The Morning Of The Surgery, I woke up more calm than I’d been since the whole nightmare started, not even a month before. We’d all aged so much in that month. It was like all my worrying had already peaked and I was left to deal with my more standard and rational self (shut up. It’s my blog and I’ll call myself rational if I want to). It was a damn good thing because last night as I gave my daughter a pep talk reminding her that she had to be a strong baby girl and kick this surgery’s ass I broke down. And I mean I BROKE THE FUCK DOWN.

I was convinced that The Bad Outcomes that Neuro #2 had mentioned would be the only way this could end. I’d always figured I’d have a houseful of Sausages, never a mother to a daughter. Never thought I’d be so lucky. So, no one could convince me that I was not driving my daughter to her demise. That kind of responsibility was unlike anything I’d ever felt before, and it weighed down on me like a stone noose around my neck.

But I was strangely calm that morning, as the sun rose and the valium went down the hatch, the sky was my favorite color: sky blue pink. The color I always used to draw when I was a kid, always the backdrop to the stories of my pictures, so it seemed especially appropriate that this was the backdrop to this story; the way things would end. One way or another, this was the end of days.

Uncharacteristically, Amelia sat in her car seat without crying, which was especially amazing since she’d been denied food or water for hours before, and she was still, technically, a newborn. Dave and I chatted nervously about this, that and nothing at all. I remember having a debate about the psychologist with the dog, and what strikes me most about remembering this is that neither of us could remember the name of that particular shrink (answer, later determined to be Pavlov). I guess neither of us was as coherent as we’d thought as I cannot tell you how many different psych classes I suffered through over the years.

Calmly, we handed the car off to the valet and went upstairs to the surgery center, where we were to check-in, straight past the NICU doors where we’d been happily sprung from what felt like years before. I choked up as I had to tell the kindly old woman behind the desk the name of my daughter–once again, they looked at me as though I must be Amelia Harks, which I would have happily pretended to be so that I could take her place–but we managed to check in without me running off with my daughter.

After taking a seat on the chairs, Dave firmly gripping his daughter, as I couldn’t go too close considering I smelled like a Milk Factory. To taunt her with it when she couldn’t eat seemed unnecessarily cruel, especially for someone who was about to have her brain cut open. Only a couple minutes did our butt cheeks graze those chairs before we were called back to the surgical prep area.

The nurse–the incredibly kind nurse–took wonderful care of us, but when we had to take her out of the outfit she’d been carefully stuffed into and put into this gown designed for probably a 4 year old, it once again dawned on me how truly fucked up this was. Our baby was having brain surgery. Cut it, dice it, filet it on up with clarified butter, it’s all the same freaky statement.

But there we sat in her surgical suite, Dave bouncing his daughter to keep her happy, while I signed her life away with my real name. I’d imagined this scenario a million times before, and always I used an alias, before I busted the baby out and ran away with her, hitchhiking to somewhere, anywhere else. I did it, I signed her name like an adult, I met with the surgical assistant, the anesthetist, the surgical nurse and finally the neurosurgeon. I didn’t, much to your shock, bite any of them like a feral dog, I didn’t scream “Get your whore hands off my fucking daughter,” no, I was nearly respectable. I mean, it’s still ME, but I was almost…normal.

surgery

Forgive the shitty quality of this photo: it was taken with my iPhone while I shook.

When they came to take her away from us, I didn’t cry. After crying buckets of daily tears, I didn’t cry. The tears were gone. Useless now. It was do or die and the ball was rolling. Pick your dumb metaphor, it was in God’s hands. Well, God and the neurosurgeon.

I had my Internets who got my back, I was on prayer lists, and it was show time. It’s so stupid when I type it out here, it sounds so trite, I know, but it’s true; you guys held me up, you dusted me off, wiped my tears, helped me put on my big girl panties, and you held my daughter in your thoughts and your arms that day. Words can never thank you enough for this. I mean, I can TRY, but trying to quantify how I felt that day would be kind of like trying to tell you that the Sistine Chapel was “pretty.” Yes, okay, and….?

Dave and I made our way carefully back to where we’d been sitting, prepared for the 6-8 hour surgery (if memory serves me correctly) they’d predicted, and instructed not to leave the area. Especially together. I popped another Valium (Dear God, thank you for Valium) and sat down and dug out my iPhone. Just as I was checking my email and reveling in how many wonderful people I’d been lucky enough to meet along the way, my father ambled in, NY Times under his arm.

I’d spent the weeks before Amelia’s surgery begging people to come and sit with us. Strength in numbers.

But no one could. Well, aside from my father and from my friend Nathan.

My dad showed first, looking remarkably calm (I’d venture a guess that he was riding his own Valium train here, but this is an unsubstantiated claim) and Dave took the opportunity to run downstairs and get some breakfast for us. I am as shocked as you to report that we both were hungry and able to eat.

Just as Dave returned with a tray full of breakfast goodies, the surgical tech came out to us, stopping my heart for a nanosecond. She had a bag with a biohazard label on it and she handed it to me, explaining that Amelia had just gotten her first haircut and she knew that I’d probably want to save the hair for her baby book.

(Mental note: buy baby book)

I begged her to tell me that my baby was all right, and she did, she assured me that Amelia was just fine. Then she made her way back into the bowels of the OR, leaving me there, holding a baggie of my daughter’s hair. It was so fucking surreal.

Always one to deflect the gravity of the situation with humor (lest you wonder for a moment where I learned to do it) my father informed us that it was just about time now, as he’d finished his cup of coffee, for him to go back and scrub in. He informed us that over the past couple weeks, he’d gotten his MD. From the Internet. So now, he was going to go and direct the neurosurgeon on how best to do his job. Picturing my father, wandering back to the OR to direct the cocky neurosurgeon on how to do his job was too much for me, and I busted out laughing.

Nathan showed up then, and I took the opportunity to go for a walk with him, leaving The Daver with my dad and the 50 million bags of crap we’d brought for the 3-4 day PICU stay. We wandered down to the cafe to get a cup of coffee and then decided to check out the gift shop, where I bought my daughter her first piece of jewelry. A heart necklace, covered in tiny crystals. I thought about how I was going to tell her about how she got this necklace, when I bought it, and how important it was.

We walked to the chapel then, so that I could than the pastor and say a prayer for my daughter. Not being raised in the church myself, I’m always hushed and in awe of places of worship. It’s a magical place for me, very special, and it never fails to calm me.

Done with Excursion #1, we took the bank of elevators up to the second floor, just above the chapel, where my husband sat with my father, waiting for our daughter to be done. Never one able to quietly sit back and wait, especially for something like this, I’d planned other excursions through the hospital. Maybe I’d stop in and do a comedy act for some sick kids or something. Maybe I’d get arrested for trying to do a comedy act for sick kids, who knew?

I knew I had some Super EZ crossword puzzles to muddle through and figured I should probably get started on it, so onwards and upwards we traveled.

The elevator banks opened to my husband whizzing by in the company of another dude whom I had never seen before.

‘œOHMYGODTHEREYOUARE!!!’ He panted in my direction.

Without having a moment to react–which, in hindsight was a Very Fucking Good Thing–he shouted ‘œSHE’S DONE! SURGERY IS DONE! COME ON, COME ON!’

I threw my stuff to Nathan, who either promised to sell it to the gypsies or take it up to the PICU for me, I didn’t give a shit either way, and followed The Daver, who was practically running.

“OHMYGOD,” I screeched, making sure I’d heard him properly. “IS SHE ALIVE? OHMYGOD, IS SHE ALIVE?” I was terrified suddenly by the commotion.

Then he turned back to me, “YES!” He yelled, my normally quiet husband yelled, echoing through the marble hallways and causing people to stop and stare. I didn’t give a shit who saw us. “She’s JUST fine, Becky!” Ebullient, I didn’t have a chance to react before we were ushered into this smallish room.

The Valium had dulled my nerves to the point where I really didn’t quite get what he was saying clearly, but the small room where we’d been stashed was obviously not an “Oh Fuck” room. There weren’t any pamphlets on organ donation, DNR’s, Power of Attorney, nothing, which was an awesome sign.

I turned to The Daver, unsure of why we had been shoved in a closet, and asked what the hell we were doing. “The doctor wants to talk to us now. She’s out of surgery and she’s FINE!” I don’t remember if I cried, but I probably did. This time, they were tears of joy. Pure joy.

I had a daughter. I had a daughter.

A daughter who would grow and embarrass her father with her thong underwear in the wash. A daughter who would probably eschew my love of frilly dresses, diamonds, pink and sparkly. A daughter who would hate me for years and spend hours talking about the ways I’d fucked her up.

But she was alive, my daughter. My daughter was ALIVE. And she was mine.

All mine.

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

46 Responses to Sky Blue Pink

  • baseballmom says:

    omg, bex, that made me cry.

  • oh. this whole thing makes me cry, too. thank you for sharing it, though.

    Plus it will come in handy with she’s all punked out at 13, and you can say LOOK WHAT I WENT THROUGH FOR YOU!!! Now take off that slutty makeup and clean your room!

  • What an intense ride you were on. It’s hard to imagine that this was your REAL life for a period of time. Holy moly!

  • Mwa says:

    That was heart-stopping. I teared up, too. I knew she was going to be ok, and still I held my breath.

  • RJ Flamingo says:

    Helluva journey, Becky, helluva journey… I can’t even imagine the rollercoaster ride of emotions, but you managed to convey them in stark detail throughout these posts, and I don’t mind telling you that I’m drained. And I’m a fan.

  • Karly says:

    Well, hell. I need a Valium after reading that. I mean, yes, I knew she was fine, but shit. That was stressful to read.

    I’m glad your baby girl is okay.

  • Maria says:

    You ARE A brilliant storyteller.

  • stacie says:

    Maybe I am slightly hormonal, but Becky, I have to tell you that I cried the entire way through these posts. Your description of the terror, the NICU, the surgery–which all reminded me of our experience, too–was so gut wrenching, and I know how it ends! You truly are a gifted writer.

    Amelia is alive and she is just going to continue to amaze everyone with her perfection!

    Much love to you and your family.

  • Jaime says:

    I’m crying, that was amazing… and I’m so happy for the three of you! Thank you so, so much for sharing something so personal… I’m in awe.

    Love,
    JP
    denimdebutante.com

  • Princessjo says:

    Oh Becky. I am with baseballmom… :-( Beautifully Put…

  • Megan says:

    I too, am crying like a baby. I am so happy for you (and The Daver) that your daughter is perfectly fine now. All of this happened in the month before my first child was born, and at the time, I didn’t understand how you were feeling. But now I get it and I cannot imagine going through anything like that – I am so glad it’s over.

  • Halala Mama says:

    I am here with tears in my eyes, wanting to go snatch my own son from his bed and hug him close. Thank God you were blessed and able to keep your daughter. I would have been in the same mental place as you – thank God for valium.

  • Minnie says:

    That was the day I found your blog. (I can’t remember who linked to you) and prayed a million prayers for you that day.
    I will still never understand how you did it. Ever.

  • Jenn says:

    I am so very, very glad that I know how this story ends.

    And thank God for Valium.

  • Heather P. says:

    I remember this day so well. I went to bed praying for Amelia, you and Dave, and when I woke up the day of surgery I prayed some more.
    I was so happy when you posted that the surgery was over so quickly and felt sure that the Lord had worked a miracle for your family.

  • Mel says:

    I am speechless in awe of your ability to so eloquently capture the mood, your feelings, your heart throughout the entire story. It was just beautiful.
    I hope you found some peace in sharing your story with us.

  • Oh, the relief. Becky, I am crying! Damn you! Not really, ya know I love ya.

  • Kristina says:

    K…I’ve made my way through all of these posts w/ minimal crying. Now (4 margaritas later) I’m really crying. I can imagine your relief. Jesus, I am SO glad she is ok!

  • Danielle says:

    I’m in tears and have a runny nose. I can’t even imagine how you felt this whole time. I read and prayed and thought of you and Amelia the whole time, but to read it again..afterwords..knowing the outcome. It’s just nothing short of a miracle. You DO have a daughter!

    Congratulations AGAIN!
    *HUGS*

  • a says:

    Phew. I’m so glad surgery was so quick. I’m so glad she’s doing well now. I’m sorry you had to go through that hell-ride, but you’re a survivor. Good job!

  • Fiddle1 says:

    This is the one I’ve been looking for…I love it! I’m living the joy all over again!!! She is so unbelievably beautiful, Becky.

  • Tara says:

    Becky, thank you so much for sharing your story with all of us. So very sorry you had to go through it all but what a damn happy ending. I am now crying tears of joy also. Although I knew she was alive reading this story, the way you tell it feels as if I am right there with you living it.

    Tara

  • Normally I tend to skip a lot of lengthy posts, but I read every word of this. Thank you for sharing it. Your daughter is a very lucky little girl.

  • Katie says:

    I am SO glad you shared the whole story. I ended up at your blog late in the game, post surgery and everything was fine. But I did know about the encephalocele. But didn’t know much else besides it was scary and she was ok.

    So now, I know how scary and how uncertain everything was. And now if I happen to stumble across someone else with a similar experience, my response will be less, “Oh! Yeah, I “know” someone who went through the same thing…wooo!” and more “OH, I am SO sorry for everything you’ve been through but so glad h/she is ok now (hopefully).”

    Thank you for that. Education is a good thing.

    And thanks for sharing. So touching and I am so very glad Amelia is doing well.

  • Ms. Moon says:

    Ah. And this is what it means to be reborn.

  • GingerB says:

    Here’s to you and Amelia! May you never land in the “Oh Fuck” room.

  • Thomas Houseman says:

    Becky, you suck. I’m a bloke and you made me cry.

  • Badass Geek says:

    Yay!

  • Eva says:

    I’m relieved all over again!

  • Michelle says:

    That just took my breath away…

  • Inna says:

    Happy endings are always the best of best!

    Sniffle, sniff, sniff, sniff (tears of joy).

  • IB says:

    Becky,

    I read the whole damn story; Amazing, terrifying.

    My 16 year-old son walked by the office while I was crying (1 of the 20 or 30 times I’ve wept reading this tale) and asked what was wrong. I told him to mind his own business. Then I jumped up and gave him an embarrassingly big hug. He is, no doubt, now scarred for life.

    I’m exhausted. I need a nap.

  • Alyssa says:

    Bawling again. I want to hug you and Amelia and Dave…and your dad and Nathan.

  • Kristin says:

    Each time I read part of the Amelia chronicles I swear I’m not going to cry and each time I read said entry, I tear up. This is truly powerful writing. Have you thought about submitting it to a magazine?

  • Bluebird says:

    Oh my. I’m speechless. (Which is rare, and quite an accomplishment.)

    Although I’m sure you’re well aware of this – the beauty is in the details. The hair for the baby book (so thoughtful), and the Daver’s scream . .

    Oh, and of course the happy ending :)

  • The Mommy says:

    I wish I could tell a story like you do. I KNEW she was fine (and will continue to BE fine) and still I was scrolling so fast I thought my mouse was going to overheat (can that happen?)! Prayers do get answered. It’s good to know that they were answered with the desired outcome. God Bless little Amelia and her dear family.

    PS Did you get the baby book?

  • Mimi says:

    You know, I just had LASIK surgery and have been administering “artificial tears” for two days non-stop. Right now, I don’t need ‘em – my own tears are working just fine, thank you!

    Once again, I wish I could hug you and slobber all over Amelia. What a strong mom you are, Becks.

  • Catootes
    Twitter: Catootes
    says:

    words fail me.

  • bluelove says:

    I loved the “oh fuck” room. Hilarious. Thank God for Valium, and thank God for Amelia. She’s beautiful and happy and all is right with the world!

  • Sherpamama says:

    I just want to give you a really long hug. till I stop crying. I am so glad you have a wonderful, healthy daughter and thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to have two.

  • Kendra says:

    Oh, I made it through most of these posts without tears. But that “Yes, she’s alive!” just took my breath away. She’s a beautiful, special, perfect, little person and she’s just a miracle to look at.

    Also, that strikes me as so kind from the nurse, to have commented that you’d want to put her hair in her baby book. Not “I thought you’d want a memento” or “I thought you’d like to keep this,” but “Your daughter is going to grow up and have lots of hair and lots of haircuts, so you keep a reminder of this one.”

  • Mrs. La La says:

    Tears rolling down my face. Please, oh please, let me be able to post a similar story one day soon. ::sniffle::

    I’m so, SO happy she (and you) did so well!

    I really, REALLY envy you your Valium.

  • Mrs Soup says:

    Oh goodness. I knew everything would be fine, but my breath still caught. Moving on to read the next part…..<3

  • Erin says:

    I found your blog today and I am sitting here full on ugly face crying. You put into words exactly how I felt 4 months ago after my own daughter had her sugery. Neurosurgery on anyone is scary, but on your own child it is nerve shattering. My daughter was 10 months old at the time and the she’s alive moment stays with me every day. I am so happy that your daughter is doing great.

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