The day my daughter did not know who I was….
When she woke up crying and calling out for mommy I jumped up and was instantly by her side. It was the validation that my child needed me in that moment. Feeling helpless at the hospital, knowing the path we were on was completely out of my hands, was not an easy feeling. When she called out to me my heart sang with the realization that I was not useless in this situation, I was her mother. I was her rock. I was her comfort in a time when not much provided comfort.
At least those were my feelings that lasted for that split second when she cried out for her mom. They lasted up until she looked me in the eyes and said “I want my mommy, where’s my mommy?” and then my heart sunk. She did not know me. When I touched her and tried to comfort her saying “I’m right here” the cries became louder. She rejected me. She mistook me for a complete stranger.
That feeling of rejection was worse than any pain I’ve felt in my entire life. The rejection was so strong I felt broken inside. This rejection was worse than any I can begin to describe because it was not voluntary. I could see in her eyes the confusion; she was lost.
I remember everything about November 30, 2007.
The smells of the ICU room Gabby was put in. The color of the walls and chair. The nurses that came in and out of the room. I could point them out in a line up and even remember how their hair was styled that given day. But most of all I remember every detail on my child’s face. The pain, the emotional hurt and the confusion. If I close my eyes I can picture it all as if I was staring right into the past. Actually, flashes still come back to me even when I don’t close my eyes. Even seven years later… I can feel the raw ache in my chest the same as I did that day. The ache is a little different now than it was back then. Now the ache includes some regret, a lot of guilt.
Gabby went in for her second brain surgery that day. She was having the grids removed and undergoing a Hemispherectomy which is the removal of the left side of her brain. The ultimate goal was to stop her constant seizures. At this stage there really wasn’t any other options for her. The surgery lasted 10 hours. Ten long hours.
When we were finally allowed into her ICU room to see her she was filled with tubes. The IVs all over her body I had become accustom to. It was the breathing tube down her throat and the realization that the future was unknown that was the most difficult. They told us she would not wake for another couple of hours but let us all in to see her. We were in the room for about ten minutes before she woke up crying, coughing, and choking on the tube. A group of nurses and doctors rushed in to help her. They all started working on her in a frenzy while some of us stood there stunned. I was devastated. What went wrong? Why was she awake? Why was she suffering?!
They finally calmed her down, removed the tube from her throat and she drifted back to sleep. She rested peacefully for another hour.
Some people suggest taking things day by day. Living one day at a time. During this time for us it was living moment by moment. I never knew when a new challenge would present itself. I was lucky if I got a whole day before the next bump in the road. In this case, I got one more hour. Until she woke up and called out for me – the mother she didn’t know.
I pulled away or maybe I was pushed away – pushed by an unseen force when the tension built up so thick with despair that I couldn’t breathe. I became angry in a flash. I was angry at the situation. I shouted “HOW CAN SHE NOT KNOW ME?!” I was angry with the doctors. I was angry at life. I was angry with God!
My mom was instantly by my side trying to reassure me. “Of course she knows you, she’s just still out of it from the sedation“. My poor mother, she knew this wasn’t true. Gabby had gone under sedation more times than I could count by this point in her life. We knew going into this surgery that there were risks. Having the left temporal of the brain removed can affect your memory. I just ended up angry with my mom for trying to provide comfort. My mom then went to Gabby’s side to try and comfort her.
This was it. The last straw. The moment I was finally going to break. I wanted to run out of that hospital room and not stop. I wanted to throw my cell phone against the wall and watch it shatter into a hundred pieces each time someone texted me to ask how things were going. I wanted to scream until every last breath I had was gone. I wanted to punch anyone in the face that told me everything would be okay. EVERYTHING WAS NOT OKAY! No one understood what I was going through and I didn’t want anyone to pretend they did. I didn’t want anyone to even talk to me. But I didn’t do any of those things. I couldn’t. I felt like I was punched in the chest so hard I had no life left. I had no strength to throw my phone. No strength to run. So I sat in the corner in silence and avoided everyone.
Even my daughter.
The daughter that in this moment may not have known me, but I knew and loved her. Today the guilt is real.
The one part I am most thankful for now is that not only did she get her memory back to know me as her mother, she forgot all about this day. I would rather relive these haunted memories over and over for the rest of my life than have her remember one second of it.