Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Canyon Overflows

I spent the last six Thursdays with some of the sickest kids I've ever seen.  Tracheostomy tubes hooked up to ventilators, CPAP forcing in air that is 80% oxygen, twenty-four hours a day.  Continuous EEG monitoring because she had seven seizures in two days.  Cranial skull fractures so bad that the subarachnoid hemorrhage is causing his spinal cord to swell in its bony casing and he may never walk again.  Sick upon sicker upon sickest, and every single one had a mother.  I met them all.  I talked to them all.  I wrote my name on their white board, explained I was a student nurse and that I'd be helping out their little one that day, and I tried hard to remember their names so that I wouldn't have to call them "Mom" when asking questions or explaining procedures.  
Mothers who knew every medication their child had ever taken, who knew more about his G-tube feedings than I did (by a long shot), who could push an antibiotic and antacid cocktail into it with a smile on their face while they told me about the last 18 months of having a son born chronically ill.  
Mothers who sat anxiously by the bed of their toddler who had bounced around inside the car the night before, unrestrained by a carseat when they were T-boned at 2 AM.  Who rocked back and forth and yelled at me for not giving her baby more pain medication for the craniotomy she'd just had and then apologized in the next breath and told me it wasn't her fault and she was so scared because the DCF worker had just been here and what if she can't take her baby home with her.
Babies who fall out of third story windows.
Babies who weigh thirteen pounds at fifteen months old.
Babies who took too much heroin at their prom last night and may never wake up again.
Babies who haven't woken up in five years and who will never learn to talk or walk or smile or eat.
Mothers at their side, every single one.
Mothers who did everything right, and whose babies were born with illnesses they cannot pronounce.  Mothers who made every mistake in the book, and whose babies fell at fate's hands in the most unexpected way.
Their love was fierce, and it filled the room.  It fought for its right to exist and hold sway in this strange place of plastic and metal and tubes and beeping monitors and no privacy and none of us knowing their child the way they do.  It made them protective and questioning and demanding and sometimes difficult and utterly incomprehensible but it was holding us all in an orbit around the tiny body in the bed and it made me stagger in the face of its enormity, every single week.
And every week, I would escape to the medication room and lean my head against the racks of IV fluids and think to myself, somebody loves you like that, too.  What do you do with a love that big?  Every braid, every bath, every school form signed, every batch of brownies stirred with her hands over mine, each one a hospital bedside vigil.  Every act as filled with a canyon of love as the next.  Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder, panicked, if she knows how much I love her.  I want to fly through the night air home to hug her and whisper in her ear that I love her bigger than the moon and the ocean and the dirt and the trees and how I can never say it enough and please don't ever leave me because you won't hear it enough times before then.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers of the world.  But especially to mine.


Lisa said...

I love this...

Allison the Meep said...

This is beautiful. You are going to be such an amazing mother someday.


I love this. And you.

Jen said...

So exactly, perfectly, beautifully spot-on.