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.