Every day I promise myself that today is the day that I forget, but I never do.
8 years minus 2 weeks ago.
I'm only twenty-eight, but my body feels old. Tired. Achy. I stare at the ceiling fan above the bed while I lay surrounded by pillows. Ten to be exact. Sound luxurious? It's not. They are the thin lumpy pillows I brought home from the hospital. They are placed strategically to hold my body in a normal shape, while the grand canyon I call my belly heals.
It's day two at home, and the last day that insurance will pay for a nurse to come change my bandages. She removes them and I cringe as it pulls at the dried edges. She cleans the wound by pouring sterilized water into it. The cold dribbles down my skin and is soaked up by the towels. She's ready to measure everything for her last report.
I try not to watch, but I can't take my eyes off the bright red meat split open down the length of my stomach. The little white globules of fat are gone, and now it just shines and oozes. Two brackets, laced with nylon string keep the sides from pulling farther apart. The brackets sit on top, the nylon strung through my abdominal wall. Every time I cough or sneeze, I fear my insides will spill out.
"Eight inches long...four inches at the widest point...three inches at the deepest."The nurse talks and writes as she measures. "Alright, let's pack you back up."
She dips the gauze in the saline solution and places them inside me. She tries to be gentle when working pieces between the wire and brackets. It takes a lot to fill the canyon. Finally, she pours more saline in to keep everything moist until tomorrow. Tomorrow my husband will have to do this for me. No man should see his wife like this.
Tears fill my eyes. Shame. Fear. Loneliness. My three week old baby cries in the other room. My sweet new boy that I'm too weak to hold. Guilt.
So starts a downward spiral.
I feel I should say that I was very blessed to have a mother-in-law who stayed with us that first month. She changed my bandages until I was able to do it myself--so my hubby didn't have to. She cared for my three children, cleaned my house, washed my laundry, and fed us all. Late at night she held my baby boy who cried constantly. His tummy couldn't handle formula (we tried them all!). She earned her wings as far as I'm concerned.
When I close my eyes I still remember what it looks like inside my stomach. I still remember how it felt to have all the gauze pulled out and packed back in. I cried myself to sleep for three years. I couldn't move on, part of me still hasn't I guess.
There is a week and a half of my life that I can't remember. I've been told stories, but my own memories are very few. On June 5th, I went to the hospital to have a baby. On June 10th, I returned for a two week fight for my life.
- I remember walking into the hospital.
- I remember the sound of sloshing inside as I turned onto my side while waiting to be seen by a doctor, and thinking that was a strange sound for a body to make.
- I remember laying in the MRI and crying because a voice kept asking me to take a deep breath. And I couldn't breathe at all. Crying didn't help.
- Days later I remember thirst. Thirst that made me want to die. I begged for water, ice chips, anything. A nurse gave me sugar free Everest gum. Peppermint flavor. It was a nightmare. You need spit to chew gum. You need water to make spit.
- I remember the day I could walk by myself holding onto my IV pole without help from someone else.
- I remember wondering if I would ever ride roller coasters again. (I don't know why that sticks with me, but I was worried about that. I have ridden several since then.)
- I remember that once I came home, nothing tasted good. Nothing made me comfortable.
- I remember people telling me how great I looked because I lost 40 lbs in 2 weeks. I smiled and said I didn't suggest the diet, but in truth I cringed. I knew what I looked like under the new clothes and new haircut. Most of that weight was muscle loss, not fat.
- I remember going to the doctor for check ups each week hoping they would sew me up, and crying when they didn't. They never did--they wanted to make sure no infection took root in the healing tissue. I can understand now, but at the time...
I almost made it this year.
Maybe next year.