In 5 hours, we will have been in this hospital for 5 full days.Well, my daughter will have been here all that time. I’ve taken three breaks, the longest being a 12-hour overnight stay at home while my mom took my place. You start counting these kinds of things a lot, trying to bring some kind of qualitative perspective to a seemingly infinite experience.
I’m not a big fan of taking self-portraits. It’s not always an insecurity thing. It’s a battle against narcissism thing. But this one I needed to take:
I will need to remember this week and that I was here with my chipped nail polish and desperately cheerful sweater for Gabby.
When she was born, my 24 year old self actually wondered, “What if she doesn’t love me?”
When she was 4, I asked my Sunday School class to pray for our relationship, because I felt it was too distant. (Yeah, we’re old school. No small groups. Just old-fashioned Sunday School.) As I grew as a mom, I learned how to connect with her better.
My girl is an independent thing, and she’s so mature and intelligent for her age that it’s easy to leave her alone too much. She doesn’t show signs of needing Mommy as much as I’d think a 7 year old would.
This week (and the 5 days of sickness prior to them) have proven that even a girl like her needs Mama deeply.
It turns out that taking that night off at home caused me to miss the worst (read: most painful) moment of the week. No one told me they were going to remove the drain from her side. While they were snipping the suture holding the tube in and then pulling the tube through her incision, I was at Walgreens buying a card on behalf of her little brother.
I arrived to find my little girl sitting in a chair next to my mother, holding a scrap of paper to her chest on which I’d colored her name ombre style. Through tears, she’d asked my mom to get it down from the bulletin board. “Did your mom make that?” asked her Nanna. She nodded.
I know it’s not my fault, but it still hurts. Yes, I needed a solid night’s sleep to function better for her. Yes, it’s okay for her to rely on other people. Yes, it was great for my mom to get to be a part of the healing process since she lives almost 9 hours away from us. It’s true that I had no heads-up that it might happen that day. But knowing that you weren’t there when she really needed you? That sucks.
I’ve since promised I won’t leave the hospital until she does, and I mean I’m not even leaving the unit. She’s stuck, so I will be, too. Whatever we need can be brought in by someone else.
There have been other ways to learn that I’m still needed. Her head rested on my shoulder while we sat in the bed together and watched TV. She let me rock her when she was so frustrated that I wondered if she’d spawned another personality. My girl’s eyes dart to me when someone is getting on her nerves and she doesn’t want to interact with them. She looks for me first when she wakes up. Her breath deepened when I told her I wouldn’t leave her again.
This is not only my experience. This is much of what it means to be a parent.
There are times that one parent fits the bill of the day a little better than another. I know there will be times when she leans more on her daddy, but I don’t ever want to forget the emotional lesson I learned this week. I’ll need to have it rooted in my heart if she decides to go all “Leave me alone. I just want to listen to my music” when she’s 14. Maybe I’ll be needed in a different way at that time, but I’ll be there.