Last night Lachie came for a quick visit. By the time we got home it was late and I haven’t been feeling too well, plus we wanted the house to be Lachie proofed again before he came home for good. He hasn’t been home in over a month and I am impatient to have him here again. But after the emotion of leaving you yesterday and wanting to go into hospital again last night we felt it was best he come back for good tomorrow with all his things. He came and went with gusto, as he does, and seemed to go with the flow as he left for his last night at Nanna’s. I felt renewed knowing he would be home for good today.
It seemed like a good idea. Perhaps it wasn’t. It’s almost midnight and today has been one of the worst of my life. Not as bad as almost losing you. Maybe not as bad as what is to come. But really hard all the same.
Lachie arrived home first thing in the morning and as the day progressed he gradually became very clingy. It is completely out of character for him and although toddlers change their behaviours regularly my instincts told me this was more than a passing phase. By lunchtime he had to be sitting on my lap, not Dad’s, only mine. Or being held by me or cuddled or soothed. He barely ate. Just after lunch he started vomiting violently. For a moment of self-indulgence I rolled my eyes and thought, “Just my luck!” Then it dawned on me what this meant. Why the NICU were so very strict about hand washing. How we were urged to scrub from finger tips to elbows for a good few minutes. To prevent infection. Your deadliest foe.
If he had an illness like gastro he could well have passed it to me without my knowing and I could have passed it to you. Had I been vigilant every single time with hand washing? Yes, I think so. I know I was. But still…
Panic set in and I called the NICU. They urged me not to be too distressed. If you get sick, gastro isn’t the worst thing because they can treat it to a degree. But I knew they were trying to placate me. They told me not to come in tonight but to have a day or so off to ensure I wasn’t sick and return in 48 hours.
Two days! Two days without seeing you. Worse, two days without you hearing the urgency in my voice willing you to fight. Without knowing how very loved you are. Without giving you a reason to stay here with us and not succumb to eternal sleep.
So I sat on the kitchen floor and cried for a few minutes between vomits. Your Dad called the after hour doctor service and they came promptly just after dinner. By then Lachie was starving and wanting to eat between throwing up, but we had refused because he couldn’t hold anything down. If he was on my lap he was happy. If I got up to get a drink or go to the bathroom he would vomit. The doctor was kind and reassuring and told us it was not gastro, but anxiety. My 18 month old perfect, full of life boy was terrified I would leave him again. Does he know I didn’t want to go? Does he know I wanted desperately, every minute of every day, to be his parent? To laugh when he laughed, hold him when he was scared or hurt, read him his bed time story?
Apparently nausea and anxiety are not an uncommon reaction when small kids are faced with some kind of trauma. It had occurred to me many times that this experience would leave a scar on your brother’s tiny soul. Aside from you being sick, him being emotionally distraught through my absence is my worst fear.
In a way it is a blessing that I am not coming in to see you tomorrow. I would be nervous the whole time that I was inadvertently making you sick and I would never forgive myself. And it seems now that you need me, just for one day, less than your brother. He’s a tough kid and must be hurting terribly to have this kind of reaction. And you? You are kicking goals all over the place. I spoke to Nurse Esther tonight and she tells me you are going down to CPAP 6 already. No oxygen required. I quietly proud you are such an anomaly, though I know the worst is yet to come. I’ll always be proud of how you’ve clung to the thin hope of life for so long. Whatever comes next, you are truly a medical marvel. And a credit to our family. I’m writing this as your brother is scrawled across my chest falling asleep to the dulcetones of the Chuggington theme song. I can feel him breathing peacefully again and part of me is glad I can be here when he needs me, though I feel as though I am in another world to you. And I wonder if parenting will be like this forever – forever worried I will make a decision for one child that will jeopardise the other. Deep down somewhere I am wishing that life could be simple and we didn’t have to prioritise one of you over the other. Deep down, just for a second, I am wishing that things for us could just be normal, like any other family.
We had dinner with your Grandparents tonight to celebrate your birthday, (a few days late), and didn’t you relish every second of attention you garnered? You could barely sit still at the restaurant and hardly ate a thing, (though you managed some cake), instead flitting from one enamoured grandparent to the next, charming the waiters and watching as the other patrons smiled at you.
Somehow this day is more special than your actual birthday, perhaps because it is void of the associated memories I have of bringing you into this world too early. It always seems strange when people say you just couldn’t wait to get here so you came out early because it wasn’t you that wanted to come, it was my body that couldn’t hold you. Sometimes I think you just had too much spirit to be closed inside me, as I remember the graceful way you danced around my belly and made the midwives chase you for a foetal heart reading. Whatever the reason, you were meant to be exactly where you are right now, so whatever lead you here I have mostly come to terms with. You are so self-assured, I could hardly doubt you.