Thursday, February 28, 2013

The E.R

She is finally sleeping in her own bed and I've caught up on at least half of the homework that was due yesterday.  And I am sitting here with more homework to do, more housework to do, more everything to do.  But I can't do it.  I'm so tired.  Physically from holding my Little Lady 24/7 since Sunday.  Emotionally from having to take her to the ER yesterday for IV fluids.

I had no idea how hard it would be, going back to that place.  Parking in that parking ramp.  Pushing that elevator button.  Walking past that coffee shop.  Seeing the Dinosaur book in the gift shop and thinking that if he were still here I would buy it.  He was only there for two weeks before the most horrible ambulance ride from hell across the cities.  But it was a really crappy two weeks.  And I felt it all.

When they were putting the IV in her arm, I remember when he got his first one.  I left the room.  That was when I was still a major wuss with that kind of stuff.  So I left Daddy to take care of it.  We still didn't know he was sick then.  We didn't know anything.  And she sat in my arms in the bed not unlike he did.   And she thrashed around and tried to pull the tubes out just like him, too.  And she tried to climb me with cries of "mamamama" not unlike his.  And we watched PBS Kids just like we did with him.  He loved Martha Speaks and said "doggy" as clear as day.  I was so proud.  He didn't say much after that.  And then nothing ever again.

 And we waited on test results to see what was going on; although that was very different and yet not so much.   We know too much for anything to be taken for granted.  So while it was expected, we both felt sweet relief wash over us when the doc said her kidneys are fine.  And Daddy looked over her labs the same way he used to pour over J's.  Only this time instead of fear and anguish in his eyes, I saw satisfaction.  And I knew it would be okay this time.  The opposite of what it was like last time.

So we waited for the fluids to drip, drip, drip into her arm and hydrate the sassy little girl who still won't drink.  And this time when we left, we got to bring our baby with us.  Instead of packing up cards and broken dreams, we packed up a crabby girl and walked out to our cars.  And when we left the parking lot, we pulled out into the alley where that dreadful ambulance picked us up the other time we left that hospital.  It was the eve of his birthday and cool and starry and late.  And it was the last time he was ever outside.

I never want to go there ever again.  These are not the memories I want washing over me.  I don't want to picture the fish tank in the waiting room and remember how I was watching the dead fish, belly up when they were talking to us about lymphangiomatosis and how we were going to treat him.  All I could think was they should really get that dead fish out so parents don't have to look at that dead fish and think about their kids belly up down the hall.  But how can you not think about that when you get handed the death sentence? 

I don't want to remember how the coffee tasted there.  And the way babies smell once the sterile room gets into their hair.  And the way the waiting feels, how it weighs you down and tears your brain apart. 

There is damage there that cannot be repaired.  And I pray over and over again to please never let my babies get sick ever again.  Because one day in an ER undid me.  She is the one with pneumonia, but I am the one unable to breathe.  She doesn't even have a bruise from the IV.  And my bruises from 2 1/2 years ago are still black and blue and sore to the touch.  She is feisty and playful and stubbornly refusing to drink again already.  And I am on the verge of weeping at every second, waiting for the black hole to swallow me whole.

Monday, February 25, 2013


I'm typing with one hand because I'm holding a sleeping baby in the other.  Little Lady is sick.  I love the snuggles but mostly just want her better.  She wants me 24/7.  Last night she slept on my chest.  I'm caffeinated to the max this morning. 

We went to the doctor this morning after Little Man got on the bus because she won't drink and we're a little worried about her dehydration.  She's not great, but not bad enough to get an IV yet.  My job today is to continue to force feed her pedialyte with a syringe so we stay safely dehydrated, if you will.  Not fun for anyone.

The doc was kinda hard because she had to get a chest xray.  The last time I had to help hold down a screaming child for an xray was the day Jameson got sick.    It was after his surgery and his sats just wouldn't pop up and the anesthesiologist was convinced I lied and brought a sick kid to surgery so I didn't have to reschedule.  He quickly changed his tune when we saw the xray with two collapsed lungs and fluid everywhere.  That was the very beginning of the end.  That one xray.

It was so easy to remember that day today.  To look down and see both my babies on that table.  To feel how familiar the lead apron felt.  It was so easy to be scared today too.  After all, we weren't expecting J's disease either.  We had no clue that deadly disease was lurking and growing inside his sweet little body.  None.  We found out a week later and it all went downhill so fast.  As I've said before, we have no illusions of invincibility anymore, so it was easy to be a little scared. I even packed a small over night bag before heading to the doctor, just in case. 

She has pneumonia.  That's all.  Nothing scary right now.  Pneumonia, ear infections and dehydration.  All of which require mom to stay calm, love, love love, and push those fluids.  And she's gonna be just fine.  And I say that, thinking of the irony.  How can I have no illusions of invincibility but still be sure of her health?  Because I choose to.  I know bad things can happen.  I've experienced bad things happening.  The worst.  But I've also experienced loads of good things.  And I can look at the statistics and see what an anomaly J's illness was.  So yes, I know bad things do happen and can happen, but I also know that that doesn't mean they will happen.  And I also know that even if the do, I will survive.

And so we go on.

The doc showed me her chest xrays.  It was the first time I've seen any of those since J was sick.  Her ribs are cute, too.  I was amazed when I saw her pictures.  "Healthy" lungs with no collapsed lobes and chests with no picc lines and chest tubes are just beautiful sights to behold.  I sat in that chair and patiently nodded as he explained what I already could see so plainly and thanked God for those beautiful images.  These gifts are sometimes so bittersweet with this perspective I've gained. 

Alas, I need to awaken sleeping beauty and forcibly inject some Pedialyte down her throat.  May you see gifts everywhere you look this week. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Yesterday as I was walking through the living room, I looked at a picture on the digital slide show of my sweet Jameson and I just went blank.   I didn't feel happy.  I didn't feel sad.  It was like seeing a picture that comes with a frame.  I stopped in my tracks and started at that picture and wondered who he is.  He used to be mine.  I used to know everything.  Every.little.thing. Every thing.  He is my son.  I spent three years with him as the center of my world.  He grew inside of my body.  I love him with every molecule of my being.  And yet.  And yet yesterday I looked at his picture and he felt like a stranger. 
The heart find news way to break, I guess.

How can I see one of our precious memories and not feel something?   How can the connection get lost, even momentarily?  I was so appalled at my inability to feel in that second that I've spent much of the past day looking back at pictures, remembering fun times, reading the old CaringBridge updates.  And I've completely flooded myself with pain.  It is somewhat of a relief; the nothingness is much scarier, much worse.

Only now I just can't breathe.  

The thing is, there is no way to keep this kind of thing from happening without stopping.  Unless I freeze myself here in this spot and never take another step, it will happen again.  Because every step I take is a step away from the past.  And he belongs to the past, at least on this side of eternity.

It is just so strange.  I feel like I've looked at all of the pictures of him much that I don't know if I'm remembering real memories or remembering pictures.  And then I search my being for memories that don't have Kodak attached to them to see if I actually even remember him alive.  Real. 

The memories are there.  They are just so distant.  Every once in a while, something will trigger a memory and the recall is so sweet as it washes over me.  Ah, I do remember him.  I haven't forgotten or lost it all.  And of course, there is no way I could lose it all, but even the little things are everything when there is nothing else left.   And sometimes I can't remember how he looked in his sleep.  Or how he felt on my hip.  Or what his sweet voice sounded like when he laughed.  And how can I not remember those things?  What kind of mother forgets that?

My heart is broken today because he feels so wholly lost to me.  Oh my God, my son is gone.

I don't know how to move today.  How to be.  I keep trying to think about all the promise in this life and the next and it just isn't working today.  I just want to freeze and be with him.  Even if just for today.  Can't I please have him back, just for today?

But there is no pause.  No rewind.  There is only this present shoving me forward. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fortune Cookie

A few months ago, my friends over at Mothering From Scratch asked me to be a guest writer.  I prayed about it and then wrote a posting on the topic they chose.  And an hour after I finished writing it, I got an email from them with the requirements, including a word limit.  Gulp.  I'm a little on the wordy side, so...  It took me about an hour to write the post and literally three days to pare it down.  While I was happy with the finished product, I really like it long.  So here it is:

I really wanted pizza.  And to not cook.  Or do dishes.   Daddy came home and eyed me paging through my amazing new cookbook he gave me just the day before.  He didn’t even laugh at the irony when I told him I wanted to order Papa Johns.  He voted for Chinese take-out.  Who am I to argue-  I was getting a night off.  
The last time we ordered Chinese take-out must have been at least five years ago.  Neither one of us could remember for sure.  We taught Little Man how to make his Mu Shoo roll and how to bite into a fortune cookie.  I laughed when I opened mine.  
“Life is a gift, don’t waste it.” 
Could there be a more perfect fortune for me, Little Miss Carpe Diem, over here?  I decided to keep it.
A few nights later, I came out of the baby’s room, flush with frustration and anger at Daddy and Little Man for laughing so loudly that she woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep.  I lashed out at them both, handed the crying girl to Daddy as punishment and stormed around the room cleaning up the toys littering the dog hair covered floors that desperately need vacuuming and washing. But not before I do the dishes.  And the laundry.  And scrub the tub out.  The never ending list scrolling through my head coupled with the kids who were happily laughing with their daddy on the couch almost pushed me over the edge.  “IT IS PAST BEDTIME,” I was screaming in my mind as I flung the last toy into the basket as angrily as I could, obviously trying to drag everyone else down with me. 
And then I saw it.  Putting the last book away on the shelf, I saw the fortune there on the ledge, under the picture of my Jameson.  “Life is a gift, don’t waste it,” it quietly said back to me.   I was still so angry.  Why?  When did I become the one who puts the chores and the rules ahead of the family and the fun?  When did I forget to Carpe Diem?   I looked up from that innocent little fortune on the ledge into my son’s eyes and instantly felt my anger turn.  
Hadn’t I learned anything about what really matters in this world?   Did I forget that easily just how much I have to be thankful for and how important it is to cherish these memories and these good times?  Nights like this when Little Man and Jameson were little are some of the best memories I carry in my heart now that my J is gone.  How could I, of all people, already forget to see the Joy instead of the list?  
“Life is a gift, don’t waste it.”  
This is not news to me.  Since my son died 22 months ago, I have made that my mantra.  My blog is called Harvesting Joy, for goodness sake.  And yet in two minutes flat I went from thanking God for the baby in my arms to having an ugly tantrum for no reason whatsoever.  
I think back to those first days after the funeral, when we first came home and it was so quiet and empty and it was so easy to fall into the black hole.  We knew that we had to make a choice.  We had to be intentional about how we were going to live, act, be.  Because feelings are unpredictable and untrustworthy.  And we refused to let his death take the meaning out of his life and our lives.  Not long after that, I started reading Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  She confirmed everything I was thinking about living intentionally and also challenged me to not only look for the joy that is already there, but to create joy through thanksgiving.  
It was good to be reminded that there is always something to be thankful for.  Even when your son dies at three.  Even when you are constantly fighting the pull of the black hole for the sake of your remaining son.  Even when you feel you have nothing left, there is always something to be thankful for.  And thanksgiving creates joy.  
I’ve tried it; it works.  When I’m overwhelmed with my loss and the black hole looms near, I say thanks for his life, no matter how short.  When the dog hair is rolling across the floors like tumbleweed, I say thanks for my vacuum.  And my dogs.  When the dishes are overflowing in the sink and the laundry piles waiting to be folded are bigger than my couch, I thank the Lord that we have more than enough.  We are always seeing something; either the positive or the negative.  And it is our choice to make every.single.time.   
Fast forward to my temper tantrum and I’m obviously not living out my intentions as well as I’d like.  When I look back on these times, I don’t want the memories to look like this.  I don’t want to be one who was always so busy worrying about the chores and rules that I can’t remember the laughter and the snuggles.  Instead, I want to see these moments as little gifts from God; these special moments of staying up too late, the snuggling together can either be the treasure or the curse.  And only I can make that choice.  
The story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary is a great example to me in either seeing the treasure or the burden.
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me." But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it -- and I won't take it away from her." –Luke 10:38-42 NLT
Mary and Martha were both in the same boat.  Yet they approached the situation so differently.  Poor Martha just couldn’t see the gift and she greatly missed out on the treasure.  I don’t want to go through the rest of my life as a Martha, always seeing the burdens and missing out in the treasures.  I desperately want to experience the gifts Jesus has laid out before me.   I choose to seek joy.  
I’m far from perfect and know that I’ll fail at times.  But I’m so thankful for the gentle reminder from God, who even speaks through Chinese take-out.