I’ve been feeling particularly emotionally fragile for the last week or so. I don’t know how to explain it except to say it feels like I’m inside of a hole, dirt is falling all around me, and I can’t get out. People reach in to try to help me, but I can’t seem to raise my arms to accept the help. I feel sad. I feel stressed. I feel pressured. And all of it is internal. No one is making me unhappy. No one is pushing me too hard or expecting too much of me. I’m creating this all inside my own head.
And I couldn’t figure out why. I normally get like this right around the 13th of February. That’s the day that my grandmother died almost ten years ago. It always sneaks up on me and I feel just . . . off and then realize that I feel off because we’re coming up on the anniversary of her death and I miss her. And this feels like that, but it’s not that. No one died in October.
And then I realized, in a way, someone did. Last October 20th, Katie had her surgery. Right now is when we were rushing around trying to get ready for the surgery on Tuesday morning. We had to get a blood draw for her. We had to get the girls to their vet, where they stayed a week until we were home. We had to get Ben organized for his extended stay with a good friend (who is still a good friend after taking care of Ben, no small miracle that). And then we checked into a hotel room and waited for morning.
Katie was uneasy that night. She wouldn’t sleep. She struggled with everything. The only thing that let her sleep was to lay directly on top of me with a blanket over her back. So, that’s what I did. Hour after hour of holding my precious, beloved baby girl. It was a long night, but my sunny, happy girl was clearly in evidence in the morning. We got her dressed and drove over to All Children’s.
We did all the things we were supposed to do. They got her as prepped as they could. We met her anesthesiologist and saw both of her surgeons. And then we handed her to a nurse who took her as she screamed and screamed, walked down the hall away from us, and we didn’t see her again until the surgery was over.
We lost part of Katie that day. The part that trusts easily is gone. She doesn’t trust anyone outside of her immediate family. Even grandparents and aunts and uncles are met with some measure of suspicion. She won’t allow anyone to touch her head. She cannot handle the softest of pats or gentle sweep backs of her hair. She won’t wear anything in her hair or on her head. I finally, a weekend or so ago managed to put a small ponytail in her hair. I got pictures, and good thing I did because she ripped it out fairly quickly.
And there are the myriad other things that weren’t issues before that now are. Her hatred of baths and water and such. Her piercing screams over sudden, loud or jarring noises. Her inability to tolerate some textures and the variances there of. Something that was fine yesterday could be a torture chamber today.
All of this is new. All of this is post-surgery. So, we lost our seemingly normal, pointy-headed daughter and gained this little changeling. Please don’t get me wrong, I adore my daughter and she is smart and funny and a little frightening with her mastery of language (I know, I know, I’m her mother, what did I really expect). But there’s a part of me that mourns the loss of who she was. She was a sweet, easy baby who made her brother look super-difficult when he truly was the happiest baby in the world. And then, like a lightening strike she wasn’t anymore.
That lightening strike signaled a change in our lives that we weren’t prepared for and that we haven’t really recovered from. I always feel like I’m a day behind on everything and a dollar short — always. I can’t seem to keep from feeling like I’m drowning as I try to navigate our family through these waters, trying not to make too much of Katie’s differences, while also trying to smooth the way for her where I can, and simultaneously trying to make sure that Ben doesn’t get forgotten in the wake of Katie’s needs.
My heart shattered last week when my son informed me that we don’t love him as much as we love Katie, and he knows this because we don’t pay as close attention to what he needs as we do to what she needs. I didn’t think we were doing that. I’m still not sure that we do, but now I’m looking again at everything to make sure.
Add in my issues and it’s an amazing thing that the adjunct-house is still standing. But it is. And we’re struggling along as best as we can. It’s not easy, and there are days, like this morning, where I just want to throw in the towel. But I try to shake it off and keep pushing forwards. Maybe someday we’ll all get used to our new normal. A girl can hope, right?
She’s definitely worth it, don’t you think?