Friday, July 19, 2013

Souvenirs You Never Lose

The Goo Goo Dolls had it right: Scars are souvenirs you never lose; the past is never far.

A year ago today, we had this:

[OK, Blogger sucks right now, so it's e first three pictures of right before surgery and right after]

I tried to go back and read what I posted. I can’t. I wrote it to get out of me, and I can’t let it back in yet. As bad as this day was one year ago, the coming days were just as bad, maybe even worse. This day was worrying and waiting; the next days and weeks were exhaustion, no sleep, worry, grief, and general horror whenever I looked at her incision. I was horrified that that the deep, stitched up, bloody, sometimes oozing, dangerously close to reopening cut across her head was there. I was horrified that I made the decision to have it put there. I was horrified that such a thing was necessary. I was constantly sick to my stomach. What did I do to my baby? Only what was necessary, I told myself. It never made the feelings stop.

I remember it all clearly. I can taste the sharp, metallic, salty tang of blood in my mouth when I bit my cheek in the waiting area. I did it deliberately. I’m not sure why. The only hand sanitizer I ever use anymore has to smell strongly of peach or citrus or something—I can’t use the hospital type stuff, because then all the memories wash over me and pull me under. Vor said the same thing happens to him with the hand sanitizer. It’s crazy how the smell of it brings back the memory the strongest. I remember touching her when we finally saw her, and thinking that she looked gray, not at all like my pink, rosy baby. There were so many wires and cords and bruises and cuts and bandages everywhere, that I could only find a small space on her skin that was free to touch, and I laid one finger on her. The first time she woke up, briefly, after surgery, she opened her eyes slightly, looked at me, wailed, and closed her eyes again. I broke into a million pieces—her cry was high and desperate, panicked and painful. I had broken her. I was sure of it. There are so many more sharp memories like those.

I’m crying while I type this. I feel sick again. That’s how strong these memories are.

I’m not sure why I get this way about it. It’s been a year. She is fantastic now. She had her year checkup, and things look great. Other parents I have interacted with seemed to take the tack of being strong and soldiering through. Alyssa, whose son had surgery right before Lis did, was a huge help to me, and was an amazing example to me how strong to be for your child through this process. I hope I was. I tried to be, on the outside, at least. Inside, I was a wreck.

Vor decided that this was a good year to run from the memories. They way he put it was “I sure as hell don’t want to be here on the one year mark.” I knew exactly what he meant. To be here, thinking, one year I was standing there, doing that, was too much. Vor proceeded to surprise Lis and I with an already booked vacation to Kentucky to go to the aquarium. We will be looking at fish (Lis says fffssssssshhhhhhhh) and laughing, about as far removed from a year ago as possible.

I’ve talked to lots of people who have been through this. I’ve also talked to lots of people who are going through it, and they want to know—something. What to expect, how to deal, the tricks that get you through. Mostly, they want to know what the worst part is, how to get through it, and that that they will get through it. I don’t know what was worse—the weeks leading up to it, the night before and the day of surgery, or the two to four weeks after. They all test you in different ways. You get through it, somehow.

A year later, we have this:

[Again, Blogger sucks, so see after pictures!]

She promptly began rolling over again two weeks after surgery. At nine months, she crawled. At eleven months, she was walking short distances in that drunk baby stagger that they all do, and when she turned one, she was running. Uh-oh was her first word, and now she says ball, dog, woof, fish, all done, mama, dada, hello, bye bye, sit down, and a few others. She gives hugs and pitches fits. She has amazing coordination for a toddler, to the point of taking screw drivers and inserting them properly. She wants to take everything apart. I’m afraid if we left her alone with a screwdriver, she would disassemble the refrigerator.

What I’m saying is that she’s doing great. She’s on track. (Notice I didn’t say normal)

Lis turned one in January, but I think this will always feel more like a birthday should feel. Yes, her age will change in January, but the milestones are celebrated from this date. Vor called it her anniversary, as opposed to her birthday. I’ve heard some people call it the “cranioversary.” Some day, when she’s [much] older, I want to be okay with this enough to hand her a bunch of flowers and say “Hey Lis, sixteen years ago, we cracked your skull open! Happy anniversary!” and then all of us laugh. Someday, when she’s older, I want her hair to be long enough or her scar to have healed enough for her to be okay with this, and when the boys start comparing scars to see who has the coolest one, she can flip her hair over and say “Beat this badass scar!” Or when they count to see who had the most stitches, she can tell them “I had over two hundred. I win.”

A round little head, with plenty of room for her brain to grow. I’ll take every drop of angst, every nightmare, every scar, and happily pay every last penny that we did and then some for that gift, a year later.


Proto Attorney said...

Yeah, I don't think those memories ever go away. It fades, there are many times I "forget" there was ever anything wrong with Cora, but there will always be triggers.

When I was pregnant with Cora, and we were having all the prenatal drama, a friend of mine from law school told me his story. He was born prematurely, he'd had surgeries, he'd been in the hospital a long time, he'd almost died, and to look at him, you'd never know anything had ever been wrong. He said he wouldn't even know about it except for a couple small scars and his mother's stories. He got over it, developed normally, it never affected him. But his mom, he said, with humor, hadn't quite gotten over it 30 years later. I sure believe it.

An entire year later though, such amazing results.

Meredith said...

As a child who had 10 surgeries before I was 10 years old, I don't think I'll ever really understand how hard it was on my mother (not having children of my own). Thanks for the reminder - off to call her :-)