Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Raw

This past week, I had the privilege of visiting Marksley, my friend Nicole's 7-week-old baby girl, in the NICU.  She was born 15+ weeks premature, and though she's had some (major) ups and downs, she is doing quite well, defying odds, and sportin' some SERIOUS cuteness to boot!  I cannot wait to hold her... she's SO.  FREAKIN'.  PRECIOUS.  OMG.  I thought Polly Ann was small... ummmm, HELLLLLLLLLLL no.  "Miki" has her beat by a landslide!  I love all 3.5 lb. of her! 
Bright-eyed & bushy-tailed!  ~  first time she opened her eyes!!!
While at the NICU (in the same hospital where both of my girls were born), we swung on over to the Ronald McDonald Family Room near the PICU.  At first, I didn't realize where we were headed because:  A) The hospital is a winding mess of long hallways, each looking identical, thus making me feel REALLY LOST and B) It is a place where the second I enter it, my teeth begin to chatter, I begin to shiver, and I feel soooooo incredibly anxious that I'm PRETTY sure I have a panic attack and C) Hospitals are my own personal idea of HELL.  I **HATE** going there, I avoid them at ALL costs (hence the reason Claire's only ever been in a hospital twice in her nearly 10 years, and Lola's only been once in 5 years, and it was just for a few hours -- not counting their births, where Claire stayed 5 nights, and Lola stayed 2 nights...neither in the NICU!).  I DESPISE hospitals, getting on the "merry-go-round," and being given the rundown by EVERYONE to try to decide whether or not we neglect our children because they are SO.  F'ING.  SMALL.  Ummm, no.  All is FINE now, but it took an act of God for that to occur.  Loooooong story. 

OK, so after going down several of these long hallways, up an elevator, down another hallway, through some familiar-looking double doors, and then left-turning into the Ronald McDonald Family Room, it all hit me.  Tears welled up in my eyes, I was damn near speechless, and I got that shivery feeling all over again (adrenaline?) because I HAD BEEN THERE BEFORE.  I remembered carrying my Claire-bug through those double doors into the PICU in a panic with tears streaming down my face 6+ years prior... I remembered that room SO WELL... that couch, the front desk area with all the really nice ladies, talking on the phone to my friend, Nan, crying, showering in their room, and basically living up there until we were able to take Claire home a few days later.
March 2, 2005  ~  Our precious Claire
 It ALL came flooding back.  I prayed I would never see that room again under those circumstances... that I would NEVER have to witness all the sadness and pain which exists in that Godsend-of-a-room (read up on it, it's FABULOUS)... that my girl would CONTINUE defying odds, outsmarting doctors, and proving EVERYONE wrong.  (I am knocking on wood SO HARD my knuckles hurt right now!)  So far, so good...

I guess I was most surprised by how deep those memories ran for me.  How so much time has passed, so many new memories have been made since then, we've lived in the moment, & we have LOVED EACH DAY with Claire ever since then because we realized how fragile life truly is, yet the pain was still so close to the surface, requiring just 3-4 minutes in a room from my past to reduce me to tears.

If any of you have ever had one of those TV moments where a doctor pulls you out into a quiet hallway away from your child's bedside to tell you, "I'm not sure she's going to make it... typical kids with this level of illness and dehydration usually do not survive something this serious." then you might know where I am coming from.  I pray I NEVER have to experience that again.

While in the Ronald McDonald room, my friend was busy talking with the front desk lady while I was observing the room and its occupants, remembering where I used to sit, what the couch looked like, how it was all still arranged the same, etc.  I had noticed a group of 5-6 people sitting around the round table to my left.  They were probably around 21-22 years old, they were visiting quietly, and they had gotten drinks/snacks.  Shortly thereafter, two more 21-22 year old guys walked in, and at that very moment, one of the girls and one of the guys stood up from the table, and they embraced the two men who'd just entered the room.  Their hugs lasted a good 30-45 seconds, if not longer.  They were sobbing, heaving, crying out loud.  No one spoke a word -- just hugs and many tears.  The next few minutes was spent with all 7-8 of them exchanging more hugs, tears, and few words with one another.  I cannot recall the last time I saw a room full of early 20 year olds (mostly male) sobbing.  Tears were streaming down my face just watching them, not even knowing their story or situation.  The raw emotion was brutal... and I said a quick prayer for whomever their tears were directed toward. 

As we left the room, Nicole saw me crying, and I explained what I'd seen.  Her best advice, which comes from many months of hospitalizations for her preemie babies, was to have tunnel vision.  Otherwise, it's just TOO DAMN HARD.  And she's right... it was HEARTBREAKING.  I felt SO MUCH for those "kids" and what they were experiencing... I remembered our own life or death situation there 6+ years prior.  We were fortunate... others are not.  And I have to wonder WHY???  WHY do so many others not have the luxury of taking their babies home?  God granted Claire MORE TIME... I just wish all children could be so fortunate.

Just a few weeks ago, we were at this same hospital for an MRI on Cal's injured knee.  It wasn't until we walked into that part of the hospital that we realized we had been there before, too.  As Cal was called back into the VERY same room where Claire had her brain MRI done on the 2nd day of her life back in 2001, once again, ALL those raw emotions flooded back.  And for the 20 minutes we sat listening to the booms and clicks of the MRI machine, I closed my eyes, they welled with tears, and I kept flashing back to nearly ten years prior when all our hopes and dreams were on the line, desperately waiting for the results of that ONE TEST which would determine the course of not only our daughter's life, but also our own.  Thank goodness we weren't really supposed to talk during Cal's MRI because I'm not sure I could have.  Even that same wooden rocking chair from nearly a decade prior sat in the corner still... down in the bleak, dark basement of Wesley Hospital.  To have come SO FAR these last 6+ years... yet things still remained so much the same.

I feel like an entirely different person now.  We are light years beyond where we stood in that room so many years ago.  We've been blessed with TIME, and for that, I am so grateful.

   “One day at a time -- this is enough.  Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come.  Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”

9 comments:

Cindy said...

Oh, the gift of TIME. It's something we can tell new parents who are just starting down this path, but no one really gets it until they have passed through the water and fire and back again, then they can look back and see the blessings that came with it, too. I wish there was some way to spare people that pain and to reassure them, but it seems like it's just something that has to be LIVED. In the meanwhile, our lives are so much richer for it. We no longer sweat the small stuff, because in the light of eternity, it just doesn't matter. Thanks for sharing this little view into your heart today, Gwen. xoxoxo -Cindy, who is also a better person for knowing Nan.

Anonymous said...

Can't say much...don't have to. I just sat here crying right along with my reading of this. Much love to you and those precious gifts you have. I love reading your blogs. xoxo--Grace's mommy

The Tellinghuisen Family said...

Awww - tears!! You describe that very same panicky feeling that I encounter every time I enter a hospital...and especially 'those rooms'. I remember sitting in the waiting area/food room of the NICU. Other parents would talk about how their babies were doing so well, and about to go home. I could barely choke out a word when they asked about Aidan. I wanted to be on the other side. I wanted to be the parent taking my baby home - healthy, with a long life ahead of him. We were that crying couple, crying family that everyone watched and cried for. I feel you - and feel for you. To have been in that room, that situation... so hard for you. You have been blessed with time, that is for sure though!
PS - that first picture of Claire - um... I totally thought, is that Aidan?! ha!
The second picture she looks just like Lola!
XO LOVE YOU!

Cheryl the OCM said...

I'm no longer surprised by how close those remembrance tears are, been at it 14 yrs now and I still have a momentary panic session every time I walk through the hospital doors. I remember it all and my heart shatters every time a see a parent with "that look" in their eyes,you know the one, the "what's going on, what's happening, why us" look. That tunnel vision advice sounds great, but as I'm sure you know, parents like us tend to be an empathetic bunch. We all cope the best we can and just accept the tears as they come for it's the day that those tears stop that I will truly fear for my sanity. Great post Gwen.

mama of many said...

wow.

Candace Barr said...

This had me in tears. My sweet baby was only with us 10 weeks, and while some were at home, many were at the hospital. It has been just over 6 months since he passed, and I have these same emotions when I go to my OBGYN (at the hospital where he was born), take my son to the Dr, etc. The flashbacks SUCK. Time is an incredible gift .. I feel lucky to have had 10 weeks with Gavin, and you are certainly blessed with the time you have had with your adorable girls. Excellent blog, thanks for sharing.

http://strategicexecutiveconnections.com/how-devastating-loss-teaches-us-to-overcome-challenges/

WhitneyBooze said...

Hi.
It's time I stopped 'stalking you' in private and introduced myself. I have no idea how I found you - but I'm really glad that I did. I love you (not in a lesbian way (not there anything wrong with that)) - but in a special mommy way! You crack me up. You enlighten me. You give me new perspectives. Your attitude is so damn refreshing!!!!!!
My name is Whitney Booze. I have 3 special little girls; however, only 1 is 'challenged'. My youngest, Suzy, who is 4, was born normally. She thrived for her first 11 months. And then, out of the blue, she contracted a virus which went to her brain, gave her encephalitis, put her in a coma for 2 weeks, and she slowly woke but had suffered serious brain damage. 'They' (the mighty doctors) told us to do nothing for her, that she would be a vegetable. We have spent 3 years fighting like hell for her - and trying to prove 'them' wrong.
She is the light of our lives. And we simply adore every ounce of her.

I think your sweet girls are absolutely beautiful!! I have shown all their pics to my big girls. We love following along in you lives.
Thank you for sharing your family. You guys rock!!!
You can find us at our website -
www.suzybooze.com

have a great week.
(oh yeah - I hear you on the visiting hospitals thing! I hate going back to ours - totally sucks. too many painful memories)

Whitney

The Good, The Bad, & The Family said...

Preemies are amazing. It's crazy how perfect they come out despite being 1lb, 2lbs, or 3.5lbs! And that picture of Claire- to die for! Her eyes are so beautiful! I'm sorry you have a bad reaction to hospitals. I get it. But your girls are fighters for sure!

Margaret (@goodbadfamily)

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