10 weeks to the day after I injured my spinal cord—on my 29th birthday—I left rehab. And what did I want more than anything? A bath. A bubble bath with a book or Netflix was my happy place—my self-care. It was where I retreated to almost every evening in the fall and winter after my husband was home from work and I was no longer solely responsible for the three little people in our home. It gave me space to take a breath, recharge and feel like a person beyond “Mommy”.
We stayed in a hotel that first night out of rehab. I know I know, hotel bathtubs are not the greatest place to indulge, but I had bigger problems happening in my life. However, while I knew it may not be the cleanest, what I didn’t consider was that they are also not the deepest of bathtubs.
All the poking and prodding of the weeks before—attempts to comprehend the vast lack of sensation—had nothing on submerging all of my paralyzed pieces into a warm bathtub that felt like nothing. In an instant, I understood the reality of having absolutely no feeling below my bellybutton. And it was heartbreaking.
My eyes filled with tears. To try and remedy the situation, Ian took a drinking glass off of the counter and poured warm water over my neck, shoulders, arms and back. But sitting there, submerged in water I couldn’t feel, I started sobbing. I told Ian to leave. His presence was a comfort and, in that moment, I didn’t want comforted—I wanted to feel the fucking bath water.
Every ounce of me wanted to erase the accident—the injury—and go back to the able-bodied life I understood so much better than this paralyzed one. I spent several minutes drowning in that raw, unfiltered grief until I began to shiver—whether the water had actually turned cold I couldn’t tell you. Unable to get myself out of the bathtub, Ian came back. The tears dried and the shivering stopped. That particular wave of grief moved on and we went back to celebrating my birthday.
What did I learn? Grief and happiness can exist within the same minute, same hour or same day. And… always use a deep enough bathtub.