Friday, July 16, 2010

That Child's Mommy.

I was wondering, last Sunday, Owen's homecoming day, when I would stop living the days between March 31 and July 11 with my mind split between the then and the now.

And then Ellen posted about this show, NICU. I thought for a second I might watch it.  But no. I have that show playing on continuous loop in my head, I don't need to see it on a TV screen.

Seven years it has been, long enough it would seem to stop going there, to stop noticing the dates; the day he came off of ECMO, the day he went back on, the day his heart failed, the day I first held him, the day he first breathed without a vent, the day he left the ICU - and so on.

All those dates jump up at me when they come.  Sometimes it smarts.

An early day, the first or second day of Owen's ICU stay stands out.

Al and I were approached by a Social Worker. I hadn't had a positive experience with one of those yet. She wanted to speak to us in private. We headed to a consult room off the ICU waiting room.

She was concerned.  I wasn't.

Though our mostly dead baby had brought us home, though we were surrounded by a big supportive family, we were at risk of suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - *gasp*.  The effects of all this trauma; critically ill newborn, loss of home and jobs and friends,  could crash down on us *gasp*  at any time; weeks, months, years, never.

I was going with never. 

I had this shit.  I was all over it.  PTSD my ass. Whether that kid lived or died, I was gonna be fine.

I worried a little, when my best friend came to visit, a couple weeks in, with her fat healthy eight month old.  Would I freak out?  That I hadn't so much as touched my baby?  I didn't.  I bounced that happy little thing on my knee, made goofy baby talk, all that crap.  I was fine.

I did notice pregnant women though. And they pissed me off.  They seemed to be everywhere.  Mocking me. I wanted to run up to them, get in their glowing faces and scream at them;

"Look at you with and that big bump of fucking potential. You can't wait for that little bundle of fucking joy can you?  Well enjoy that joy while it is still in you, because once it comes out, all fucking Hell is gonna break loose.  I was like you.  I expected the best.  I got the fucking worst.  Fuck you."

Ok. So maybe I wasn't fine.

But I tromped through the Hell and carried that shouldn't be alive baby out of the hospital with no worries on the horizon.

And when I brought him back for his frequent check ins with the big brains on sticks, I'd visit our old stomping grounds; the ICU.   That place felt like home.  The nurses' faces, the sounds of the monitors and ventilators, the astringent smells, all comforting, all home. 

I'd parade Owen around.  I'd gobble up all the oohs and aaaahs, and the 'We never thought he'd make its' .

I'd visit with other Mommies of mostly dead babies, try to comfort them, offer up Owen as encouragement,  and wonder which way fate would tip their children.

And I'd haul my trophy kid outta there.  Triumphant.  Smug.

PTSD my ass. 

For a few years I considered myself in the clear.

Owen was two or three and we were at Children's for whatever reason; cardiology, neurology, surgery, otolaryngology, who fucking knows, old hat by that point.  We were at the intersection waiting for the signal to tell us it was safe to cross the street to the parking garage.

I heard a noise.  It was loud.  Loud enough for Owen to hear it.  Getting closer and closer.  I recognized it.


Owen smiled at the sound, looking around to find its source.

I grimaced.  And feigned excitement, for Owen's sake.  And got his attention and pointed up to the sky;


It was so close.  Making its descent onto the building behind us.

Owen squealing in delight.

Me.  Shaking.  Heart pounding. Tears springing. Hand clasped to mouth.

Our turn to cross the street had come and gone as I stood frozen listening to the rumble of the helicopter get louder and louder and louder. And stop.

I could feel my pulse in every cell of my body.  It hurt.  Everything hurt. I don't know how long I stood there, paralyzed.

I never saw the jet plane that carried Owen from Vermont to Boston.  I wasn't there when the helicopter delivered him to the rooftop of Children's Hospital.

But every time I am at Children's and a helicopter approaches for a landing, bringing another desperate attempt at survival,

I become that child's Mommy.


  1. I did not experience a child fighting for his or her life but what I have gone through recently with my loss, I know the feeling. For me didn't doesn't happen with a helicopter but with the alarm of a monitor.

    I felt this post.

  2. Jen just nailed it with "I felt this post". I can't add anything to that.

  3. jeez. i have the same thing about the smell of gasoline of boats sometimes. dude it's friday night and you're making me teary. wish you could come over and finish this bottle of wine with me.

  4. I felt it, too.

    I thought I was fine, too.

    Mine came on my son's 6th birthday. The first year his birthday fell on a Friday again. As 2:05, the time of my seizures -- the seizures that should have killed us both, approached, I ran smack into the wall of my very first, full-blown, PTSD anxiety attack.

  5. We all have PTSD. That's what it is. We go into battle every fucking day and eventually we snap. I snap. And then I snap back. Lather, rinse, repeat. Back to battle. But we never know when that shit's gonna come back to get us.

    This life is not for the weak.

  6. In my experience, hospital social workers pretty much suck.

    Owen is an awesome little dude

  7. I just want to hug you and Owen both, be grateful I don't know where you live. I can't write this eloquently about the tough stuff, I just choke it all down with some ice-cream and I've got nothing nowhere near the magnitude of Owen's fight. Hugs and tears.

  8. I know what you mean and Charlie rode in a regular ole ambulance across the river to the "Big Hospital," but I *thought* it was a helicopter and the helicopter at Children's will always stire something in me.

    You couldn't pay me to watch a story about the NICU. I think that a little aversion and denial help us all live happier lives.

  9. I think I was the first commenter on Ellen's post to say no way to watching that show, and reading your post convinced me. I was in the veggies section of my grocery store recently and I ran into the high risk OB who monitored my whole pregnancy and sat at my bedside when everything when to hell saying it was all a wierd series of flukely results and Hannah would be fine. I had to explain to him why this time I don't make victory laps through the nursery and that ward.

    I don't need that show, I've got my own.

  10. You have so much stregnth. What you went through must have been hell. I sincerely wish you and your family the best.

  11. I'm totally with you on hating on pregnant women, and you can add all "normal" kids to that list too. I wonder if I will ever get over it and lose the bitterness. Not when my mom keeps reminding me that even Anna Nicole Smith managed to have a normal baby. Thanks mom!

  12. Owen and my Henry share the same 'homecoming' day. I relive our days in the NICU constantly and I can not imagine watching that show. I had to be physically restrained from smacking the very pregnant women smoking outside the hospital. ptsd? ugh.

  13. Wow. This post was straight to the heart. I basically feel the way you do whenever I am in a hospital, for any reason.

    I know I have PTSD, but I am very good at repressing things. I think I will always have it. I do feel lucky that Max is doing as well as he is.

  14. While I can't relate with your specific situation, your write so honestly about it that it could reach anyone.

    My heart just stops for hurt, sick or needy children...and mothers of the children.

    Amazing and wonderful that Owen turned the odds on their asses.

  15. oh sweet christ. your 'bad words' are hitting this kid hard - and yes, i'm also tipsyacto, so what the fuck ever. i'll go cry now. and lay down next to my kid. thanks. ho.

  16. Your post is like a warm, welcoming blow to the face. In a good way. I'm not brave enough to tell you why I too, felt this post, felt it scrabble its fingers over the lid I have tamped down so very tight over what I do not want to remember, but feel it I did.

  17. I'm with everyone up above. You wrote an exquisite piece. We, also, had a social worker visit us. BUt I had to fake happy, for fear she'd find better parents. I put on a fake smile. I even bought a cd of broadway show tunes, so I"d have somthing.

    When I look back at all I've lived through, I wonder how I got this far.

    Hey, i'm not that bad, after all.


  18. Even though you would probably punch me if I attempted this IRL:


  19. First of all, I have missed you. I lost you, somewhere in the blog transition. Now I shall have to stalk you for a few hours to see what's up.

    Second, I thought I'd watch the NICU show. And then I didn't. Not that I couldn't, but those babies had nothing on mine. They went home eventually and they were FINE. Or that's what my brain was saying while I was facebooking and reading other things online instead of REALLY watching. Not even close to being in NICU and being told "we just don't know what to tell you."

    I know I have PTSD. If you tell me my kid will be in PICU for 1 hour to recover, I will go into convulsions. I will cry and probably scream at you. PICU was where the shit hit the fan, where they told me my kid would probably die. And then she didn't. But I can't even hear the letters without crying. I'm crying because I have typed them. And when she is actually there after surgery? It's bad. Very very bad. Maybe someday I'll get over it. But I doubt it.

    And social workers? Are such a joke. I realized about 4 days in, when I was reading Addison's NICU chart and saw the note from the social worker, that she was concerned about my Rock of a husband, who that first ugly night, when I was across town in recovery alone, and our world had just crashed down? Had called our baby "it". Not she. GASP. He was maladjusted and would need a reality check. He is the most real person I've ever met. So fuck her and fuck all social workers. I wouldn't speak to them after that.

    And there was something else I was going to type, through these tears. I'm glad to see you again, friend. I would hug you, but you know I'm the non-hugger. HA!

  20. Oh, I remember. The pregnant women. So glad I'm not the only one who wants to march right up to them and tell them to wipe the smug happy-go-lucky smile of their face. I know it would be evil. And all of those pregnant moms who are all worried about themselves and their issues and their swollen feet and sugar tests? I want to tell them to fuck off and worry about that baby because they may think everything is fine and it could all just go to hell. In a handbasket. Whatever that means!


  22. I'm with your sister. Ackfuckingack.

    You make everything in my life get put on the pinhead of perspective with one of these posts.

  23. PTSD or not - it can't have been anything other than a trauma.

  24. I was holding my breath through this post! While my heart was hurting for you and all you went through. You are amazing!

  25. oh that was grity and raw and real...i could feel it as the helicopter blades beat the air...sorry.

  26. oh god. you are one strong woman and i am so glad owen made it. whew!

    i have a niece that was in an nicu unit for a couple of weeks. it was horrifying, but she is fine.

    i have a friend that has a kid with a horrible disease, and that poor kid has spent more time in the hospital in the first year of his life, than me and all of my family combined. it is nuts. hopefully he will be ok. he has cf.

  27. Thank you for making the shitty day I complained about come back and kick me in the face for being such a pansy.
    You rock.

  28. I would too... and actually I work by Hospital, and get sick to my stomach everytime I see the helicopter land, but have never had an experience such as yours.
    great post, as usual

  29. I'm trying really hard not to be hurt by the social worker comments. Is there such a thing as socialworkism? :<
    We come in all kinds- good and not so good, and like everyone else have good days and bad days. Like Moms don't? But I guess there has to be someone to take feelings out on and sometimes the SW's are "it" in a hospital where everything else is out of control and fear turns the nicest people into tornados of rage and fear and Dr's are viewed as Gods of hope and nurses as angels of mercy-ahem.
    I've been there too, on that side of things in an ICU, kicked in the gut, dependent on professionals who see hundreds of people a month. Sigh...
    Hugs there creepie... it's like instant replay, over and over- over time it gets fainter and fainter, like well washed jeans.

  30. Star: sorry, but I was speaking from experience, did you read that post I linked?

    As a nurse I've worked with some good Social Workers, and some real trolls.

    And just so ya know, I can't stand nurses either...

  31. That truly gave me chills. I can't imagine all you've been through, but I can only imagine that it would be hard to take sometimes seeing what appears to be a problem-free pregnancy, baby, or child.

  32. I am still stunned for everything you and Owen and your family have gone through. He has come SO far, but it must have been hell to go through all of that.

  33. Still absorbing this one- it brings back some pretty fierce memories. Powerfully written and courageously voiced.

  34. Wow. Powerfully written. I have finally recovered from a lifetime of PTSD. It's real. I feel your pain.

  35. I've come back to read this again to see if I can find the words to tell you how much this moved me and I'm still speechless.

    You are amazing. Thank you for continuing to share with us.

  36. I have the same reaction with helicopters. And sometimes paramedics too. It's just awful isn't it?

  37. Helicopters make my heart stop. She didn't even get to go in the helicopter, it was too stormy. But just knowing something is bad enough to call one in brings it all back.

  38. I didn't think I would ever deal with PTSD until a random girl at a party said, "My Mom's such a pain. I wish she'd just die." and a friend took the bottle out of my hand just before it crashed down on her head.

    Things like that sneak up on you, I guess.

    For all of you guys who have gone through a sick child though? That's worse than war. War you can put on a helmut and hold your gun. A sick kid is 1000 times worse than that.

  39. Oh, man I am so there with you! My 3 year old was life flighted twice in the first year of her life for seizures, and every time I see that damn helicopter flying around I get a little anxious...

  40. I can't relate to the experience, but wow... I got tears in my eyes, chills...everything. Amazing. And goodness bless you, mama!

  41. It amazing the things that can trigger you. For me it's a car horn-- I'm always taken back to when I was driving to the hospital, honking at the slow ass people to get them out of the way.


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