I never really thought about it, when I was on the eve of entering motherhood. No one warned me. They warned me about the up-all-nights, the colic. They warned me that my body would never be the same again. But they never warned me about that fear. The fear that comes from standing on that thin line between, “Everything’s fine,” and “I’m sorry, but…”
I thought they were caused by allergies at first. We had only just moved back to Texas a few months prior when the headaches started. Every few weeks, she’d get one. And she’d come tearing through the house, screaming incoherently. Only afterwards would she be able to tell me she had another, “flicking headfreeze.” I worry like it’s my job. I can’t blow anything mundane into a big worry, so I tried hard not to. I brushed them off. Allergies. Congestion. And I ignored them.
Then, overtime, they got more frequent. They started coming multiple times a week. So I took her in. We saw neurology. Tremors and headaches. And low appetite. And the headaches started coming daily. That’s when I started getting scared. So scared. She’d climb into my lap, screaming. Her hand on her head, as we rode out the headache together. Again. I tried pushing more water. I tried more sleep.
But then she started collapsing.
With each “headfreeze” she started banging her hand against her head. And there was another oh so scary symptom that started. Daily.
Take her to the ER immediately!
I threw her in the car and we left. Within minutes of getting through the ER doors on post, we were in a room. The doctor came in. I told him all of the symptoms again. During each retelling of the symptoms, I became acutely aware of how terribly bad this could be. I was forced to stand back, listen to myself, and realize that this could be life altering.
We are admitting her and transferring via ambulance to the children’s hospital.
I chased an ambulance that held my daughter. I drove 85 miles an hour to catch up with it because I promised her anxious heart that I’d be right behind. I saw, for 30 minutes, the back of that ambulance, feeling like my beating heart lay exposed on the stretcher in the back. I ran half a mile across a hospital parking lot from the wrong parking area in the pouring rain because I promised her I’d be there when they opened the ambulance doors. And I was.
They wanted pictures of her brain. They used words. Lesions. Tumors. Masses. During those 48 hours, I knew I was teetering on that line. There was no in-between. It was either, “She’s fine,” or “I’m sorry, but…” And with her symptoms, I knew it could very easily could go either way. She could be fine. Or we could be on the precipice of being catapulted onto a path of trying to save her life. My mom intuition was telling me to prepare myself.
They took her downstairs. As I stood next to her while they pushed the sedation drug into her IV, I saw her eyes get fuzzy. Just before she gave into the drugs, she used her last ounce of strength to lift her tiny head and kiss me square on the mouth. I fell apart. Then I moved the rosary beads between my fingers as we waited.
The whole hospital stay had led up to this moment. I left my other children to take care of this tiny girl. I listened to them cry for their sister both nights as I begged them to sleep. My heart physically hurt as they confided their well-founded worries about their sister. I tried to feel the prayers sustaining us from those that knew. I would lie in bed trying to tell Christ I was ok with either outcome, all the while knowing I couldn’t even think the words. I pictured myself, arms outstretched trying to fall into His arms with trust, regardless of the news.
But I couldn’t. And I felt so guilty.
I would wake in the early hours, head pounding and nauseous. I’d pour myself into the shower, stomach aching. I’d force food down, all the while knowing I’d dropped more weight from stress. And then I’d walk out of the house, while my children wailed again for their sister. I’d see my husband, and we’d just wait. Then he’d leave to go rest for awhile, only to return by nightfall. And then the MRI report time came. They took my sleeping daughter into their arms. And I had to walk away and wait.
I paced the floor. I prayed. My head pounded hard. One foot in front of the other. In front of the other. In front of the other. Hail Mary…full of grace…the Lord is with you….
Then it was over. We were by her side. She woke, she ate, we went upstairs. And the doctor came in.
The results are in…
My knees locked. In that moment, I saw all over again every headache. Every tremor. The ambulance right in front of me that held my tiny child. The parking lot. The opening of the ambulance doors and the welcome sight of my husband’s face next to mine. The white gauze cap that held the electrodes on her head four 48 hours. The sedation taking effect. That last kiss.
The results are in…
In that moment, I stood on the precipice. The whole world seemed to stand still. I lost my breath. I could feel my heart. I stopped breathing.
My baby’s brain. My child’s body.
Hail Mary…full of grace…the Lord is with you…
“Her scan was totally normal.”
Sometimes, He cannot spare us crosses. But, sometimes, He does. The Lord is with me. Thank you, Jesus, for your mercy.