In the two weeks between getting the phone call that our baby was sick and having the procedure, I felt like I was in a fog. I’d get up, go through my day-to-day motions, but I felt helpless and sad, and well… not much like a human. I was merely existing. The only time during those two weeks I had any glimmer of something that wasn’t crushing sadness was when I suggested to my husband that we take a trip during what would’ve been the baby’s due date. He thought it was a good idea, but that was all it was at that point.
A couple months ago, I asked him again about going on a trip as a way to distract ourselves from what would’ve been the happiest day of our lives. We thought of a few destinations before finally settling on Amsterdam, a place both of us have always wanted to go to and have never been. It also seemed like the perfect place to go for a couple who was no longer pregnant. I had visions of the Red Light District, getting stoned, and all the other seedy things Amsterdam is known for. We decided to book our trip for the month before the due date, got cheap airline tickets, and found a cute airbnb in a popular neighborhood. And then Mrs. Planner (that’s me) didn't plan anything else. Actually, that’s not true… I asked a friend for some suggestions and printed that out to take with us. We also bought tickets to the Anne Frank museum because we heard if you didn’t buy tickets in advance, you’d be subject to waiting in line for hours. But, that was it. No itineraries. No expectations.
Perhaps that’s why when we landed, we were so blown away by everything the city has to offer. When my husband thought about Amsterdam, he thought of weed and hookers. When I thought of Amsterdam, I also thought of weed and hookers, but being a female Jewish writer, I also thought of Anne Frank and the holocaust. And here’s the thing that’s so amazing about the city: all of these cultures and ideas perfectly co-exist with each other. It’s a city of duality where the smell of marijuana wafts in the perfectly crisp air and blue skies. The history and horror of the holocaust is prevalent just as much as the friendliness of the Dutch people, always happy to speak to you in English and offer suggestions. Prostitutes offer their services in red-lined windows mere steps away from the oldest church in the city. All of this and you’re surrounded by gorgeous canals and whizzing bicycle riders. Duality not only exists in Amsterdam, it thrives there.
The idea of two opposing concepts existing together has been a hard concept for me to swallow since the loss of our daughter. How could I ever be a good mother to future children when I failed the first one so badly? How do I let the pain be a part of me while retaining my sense of self, who is a relatively bubbly and happy person? How can I consider myself a writer when that’s not the job I’m getting paid for? How can I be happy when I feel so sad? These are some of the thoughts that have clouded my head for the past few months. So, what an extraordinary gift to see the practice of duality up close and personal.
At one point during the trip, my husband and I reflected on how crappy the past few months have been. We lost our baby. I lost my job. I lost my grandfather. I left my agent. I let go of some toxic relationships. I was in a bad place. But, I’m still here. There will be other jobs, other agents. There will even be another baby. Not now, but eventually. And all of that can exist in the same space. Thanks to my trip and the amazing city, I understand that now.
For the first time in a long time, I feel some semblance of hope and happiness. Vacation can do that: it takes you out of your comfort zone, shakes up your routine, and finally allows you to see things a bit more objectively. That’s what Amsterdam did for me. It allowed me find a way to converge the two worlds I’ve been living in since November. At the time we chose to go to Amsterdam, I had no idea of the gift I would be given. The city will now forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s where I was finally able to heal.