I’ll be physically home tomorrow, and the closer it gets, the higher I rev up. I’m happy, of course, to be leaving the hospital and returning to a place where I am surrounded by people who love me and know me and care about my preferences for longer than a 12-hour shift. But I’m also anxious, because while I’ve never had the experience of returning home after a month in the hospital, I do have a decent imagination, and I imagine I’m about to enter into a uniquely exhausting period of time.
There’s the physical exhaustion because I can’t sit in bed all day – and wouldn’t if I could, because the kids need to see me up and about, even if it’s just from the couch to the bathroom and back. The mental exhaustion because in my hospital rooms, I have controlled the stimulation level; I never watched TV, chose when to read, and generally kept things very low-key… I know I’m coming home to a house with active and loud children, who talk and practice instruments and watch TV and talk some more, and my brain will be flooded within hours of arrival. The emotional exhaustion of the kids beginning the process of deciding who’s in charge, whether I’m really home, whether my recovery and healing negate my ability to hold authority, and at the same time providing varying forms of stability and comfort and reassurance to each child just by being there again.
The kids rolled very smoothly through March, really displaying an uncanny resilience in the face of tremendous adversity. Of course much of this is because they never knew how bad things were; once I was out of the ICU and they could visit me, I gave them an age-appropriate rundown of what happened, and of what was going to happen, but I never considered it appropriate to share with them just how close they came to losing their mother. So I think my reentry into their atmosphere will be a little less fiery and intense than it might otherwise have been, for which I am grateful. Willem gets full credit here, for managing just absolutely everything so that they could function like normal.
And even little Isaac got to benefit from Willem’s efforts to keep things running smoothly. I only got to see him five times over the course of the month I was gone, and the first three of those were in normal “I’m going to go start breastfeeding the baby up in the NICU” sort of visits. I couldn’t get up as often as I would have liked, because of the pain I was having, but at least he did get some snuggling and a tiny bit of colostrum. More on this another time.
Five times in a month, though… that’s just not enough times to see your child. So Willem stepped up, the way he does, and brought me home in spirit until I could come home for-real. He held Isaac longer than he might normally have held him. He talked to him about his mama. And when he brought home my bags of laundry from the hospital, he separated it out and wrapped the baby in one of my t-shirts, so that he would know my smell.
I still have concerns because I don’t feel like I would recognize my own child; that too much time has passed, and I could pass him on the street and not know it was him unless Willem or some other family member was pushing the stroller. But because of Willem’s efforts, Isaac just might know me. And at the very least, the process has been started early, and it will be just a little easier for us to fall in love.