Fresh from the surgical floor, because she was a tiny baby, they brought my daughter down to the PICU to recover. We nervously paced about the Family Waiting room for her nurse to come and get us so that we could see her, I can’t even tell you how long we sat there. Time in the PICU, like the NICU and any other ICU is kind of timeless. 3AM and 3PM aren’t a whole lot different, although there are a lot less visitors at 3AM.
If things are good, that is.
After what seemed at least 20 hours, but was probably 7 or 8 minutes, the nurse came to grab us to take us to our daughter. And there she was, in that pesky ICU room RIGHTNEXTTO the nurse’s station again (different floor, sameish room arrangement) because she was fresh post-op from brain surgery and probably the most critical patient on the floor.
But there she was, head swaddled in yards of bandages and what looked like painting tape but was (let’s hope) not. She was awake and hoarse from being trach-ed, confused and crying. Her precious hand, her best friend, was currently splinted and unavailable for her noming pleasure, and she was very obviously swollen from surgery, but she was alive. Amelia, she was alive.
While it may have bothered some to see their child this way, trust me, this was a relief.
She calmed down and eventually fell asleep. As she slept off her surgery there in the PICU breathing the plastic smell of anesthesia in and out with every breath after miraculous breath. Her father hovered near her crib, her blonde shadow, unwilling to leave his only daughter for a moment, and feeling particularly restless, I wandered down to the gift shop.
I’m a total sucker for gift shops, ESPECIALLY those aimed at children. I pulled out my AMEX there and bought pretty much every pink frilly thing I could find. I bought a swarm of balloons–the big sparkly Mylar ones that all proudly claimed “IT’S A GIRL!”–probably 10 or 12 different huge balloons. I was celebrating the way I couldn’t before. My daughter was HERE, dammit, and I was going to shout it from the rooftops.
I teared up a little as I paid for my carefully chosen purchases, running my hands over the corny chocolate “IT’S A GIRL” cigars that I’d bought for the boys and marveling at how quickly one could go from miserable and numb to mind-blowingly happy. The volunteer gave me a weird look as I signed my name gleefully to the exorbitant price slip, and I suppose I must have looked weird. Maybe she thought that I was crying over the cost of it all, but she didn’t know I’d have paid 30 times the amount listed there.
The good news just kept rolling in.
As a testament to her grace and strength rather than being discharged 3-5 days later, Amelia was sent home with her adoring fans the very next day with a rather ugly 2 inch scar up the back of her head. We went home with our other children (who’d happened to be there when she was discharged) all of them crammed into our CR-V, a whole family at last. I don’t remember much about that night, except celebrating with crappy champagne and awesome Chinese food.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how this will affect her in the long run. The likelihood that she is affected somehow is, well, you read the statistics. And since she is being followed by pretty much every state and government program you can think of (and THEN some), they’ll probably find something of note. Because examine anyone under a microscope, and you’ll find something wrong.
She seems normal, and if I didn’t see the stretching scar bisecting the back of her precious head (it now takes up a good portion of her head) and feel the skull implant below, I’d not have thought anything wrong with her. Truthfully, as I told her in the NICU, crying into her newborn head, I don’t care if she’s stupid or slow or ugly. And I don’t.
My daughter is perfect and lovely just the way she is. And after all she’s been through, I have no doubt she will become a particle physicist. Because that is what will happen. And if she’s not, well, as I always say (referring to myself), the world needs ditch diggers too.
As for rest of us, we’ve all come out the other side a little different. I don’t know how you can’t.
Ben hates hospitals because “they make mom cry,” Alex flips the shit OUT when I’m not home with him, immediately thinking I’ll be gone for longer than 20 minutes. Dave is, well, still Dave.
We’ve both lost a few friends during this ordeal, and maybe these were relationships that were doomed from well before this, it makes us both sad. I’m tired of losing friends during Major Life Changes, but I suppose it happens to us all. Dave has lost some of his naivety but his rose colored glasses always turn the world into a happier place than it is. I love this about him.
(I also hate this about him sometimes, when I want someone to cry and Rage Against The Man with me, but this is not important for this entry)
And as for me, I’ve got some post traumatic stress disorder that I’m working through slowly.
One day, I hope this will just turn into another story I can tell, just like when I went to the hospital because I peed my pants (twice!) or when I had my first colonoscopy at age 23. I hope that I eventually stop associating the smell of alcohol and hospital soap with my daughter and pray that as her hair grows over the scar, I am able to make as much peace with this as best as I can.
In her short time on the planet, she’s taught me so much. She’s made me a better, kinder, more compassionate person, and she’s touched so many people along the way. Her life, it seems, even for being so small, has been so big.
I love my daughter, she is here, and she is well. That, if nothing else, is blissfully simple. I am lucky to be able to do this, to burrow my face into her sweet smelling face while she gnaws wetly on my nose or my cheek, kissing her while I tear up with joy, because I have my daughter.
But I will always think of those who weren’t so fortunate, and I will cry and shake my fist at the sky, because that is what you do when you realize the world is not a fair place. Because it’s not.
And while I know that I will never look back on this and laugh, I hope to always look back to see how blessed we are. I want to remember the amazing grace; the simple, unbearable good that we’ve found along the way. The world is a good place. I believe that wholly and with all that I am.
I will never take this, any of this for granted.