies in their double stroller, hair brushed-out only on one side, with one half-closed irritated eye and a remote husband.
They quickly explained the directions to another area in the hospital; the hidden gem spot with coffee. I imagined just how much they needed it too given the work that they do and the long hours they work tending to the ill.
“Thank you” I said to them, wondering if they recognized the gloom behind my tired, longing eyes. But their ensemble forged ahead in synchrony; surely they had more important things to attend to than stand there recognizing the despair in a random woman’s eyes. I know that!
As much as I wanted to go, I did not want to embark on another journey in this hospital. Right then and there, I achieved complete and radical acceptance of the reality that it was not going to happen. We just don’t always get what we want in life. I always knew that. I strolled us to the nearest map to see the floor and office of our appointment, and proceeded to take us there.
I was a good mom, after all! Not a selfish one, no! Given the sacrifice I just made!
Upon arriving to the office, I saw my husband standing there; proud, tall, handsome, confident. He had no idea what I had just went through. He was holding a cup of coffee.The color and brand on the coffee cup sleeve was the same as the ones the marching group of nurses or doctors were carrying around. Leave it to him to find all the hidden gems absolutely anywhere we go, and quickly. Resourceful human he is, and one with a keen sense of spatial awareness and sense of direction. Perhaps he was really my jackpot savior?
“For me?” I asked dejectedly, greeting him. I knew the answer, as he is not a coffee abuser. I mean, user. But it was just too good to be true.
“Yes, here, for you, lets go, we gotta sign in, we are late, where have you been? It took you this long to get here from the lobby?!” He asked. Fair observation and question. Indisputable.
“Oh, don’t even worry about that!” I said waving my hand, sighing, as I took the cup and began sipping. I closed my eyes and really took in the relieving experience. I got my fix. Life was back to being good and worthy again. Twins were easily manageable, no problem! What’s this big deal I make sometimes, I thought?
All 4 of us reunited, we approached the Kiosk to finally sign my babies in to be seen. I kept sipping.
Based on a hunch, I turned to my husband, and asked, “This isn’t decaf, is it?”
He slowly turned his head and gazed back at me…
Author: Aleksandra Gold, LCSW