Saturday, December 17, 2011
The first time I held my oldest child she died in my hands. As they pulled her from me and began the frantic, frenetic process of resuscitating her, my mind and my heart separated. I endured silently and calmly until I saw that she was breathing and her heart was beating again. Then I fell apart. When I was scrubbing up to see my son in the neonatal ICU two years later, I heard the code blue for him over the loudspeaker. Once again the rational and emotional sides of me splintered and I endured until he was stable and then broke down.
Two of my children have disabilities. I do not have the luxury of falling apart during a problem. Problems are a part of our daily lives. I have stood by helpless and watched my older children scream and shake in pain, endure countless hours of therapy, medical procedures, uncertain futures. What makes it possible for me to stand by and stay calm is that I almost lost both of them. I have faced the mortality of my oldest children. What is pain and disability compared to death? It is hard to care what the future holds for them when I am just so grateful they have one.
But my baby is different. My youngest child holds the distinction of being the only child I have never had to watch suffer. The only child I have not seen die. The only child I held when she was born, brought home without a tangle of wires, and my only child without a disability. I have never stood by her ER bed while she screamed and begged for me to make the pain stop. I never had to be helpless with her.
Until last week. At a routine orthodontic checkup her doctor found a fast growing tumor that was growing into her lower jaw. She was in the hospital within 36 hours being prepped for surgery and I was barely holding it together. When they wheeled her in to the OR she reached her little hand back and said crying, "Don't leave me Mommy". I felt scared and helpless and completely unmoored. If it hadn't of been for some wonderful friends who came to the hospital to wait with us, I would have completely broken down then.
But I was still terrified. Scared that my little girl, who had never known a moment's suffering, may have cancer. To be there for my daughter, I once again disengaged my mind from my heart and endured. I babied her after surgery. made her soup and gave her the little "sick" bell, cuddled and watched movies. All while studying for my finals 4 days later. I refused to let my mind go to the big C word and concentrated instead on her recovery and my studies. When the surgeon told us yesterday that the path report came back benign and the chance of recurrence was extremely low, I felt so thankful and relieved. Once I knew that my baby was going to be okay, I allowed my mind to go to all the possibilities that I had shielded from my thoughts for the last week.
And then I fell apart. And am still trying to reassemble the pieces.