Once Gavin and I heard the words “inpatient stay”, we just looked at each other. That meant something to us. After I spent 5 days in the hospital earlier this year for a unrelated health issue, we had an idea of what it was like.
Someone had to watch Rowan. Someone had to do the laundry and the bookkeeping for our personal and small business. Someone had to think of all these things in advance.
Plus, we had just moved.
I made a list. A list in my head and a list on paper. Some days I worked on the list on paper and some days the one in my head.
The one on paper had all sorts of practical tasks. Organize office, wash newborn clothes, finish unpacking, find the missing fitting for the fridge. We all have those lists. The one that reminds us of little tasks we need to accomplish sometime soon. The kind of list that toddlers love to interfere with. Whether or not my son realized, he was the reason I put off that list in favor of the one in my head.
The second list was the one in my head. Watch another Kansas sunset. Have dinner with my parents, brothers, and sister in law one more time. Spend an entire afternoon with Rowan, playing with his toys. Hold him for a nap instead of putting him in his crib. Have a playdate with a good friend and her kids. Go on a last minute Target run to Wichita just for the fun of it. Cuddle with my corgis on the couch no matter how much hair they shed. Spend a weekend in the city with Gavin and eat at all our favorite restaurants.
I did all these. I did some of them twice. It seemed so much more important to store those memories than finish the practical list. I wish I could say that I was simply savoring the memory of our family of three. The scared mother in me was more afraid that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy those things again. Not enjoy those sort of family experiences without thinking back to a possible loss of two more family members. Would I enjoy these same sort of family moments when I came home from the hospital? Would I feel a pang of loss when I looked at my little boy and think of the two that never made it home? Would I hit a wall of postpartum depression and not enjoy anything for a while? Would my son still come running when he saw me after being away from his mother for weeks on end? Would everyone else see those first experiences Rowan would have while I was away?
So many of these questions are unanswered. However, I can answer a couple of them. Yes, Rowan would still come running when he saw me. It wouldn’t be quite the same though. He saw his mother, but he also saw the monitors and tubes attached to my arm and belly. That scared him. He’s not even two. Something was wrong with mommy. She wasn’t at home where she belonged. She couldn’t hold him for very long without having to rest. She couldn’t go outside and play with him. She wasn’t there when he learned new words or skills. She missed many first moments.
There it is. That’s the hardest part of it all. I know God has His hands on my twins. I know God is watching over our health closely and will be by my side no matter what the future holds. However, life isn’t this and that. It’s this or that. In my case, trading first time experiences with my firstborn and instead caring for his baby brothers a hundred miles away. Small sacrifice in order to do what’s best for my family. I could only hope that my sacrifice would pay off and I could bring my littlest boys home.
That’s where the faith part came in. BIG TIME. I was leaving my happy little family for the reason that the doctors told me could prove fatal for my twins if I didn’t leave. I had to give it up to something bigger than my fears. Does that mean that I can watch my son walk away to go home while I sit in a hospital bed, and experience no regret or pain? Absolutely not. It’s incredibly painful and heartbreaking.
It happens on a Sunday usually. My hardworking husband and precious little boy walk in and we have an entire afternoon and evening of cuddles, toys, playing games, and roaming the hospital in a wheelchair. We eat dinner and I give my little boy one too many packs of smarties. It feels good and normal and fulfilling. Then I hug them goodbye one too many times and they walk to the elevator. I hear my son say “Mom?”. My heart breaks all over again.
So many days were spent in preparation of my hospital stay. I googled “long term hospital stay” and read articles of cancer patients who spent months in the hospital at a time, and what they recommended you take to feel more comfortable. I felt so guilty reading those. It happens all the time. People with way worse health issues leave their loved ones for extended periods of time. We accept it as normal because of their diagnosis. It was normal for me to be in the hospital because of my diagnosis. This was all “normal”. It was normal for me to google things and pack up a suitcase with books and magazines and 16 pairs of socks. Even though it was normal to want to be prepared, I didn’t understand that I was a lucky one.
I was luckier than many of the patients I would meet.