There’s a thought experiment in quantum physics called Schrodinger’s cat. It goes something like this: Imagine there is a cat in a box with a radioactive source and a poison. If radiation is emitted, the poison is released and the cat dies. If it’s not emitted, the poison is not released and the cat lives. Until the box is opened, the cat is considered simultaneously dead and alive.
I don’t pretend to understand this by half. I don’t get why Schrodinger came up with this thought experiment, and why it’s so specific. (And as a cat lover, I wish he would have found another analogy!) But in my interpretation, it’s an explanation of alternate realities—the idea of parallel universes and how they are all simultaneously real. Like that Star Trek: Next Generation episode in which all the Enterprises from different universes converge on the same place.
Maybe there’s another reality in which I am also schlepping around in glasses and sweats, half-disheviled and slightly out of my mind, but not because I Delivered a Dead Baby. Because I delivered a live baby, and my world has become about my weeks-old newborn and nothing else. I’m surviving on little sleep, not because I lie awake at night consumed by thoughts of what might have been, but because I’ve been feeding my baby around the clock.
In this other reality—the one I’d been planning for so many months—I have two kids in diapers and am complaining about how much laundry I have to do. I’m struggling to figure out how to get two kids ready to go and into the car. Give two kids baths, hold two kids in my arms while I read a bedtime story. How to devote energy and attention and love to my 2-year-old while making sure my newborn is fed and safe and clean.
The other me is probably complaining about all of this. Or maybe she senses this me, and she holds her tongue. Realizes that she is the lucky one. Is grateful that they made it out alive.