It was late in the NICU with RayLee, just 24 hours after she had been born. Our world had been flipped upside down, and that same world was now asleep, except for me, it was a feeling I would learn to embrace, that feeling of late night solitude and planning, it was to become my hour. On that night, I had this fear, this emotional fear and hurt that was physical. What could I do?? What could I do?? What could I do??
Chris was sleeping, our primary doctors were gone for the night and it was quiet. That calm quiet, full of activity that was, quite literally, life-saving and life-sustaining, but quiet like only the NICU can be. There were so many babies. So many ghost-eyed mothers and fathers, but not quite enough to match the infinite number of babies. So many interns pulling their never-ending all-nighters. New babies coming in. Babies with too many visitors; babies with none. Nurses working, saving, loving around every turn. Loss. Confusion. Sadness. Joy. And yet, still, quiet.
I just stood and let the still lay about on top of everything, on top of me, while I stared in that numb way you can only stare when you have wrung out every tear, asked every question you can think of and you have been awake, for the most part, for the better of 56 hours. I'd bathed, I think, but I was hardly kempt. I remember using an old hotel bar of soap to wash my hair because that was all I had and it just didn't matter, I just needed to be clean and catch a shower to help me feel something soothing. I couldn't really sleep. I thought my milk had come in, because I was starting to get real volume when I pumped and that made me feel like I was doing something. In fact, I couldn't keep up with the milk, it would saturate my shirts in seconds, and I thought, that's okay, I'll pump again. I can't help that little girl right now, but by God, I can make milk... and, I did. And then, I started to sing to her in that quiet, when no one else would hear. This is where that moment of "mother earthiness" was supposed to kick in, with a beautiful lullaby, but, well, I can't carry a tune in a bucket and the only song even close to resembling a lullaby that would come to mind was Little Boxes, the theme song to the show Weeds... and, having watched an entire season the week before I went into labor, that song was stuck, tight, in my head, but sadly, only one verse... so I sat and rocked, stood and swayed, paced and hovered; on and on for hours, rocking and holding RayLee's hand. The whole time, singing, "little houses on a hillside, little houses made of ticky tacky, little houses on a hillside, little houses all the same..." and, repeat... it was a dark place of helplessness, it was the first time in my life that I was afraid I might not be able to fix it.... and the whole time, the rest of the world just went on...
I'm back at that place right now. Lost in this moment of inability to make anything happen. Stuck in this feeling of hurt and fear and loss, although the battle is not over, and of someone I never really had. And the world goes on. Continuing to turn. How do I fight strangers to get this little girl home when people I call friend would beat up and question my battle, this very personal battle that they obviously don't understand. How do I show you that I will not give up because I love this little girl as my own daughter, already. How do I show you that it has nothing to do with the country she was born into or the cost to get her here, that it only has to do with a child, who could so easily have been my RayLee, born into a country that doesn't yet understand that Down Syndrome is not a sentence of inadequacy, it is just an invitation to see life from a different perspective. How do I show you that no child deserves to be abandoned, isolated, left to quietly take up as few resoures and time as possible. How do I show you that this life is worth saving, worth letting go of some political grandstanding to bring into a family. Everyday I watch my RayLee thrive and I have to wonder if "Tabitha" will ever get that chance.Will she get to know the hugs, the love, the fun of a family? Will that little smile get to continue to radiate or will it be snuffed out by a drugged state of quiet and isolation? Will she ever know the security of holding her Mommy's hand in the middle of the night when the dark quiet scares her with a bad dream?
I will not quit on this little girl. We will continue to pray, write letters, fundraise and advocate until she has a home and a family. We are not done.
So tonight, I sit and I think about that sad night, so lonely, and I remember how the fear crept up and haunted me, ate at me, worked to beat me, but it didn't. I will look back at this night some night in the future with my baby girls all home and all snug asleep upstairs and I will hum along to Little Boxes with the knowledge that these houses aren't just little boxes and those of us in them aren't all just the same. We each have our own battles. We each have our own wins and our own losses. The world will continue to turn but I will never forget that at any given moment, there are so many for which the world is stopped for a while, frozen in a place of hurt. I will be a friend...that's an action verb, by the way, when used this way. I will not leave "Tabitha" frozen. She will know what it is like to have her hand held when she is afraid. Every 2 year old deserves nothing less, and we will work to bring her so very much more.
"...there were red ones, there were green ones, there were blue ones, there were yellow ones. Little houses on a hillside, little houses just the same...," ....oh, if they only knew!!!
Smile my friends, I will share a funny one soon. Today was just a little hard, tomorrow will be better.