Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Hope!

I was wide awake this morning at 4am. I don't know if God woke me or my subconscious. Either way, that was just around the time I awoke six years ago after the near death experience birth of my little Hopey. I remember opening my eyes to see Chappy first and then a young Dr. Jay Campbell who was still interning under the tutelage of the amazing Dr. David Liske, Hope's primary cardiologist at that time.

Since this was our first meeting with Jay, he was stiff, very professional, and used a deep voice to attempt to bely the fact that he was still new at the game of delivering heart wrenching news: "As you know, your daughter is in NICU. We have already performed some tests on her heart and things appear stable....." He went on to describe her outlook, which was not positive at all....and I tuned him out.

I felt fear like I have never felt before or since in those few minutes with Dr. Campbell, because when he walked into the door that early morning, he brought "Reality" tucked beneath his arm wearing a flashy red dress to taunt me. With his first words, "Reality" moved from neath his arm and began to seductively dance in the room in front of me....she was all I could see....all I could focus on. Her eyes bore into my soul, and just before Dr. Caldwell turned to leave after completing his update on our new baby who I had yet to meet, "Reality" lunged at my hospital bed and spit into my face the words: "Your life will never be the same again" before taking her place with the kind Doctor again and going on her way to visit the next unsuspecting mother.

"Reality" has visited me many times over the years. She has been at every one of Hope's heart surgeries and even pops in to visit at many of the cardiologist visits....sometimes I see her in public places when kind folks bend down to speak to Hopey only to find she doesn't have the ability to speak back....and every time Hope has a meltdown from being overstimulated by her surroundings, the woman in the red dress shows up to point her finger and laugh.

Some may wonder how I have dealt with the devil female all of these years, and the answer is very simple. Let me tell you about my other friend:

Three days after birth, Hope had a stomach surgery....three months later she had her first open heart surgery and coded. Up until the day she coded, I didn't know how much I had fallen in love with her. I had been in such "nurse mode" making sure she ate enough, took her medicine, made her cardiologist appointments, etc. that I had not even thought about loving her. I had, I guess, become a task mom without realizing it. The cardiologist's staff had warned me that I had only three months to get Hopey ready for life-saving open heart surgery, so I went to work as any person would, and focused on that goal.

On that fateful day, I had left Hope for the very first time post-heart surgery to go get something to eat. The hospital had become my home since the day of her surgery; days had passed and the nursing staff continually urged me to take a needed break for "fresh air". I was determined not to leave, but when they explained Hope was being taken off of the machines and would need me to have energy to help her adjust to post-surgery pain once she was fully awake, I relented. And just when Chappy and I sat down at the restaurant only 1 block away, we received and emergency call that changed everything: "Melanie, you need to get back to PICU right away. Hope coded and they are doing CPR on her right now!"

I know what you are wondering: did "Reality" show up that day? Yes, she did. She jumped back into the car with me and stayed with me until I made it to PICU. She mocked me: "Maybe she will die and you won't have to be her nurse anymore"....."She's been unconscious long enough that she'll probably be brain dead"....."She's going to die; you are going to have to give her a funeral and bury her." My mind was reeling, and "Reality" was making things worse. PICU would not let me in to see her, so when the next person came through the door, "Reality" and I burst in and ran down the hall to Hope's room. It was just like you would see in a movie, but I was living it. The nurses at the station ran out to stop me: "You can't go in there!" And I turned and saw. Oh God, I can still see.

I shoved "Reality" behind me, deafened my ears to all of the noise around me, and I watched a team of doctors and nurses around my little 9lb baby girl who was still wearing a profoundly visible bloody zipper on her tiny chest, try to save her life.

In the eery shock of that moment, time stood still for me. I no longer had any feelings at all. I know nurses were still shouting at me, trying to take me away from the scene, but it was as if I was not part of that realm or time. I was physically there, yes, but the rest of me had checked out. Had frozen.

This is where my salvation came. I met a new friend that day, and she was not wearing red. In fact, I am not even sure if my friend is a male or a female. This friend I cannot see or hear, but I can feel. As I stood there outside of Hope's room that day, my friend came to me for the first time and wrapped arms around me of comfort I have never felt before. Without those arms, I am positive I would have fallen. Those powerful arms held me up that day and have held me up more times than I can count since. Every time "Reality" comes to provoke, my other friend shows up to console. Once my new friend entered my life, there was no turning back. The funny thing about this buddy, our relationship continues to grow and blossom. Just when I think I have had all I can take, he comes around and opens the floodgates of my heart even more. Unrelenting, he shows up every morning when Hopey opens her sleepy eyes and grins, every time she takes my finger and pulls me along to come play with her, and even when I crawl in bed with Hopey each night to hold her until her eyes become too heavy to stay awake any longer.

I have a name for my friend: "LOVE".

Today I celebrate a miracle that happened in my life six years ago when an imperfect little angel invaded my life and crushed things I had been unable to pride and selfishness being the top two....while introducing me to "LOVE" like I would never have known without her.

Natalie's birthday is on September 5th, so my parents always come and celebrate Hope and Natalie's birthday over one big celebration weekend. I hope you enjoy the video above (but forgive my overzealous singing---I will do pretty much anything to make Hope happy!)

1 Corinthians 13: "Love is patient, is kind, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrong...rejoices in truth, protects, trusts, always HOPES, and pererveres!"