Monday, March 17, 2014

How Long Was I Gone?

Dear Ellie,

For the past 18 hours since the catastrophe, I didn't cry until a moment ago.  I've had too many opportunities to say goodbye.  I thought I'd seen every species of sadness and tears so many times that they seemed dull, by now.  All through the morning, as you lay there, as you twitched with only flickers of life, I was calm.  Was I already in the acceptance phase of grief?

The nurse went into your isolette to do the "hands on."  To take your temperature.  To change your diapers.  It felt like a perverse thing.  Like we were changing the diaper on a doll or baby-shaped effigy.  It seemed like pretending.  Like denial.  That's when you arced your back and flailed your limbs.  You swatted the nurse's gloves.  "Hands off me, you bastard!" you seemed to say.  You wiggled and twitched in pain.  In pain.  Like you had before too, when the ET tube was in.  I'd never been so happy to see you in pain.  To see your forehead wrinkle and mouth open wide.  Expressing pain is a complicated mental task.  It requires numerous layers of neural activity.  Then your eyes opened up.  You looked around in bewilderment and blinked, as if saying, "Whoa.  How long was I gone?"

I didn't want the nurse to get distracted by me, so I fled to the corner of the NICU and cried.  They were a new kind of tears.  Tears of happiness contaminated by hours and hours of grief and futility.  It made me realize that there must be an infinite variety of tears.  That there will always be unexplored corners of emotion and human experience.

The nurse tuned down your respiratory support.  Having rescinded your right to slack, you started breathing again on your own, consistently.  There was no more steady, sterile breath line at mechanical intervals on the monitor, anymore.  Instead, that line was messy with life.  You wiggled and squirmed in frustration.

I know you had a hard night, but its time to get up for school, whether you like it or not.

Welcome back, Ellie.  


1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience from afar. After talking to mom that terrible Monday morning, I had assumed that Ellie was or would be gone. I was standing by the window when I hung up the phone. A squirrel sat on the fence in my back yard. I grabbed my pellet gun, I went outside and shot it dead. Its lifeless body slumped from the tree branch but didn't fall. I felt no remorse. Only sadness.

    I went back inside and had a text from you saying that Ellie was alive and moving. I cried. Like you said, it felt good to cry. I even felt bad for the squirrel for a moment (although I'm glad it won't be ravishing my Avacado tree). I'm just so happy she is now doing better again.

    Nothing in life is certain but I KNOW Ellie is going to prevail. She is so strong. Your Uncle Zack has many things he wants to share with you Ellie. There are so many beautiful things in this world you must see. I want to be there the first time we take you for a dive in the inlet that your grandfather and great grandfather dove in before you. I want to share things with you that I know even your father probably wouldnt show you (your first game of Sonic the Hedgehog will be with Uncle Zack). Just hang in there little one. We all love you and know you are going to be an amazing little lady.