Our favorite nurse, Maria, says day five often seems to be the worst day…yesterday was day five of Ruby’s sickness and today is day five in the hospital and I think she’s right. Day five yesterday sucked…it got bad on day four and then worse. And today isn’t the best either. Such is the nature of this dreadful virus. Things look hopeful but they say don’t get your hopes up. And we do anyway then we are crushed by a not-breathing baby. Again and again. Oh hell the most terrifying 15 seconds. She’ll wake and eat and I’ll think yay she’s fighting and then tests and xrays and then PICU with more tubes and tests and concern. These swings suck so bad and I am so tired and exhausted from being so sad. Oh god I just want her home. Oh I miss Margot so much.
We moved to a new room on the other side of the hospital, now looking at the Rattlesnake wilderness and Mount Sentinel. This room is more sparse and Ruby lays on a table under a heat lamp all exposed and vulnerable. They need to be able to access her quickly should they need to. It all feels more severe…she’s not in her clothes, her blanket, my arms. I only get to hold her a few times a day and oh I suck every possible detail out of those minutes. It’s amazing where I find joy: eye contact, her renewed desire to eat, even though through a feeding tube. Feeling her rapid, shallow breathes (an incredible 100 per minute most of the time), the life in her. She’s strong and today she told me that she’s getting stronger. Even though her alarming fever commanded even more tests and concern. Today is the first day I feel confident in her recovery.
We can’t have visitors to her room anymore and they come anyway and meet me by the elevator, hug my weak body, infusing my bones with strength to deal, bring food, invaluable coffee, offer help. I am so thankful for those distractions. I spend my days staring at the mountains, responding to the texts and voicemails and observing Ruby’s respiratory rate, heart beats and level of oxygen in blood. Trying to remember to eat and drink water, hoping my milk will hang in there. I hold her tiny hand and meditate on peace and health. I stay strong for her although she barely needs it–she’s a spunky monkey all on her own. The staff continually remark on her kicking and fist pumping. I have studied the pain assessment scale, levels 1-10, poster on the wall over and over thinking there should be a contorted face and a level 17 for labor.
That’s the other wild thing: I just had this baby. I am still bleeding from the birth, my belly is still all doughy and raw red stretch marky. She was in me and safe two weeks ago. And so healthy when born. But the birth seems so distant, a few chapters ago in her new life.
And my amazement at our people…I can’t quite get over how powerful my community is. I am so grateful to all you readers who left thoughtful comments and e mails–I have read and reread every sentiment to myself and aloud to Andy while we sit in the PICU among the whirring of the machines that are breathing for our baby. Your words are a source of strength and renewal for me. Thank you. My friends and family offering to fly out to help, putting in prayer requests at their churches, updating each other over facebook, arranging weeks of meals for my family, bringing coffee and wine and gifts for Margot.
Together, people can move mountains and together people can will the health into my child. I know Ruby’s is improved by your thoughts. Keep it up.
Ruby gets hungry now and I hold a pacifier in her mouth while the nurse gives her an ounce of my milk through a tube into her belly every three hours. I keep my face next to hers, resting my cheek on her breathing apparatus, hoping the milk and sucking and me will keep her remembering, keep her wanting to go home where things are easy. And she has periods of being awake and grunting and kicking, looking to me thinking, mama, wtf?! Help a girl out and get this contraption out of my nose and throat, would ya? I actually think at times she is cute and funny in her little PICU outfit. Sister owns it. She likes it when I laugh.
Andy and I slept in our own room last night. Ruby has respiratory treatments pretty often and the room is noisy. I wasn’t sure I could sleep while not by her side but I think I crashed before I even had a moment to think about not sleeping. I slept for five uninterrupted hours.
Today there are additional complications…perhaps a secondary bacterial infection. I was in the room when my little babe was sedated and intubated. Terrible and counter-intuitive. But, also, here we are. One breath at a time. Currently, I am drinking a beer, taking my own deep breaths, hoping at some point I’ll get that break I’ve wanted since yesterday morning. My mom arrives in 25 minutes and Andy’s mom has been on Total Cline Household Care since last Friday afternoon. Oh the village.
And so it is bumpier than I wanted but I am so grateful to be here. Here and hopeful and knowing our daughter will be thriving soon. I didn’t know I could handle what we’ve been through and remain upright. I love her so much and I barely know her. Life is simply inhaling and exhaling. Breath by breath. Inhale. Whether it’s 15 or 115 per minute. Exhale.