It was early afternoon, and my hand was stretched through a plastic case gripping on to his hand. His tiny fingers wrapped around my thumb. He writhed from the pain medication, gasping for air. His pulse-ox monitor, and every other machine that was hooked up to him, wildly binging. I felt like it should have been tied to me because I was about ready to pass out. It was proving how I felt in my heart; lack of oxygen, fight or flight, irregular, surreal. I was a hospital mom.
I couldn’t form a normal thought; words jumbled together, nurses didn’t respond as quickly to the binging noises as I wanted. They were used to those sounds — I was not.
I sat next to him and almost walked out of the recovery room because a piece of me was crumbling under pressure, and I couldn’t stand to see the pain in his eyes. Finally, when I got my wits about me, as I listened to him pant and moan, I sang him a song. Sunday Morning by Maroon 5. My voice was imperfect, I shook with fear, and in that moment, I realized there was only one thing I could do to make my 8-day-old son feel better — sing.
As I sat next to him, broken and shaking, he was getting stronger. He calmed, breathing slowed; he focused on me. Monitors quieted. Nurses smiled. I was his lifeline. Soon they transferred him back to the NICU so he could recover and rest. He survived surgery. I was ok for the moment.
I lived my life like this as a hospital mom for a year — humbled and fearful, wondering if my son would survive, realizing that it wasn’t ultimately up to me, and there was nothing I could do to surgically fix him. I had to rely on doctors and nurses to care for him.
There were countless nights I would feel so much pressure that I couldn’t breathe. I’d sit in my car and cry, not wanting to go inside and face my life as a hospital mom. I’d stand over my son’s crib and wonder if he would get better. I’d be lost in thought, talk to anyone who would listen, and plead for his life on my knees in prayer all in the same day.
There were medical bills, insurance carriers, and cobwebs of paperwork that needed to be weaved together. Medical supplies, co-pays, medicine, hospital visits, and surgeries filled my life. While some babies were struggling to smile and roll-over, mine was struggling to survive.
I learned how to pack a hospital bag well. I learned how to pull tubes, use surgical-grade devices, dispense pain medicine and bandage wounds.
As I look back now on my son’s sixth birthday, I realize that I was never alone. Even though I couldn’t relate to other moms then, I know that my heart is intertwined with all mamas out there who know what it’s like to have a child who is sick.
Dear Hospital Moms,
If you are experiencing this pain right now, my heart connects to yours. I know what it’s like to feel on the outside of “normal” mommyhood. I know that your heart beats differently because of your child. I know you pace the floor at the doctor as you wait for results. I know that fifth or tenth or twentieth attempt for a vein for an IV is an awful sound to endure from your child. I know what it’s like to have your child strapped to a table, sit in a machine, or wince when you walk into a lab. I know. God knows.
You are not alone.