I don't know why, but this picture has been hovering in my head for the past few days:
This is Henry in late October 2007, days after he almost died from a PICC line infection. For several days he was in only a diaper and maybe a hospital t-shirt. He was pale and still and lost in a tangle of tubes and wires.
I stepped out one day and came back to this: my baby back. His nurse, Anna, had dressed him, put a quilt and a blanket on his bed, and surrounded him with his stuffed animals. She had arranged his books on a table at the foot of his bed and taped up the cards people had sent us. It made my day. It made it possible for me to go on.
We had been on the verge of going home when Henry turned blue in my arms. He was rushed back to the CICU where he was stabilized. I left the hospital in shock. There was a part of me that night that wanted to let go, to stop being the strong person everyone kept telling me I was, to stop worrying to the point of barely breathing, to stop living in the crazy world I had been plunged into almost two months earlier when my baby was hospitalized suddenly. I remember sitting in his room, silently screaming, "I'm not okay over here," but every body was busy working on my sick baby. I remember later somebody coming over to talk to me, encouraging me to get away and get some rest and agreeing to go. I remember being detached and watching it all from outside of me. And I remember wanting to let go but thinking that if I did I might never find my way back.
That night, that feeling still scares me.
The next night my baby almost died. He teetered between life and death, and I became practical. I begged him to hold on until his daddy arrived. I asked the social worker for rocking chair. I told my sister I needed her sweater because I was cold. I watched and I waited and I was right there, fully there, waiting to see if my baby would live or die. He lived. And I thought we had survived a scare. I thought we had a long road ahead of us and I set out on that road, step by step, sure that my baby could pull through anything now. I never thought the road would lead here.
But in this moment frozen in my mind, my baby was starting to look up. He had come off nitric oxide. They were beginning the long slow wean off the ventilator (again). His color had come back. And a nurse had transformed him from a patient to a baby again.
There is no trigger for this particular memory. I hadn't seen the picture. I didn't recently find the outfit or one of the stuffed animals in the photo. It isn't something that happened two years ago this month. It's simply the piece of Henry's story that I'm sititng with right now.