There's a lot to say about our time in the hospital. I don't want to forget how we got here or what we've been through, and I particularly don't want to lose sight of the miracle we've witnessed.
I've been putting this post off because, quite candidly, it's painful to relive. The days that followed were far more difficult on our family than the emergency surgery itself. Odd, isn't it, that time recovering on a cheery pediatric floor would be more agonizing than an unexpected, life-threatening diagnosis?
I've written a virtual novel here and am posting it in bits scheduled to go up each day this week. I promise Anne Says So won't always be a record book of the crazy month of March, but if you could take a peek into my thoughts, you'd see there's little else up there these days.
Once I get this out of my system, I promise to move on to the funniest blogs I've come across lately, the return of Mad Men and my recent iTunes downloads. Y'know, world-changing stuff. For now, though, I'm waiting until this brain dump is complete. I'm a new person, and I need to remember why. Always.
I left off just outside of an operating room deep in the (insanely confusing) halls of Greenville Memorial. After handing MB over to the sweetest team of anesthesiologists, surgeons and nurses, whose charms and skills were lost on an utterly bewildered pair of parents, all we could do was wait, pray and hope.
We were told the surgery would take ninety minutes, a staggering feat considering Mary Brooks was to be put under, her appendix removed, and both her large and small intestines taken out, uncoiled, repositioned and fixed into place.
Bradley was stunned, quiet and reflective. I was just Anne in overdrive. I responded to texts, answered calls, coordinated arrival times and childcare, arranged a "text tree" to distribute updates, talked to hospital staff about the interactive "surgery status board" and kept myself as busy as possible to avoid picturing my seven-pound 20-day-old cut wide open on a surgical table.
(I remember, moments after the diagnosis, asking if we'd have to spend the night at the hospital. The look on the resident's face made it clear that I wasn't processing what they were telling me. He said, with as close to a straight face as he could manage, that we'd be at the hospital a full week, maybe more, maybe less. "It all depends." Now I see that a week in the hospital was the least of his worries for us.)
The moment I stopped moving to absorb what was going on, I was overcome with a twister of emotions I could never untangle. So I just shut. it. down. I felt little, if anything, and that was how I coped.
I thank God I was able to do so, and even more that didn't research her condition while I waited; had I read what was really happening and the potential outcomes by age range, hers being the youngest, I'd have been a heaping, sobbing mess, useless to anyone but my own panic.
After an initial update that Mary Brooks' intestines were viable, the biggest answered prayer I never had the forethought to pray for, we heard nothing until the surgery was complete - three hours later.
When I look back at my texts during those first hours, I responded to my best friend, who was relaying her fervent prayers, that I needed her to pray hard enough for the both of us because I just couldn't. I don't remember writing that, but I know it was true.
Even typing that now makes me tear up; as machine-like and faux 'normal' as I felt, opening myself up to beg for help and pray as vulnerably and desperately as I needed to just didn't feel possible. There wasn't one drop of me to spare and I couldn't allow myself to perceive how precarious things really were. It was just too much.
On that afternoon and in the days that followed, my prayers were one word repeated over and over, each with a deeper sense of honesty and anguish: Please. Please, God. Just please. I know He knew what I meant and what we needed. To this day I can't imagine how any other words could have come from my heart right then.
What else was there to say? I knew Mary Brooks was being prayed for and we were too - I could feel it. It was all that kept me going. But praying my child's name? Contemplating what was really happening and how powerless and clueless I was in its midst? I couldn't.
As fervently as I say two-word "thank you" prayers a hundred times daily now, I begged the heavens to heal our girl, to give me the ability to make it through, to provide me with the presence of mind I needed to function as a mother and a wife. I did it the only way I knew how, with the only brain cells and scraps of awareness that remained. Please.
Three hours passed in a blink to me, still spinning like a top, and aged Bradley a hundred years. When we saw the team of surgeons walk into the waiting room, we were on our feet without thinking and followed them without question or looking back.
I dropped my phone and the crackers someone had asked me to eat; I left my parents and our friends and we just flew. I don't know if we took elevators or stairs or twenty turns of a hallway to get to her, but suddenly there we were in recovery - and she was whole.
I remember feeling instant, tremendous relief at the relatively small size of her incision. There were no stitches or sutures, just a cut the length of my thumb, pink and precise, through which the surgeons determined whether Mary Brooks' case was a "near miss" or something bigger. We praise God, with our fuller understanding now, that it was the best they could have hoped to see.
I recall vaguely the surgeon speaking quietly to Bradley; the words "grace of the Lord" and "weekend" stuck out, but I heard nothing else. Days later I learned he had told B it was only through God's grace, after a full weekend and nearly four days total of impeded blood flow, that Mary Brooks retained both her intestines and the promise of a full, easy life. (Insert "thank you" prayer here, and every time I replay it.)
There were so many other potentialities, as the doctors deemed them. Removal of part or most of her intestines. Intestines grafted to her skin and a bag on the outside of her tiny body. And, as much as I like to avoid thinking of it, not coming home with a healthy baby. Or any baby at all. A nurse days later cried over our girl, telling us that her goddaughter had died of the same condition. Praise God our story ended differently.
After assuring us Mary Brooks had done as well as they could have hoped, the doctors directed me to a rocking chair and placed our warm, sweet baby in my arms. It felt just like holding her for the first time - bewildering, a little foreign and absolutely life-affirming. She was here.
Just like in our first moments together, I spoke the same words to MB over and over in unspeakable awe. "Hi, baby girl. Hi. Hi. I love you, oh, do I love you. You are so beautiful, baby. You are so beautiful. And we've been waiting for you." It was even more true the second time around.
It felt like the end of something, having her back in our arms, but it was just the start of a very long eight days. Mary Brooks had a new chance at life, but she had a long road before coming back home - and so did we.
Five On Friday!
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