Monday, December 29, 2008

Crossing the NICU Styx - Part 1

Five hours after my daughter was born into a comforting pool of warm water, strangers in scrubs came and arrested her. They carried her down into a world where life is in limbo. Her crimes were a broken heart and a narrow aorta. Her sentence would be long. Surely my sins were greater than hers...perhaps this was my punishment?

I followed her and found myself on the wrong bank of the river Styx, wandering lost, searching for the right coin to give Charon so that he would carry my baby back across to the Land of the Living. He rubbed a cold hand on her stomach. If only she would eat. Maybe if I gave up on nursing and let her have a bottle. Maybe if I gave up on the bottle and let her get a tube in her stomach. If only food were the answer.

My sweet daughter presented every sacrifice she could. On Day One she offered up her tiny hand and accepted the needle coursing with antibiotics. As time went on she would give over her arms, legs, head, and neck to the various needles. She submitted to multiple nose tubes, throat tubes, and a g-tube in the hopes that the food and oxygen they supplied would give her the strength to cross over.

But Cerberus attacked her, snapping his bacteria-filled jaws down on her. Not once, not twice... but again and again he cut his teeth into her, slobbering on her, filling her with poisonous creatures invisible to human eye. They tried to kill her but the needles flooded her with even stronger weapons of destruction.

And me? I sat there staring across her, across the river at the doorway to the Land of the Living and I shook with fear, with agony, with anger. I wanted to rip it all off of her and scoop her up in my arms... and run. The raging desire to escape with her was quelled only by the knowledge that she would be dead before we reached dry ground. I felt my inner self be slowly crushed and compacted. There was nothing left to me but a heavy rock in my stomach and my faith in God.

I was not alone on the river bank. I saw other mommies with other babies with other tubes and needles who had committed other crimes. And I saw Cerberus wrap his scaly tail around other tiny bodies and pull them backward to a place where only God could follow. I cried the tears of vicarious trauma... a suffering I’d never known existed.

Charon tapped a bony finger on my baby girl’s chest. Somewhere within her, somewhere inside the greatest artery, or perhaps hidden deep in a pumping ventricle was the golden coin he wanted. There would be no trip back across the NICU Styx without it.

(Continue to Part 2)


Anonymous said...

Wow. You don't know me of course, but I've been blogging since 2002. I read a lot of blogs because I get paid to. I work with the High Calling. You might not have noticed but your sister put our badge on your site, which was a very wise move since it immediately opens your blog up to being found by people.

And you need to be found. You're a writer. This piece is absolutely wonderful, except I feel terrible using that adjective in this situation. This piece is....good. A good thing in a hard situation.

My baby girl had some issues too. One big one she still deals with and will all of her life. My prayers are offered to both of you.

Real Live Preacher
Gordon Atkinson

Anonymous said...

I featured your post today at the High Calling Blog site:

I wish you the best on this new adventure. Blogging is...interesting. Think of it as a gym for writers. Think of it like speed chess. Make it a way to write.

Anonymous said...

she is beautiful.

Anonyblogger said...

RLP, thank you for your encouraging comments. Always remember with your precious girl that there is no issue bigger than the God that knit every stitch of her.

nAncY, thank you for saying so. I can take no credit for that but naturally I like to hear it ;-)

sharilyn said...

what a beautiful little face... what a difficult time for a mother's heart... i shall pray for you and for her... God is good--all the time... (not a cliche or trite phrase, just an encouragement)

Jennifer @ said...

So glad the HCB is featuring this post. Other people need to read this ... You have a gift for seeing (and sharing) the mystery of God, who can be found in the midst of our deepest hurts. ... Thank you for sharing with us.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Such words.
Such truth.
Thank you for this gift.

Anonysister said...

Dearest Sister, it amazes me how I could see you go through this and still not see you. Here, you've given me a window into deep places. Thank you seems hardly the right thing to say, but then I've never been known as one to say the right things, so...

thank you...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. I look forward to reading more.

Billy Coffey said...

Absolutely wonderful. And heartbreaking, too. Prayers for you and your little one. She is beautiful. The biggest gifts often come in the smallest packages.

GratefulinGA said...

Look at all your gifts and blessings!

Thanks for sharing them.

Meriah said...

what a powerful telling of one of the most difficult times in your life... and beautiful.

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