One evening, I received an amazing surprise in my room. My parents and sisters had been visiting since earlier that evening. They are numerous, so some stood around the end of the bed, and the others in the hallway or chatting with my neighbour.
From the entrance on the left, I heard voices that peaked the interest of my family, so I wondered who was there. I couldn’t see because my curtain was extended to the end of my bed. My neighbor wasn’t in great health, and we wanted to keep from disturbing him. But the voices grew louder. I knew my neighbour’s visitors were also reacting to who had just entered our room. Soon the beige curtain separating our beds was the only thing preventing me from seeing what all the commotion was about. The sounds became closer and closer.
What excitement… in the arms of my husband was my little girl! How unexpected with all the distraction of the last week and a half. I spared not a moment to throw myself over the blankets and toward the end of the bed where he held her. My arms went out to her, “My baby!”
I wasn’t sure where I got all that energy. You would think I would grab her in my arms, but I think I realized I wasn’t able to. The skin on my torso was still very raw. It didn’t even dawn on me that I should take her. I got close, and tried to kiss her. It felt like weeks since I had seen her. I missed her so much.
She seemed traumatized, as her eyes glared at me. “Why is she wearing a mask?” Was she afraid of this room? Has she forgotten who I was? Did I look that scary to her? I only had a hospital gown. She couldn’t see the tube from my intestine, and no other accessories were connected to me by then. It could be intimidating for a child to be in a hospital environment – but she looked as though she had seen a ghost. What was going on?
I wish I could comfort her. I don’t remember if she said anything. The bottom half of her face was covered by the mask, and her little curls sprung from her hat. You could just see her beautiful, chocolate eyes (I would call them) that were all of me – depending on who you ask.
“She has a cold, and we wanted to make sure she doesn’t infect you.”
“Oh, is she alright?”
“She’ll be ok. We gave her medicine.”
“I think she’s frightened by the mask. If she has a cold, she probably has trouble breathing with it. She looks horrified.” I faced her again. “Mamma, how are you? It’s so nice to see you. I miss you. I love you.” I just blurted things out continuously. But I remember having a big smile on my face, so happy to see my baby, Isabella.
That look in her eyes remained disturbing. I’ll never forget it. Was it the medication she took that made her feel spaced out? My husband still held her. She looked at me, but barely flinched an eye. She was so young and needed her mother. God, I miss her. I want to hold her in my arms.
They would hardly let me touch her. The effects of the pain medication made everything simple for me. There wasn’t any argument about my daughter not being allowed to sit with me in my bed. I was blessed to have her in my presence for a few minutes, but before I knew it, she was taken back home.
Some days later, I met Isabella and my husband on the first floor lobby. My sister took me down in a wheelchair, so I could spend some more time with my daughter. I missed her more and more, as I began sleeping less and less. I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital so I could see her at home every day.
So much concentration on my cancer really made me feel absent from Isabella’s life. It seemed she wasn’t really there, like the feeling I had when I found out I had cancer. I unintentionally became distant from my life. Time didn’t exist, just robotic experiences. Doctors, tests, news of probable imminent death… they all took my full attention, even though it was not my intention. It’s trauma that causes you to turn on your coping mechanism – even if you don’t know how it will manifest itself.
Those brief visits with Isabella reminded me how blessed I was. Leaving her would be devastating. I thank God for her and my second chance.
In this Thanksgiving period, I am especially grateful for the miracles in my life. My daughter, my second chance at life, and the opportunity to make God proud of me for trying to be the best mother I can.