Five days ago our youngest son stopped breathing. He had a seizure and his brain just didn’t want to recover. Minutes later, as we rushed to the hospital, my husband racing down the freeway, he stopped breathing. period. I did CPR for a few minutes. I held my son’s cold, limp body. This is all I can say about those few minutes right now.. He started breathing again right as we pulled into the Children’s hospital ER parking lot. I’m not writing you to talk about those minutes when he wasn’t breathing, when he wasn’t with us for just a little bit, when my world felt like it was falling from the universe. I’m writing you to talk about how I am coping since then.
I don’t wish what happened to us on anyone, but I’ve decided to share (albeit, a little tongue in cheek, slash, just trying to effing survive this) the following things, which might help if you find yourself in a similar situation. So, if your child stops breathing, you have to breathe for him to keep him alive, you face the most horrific moment of your life, and you loose several of your marbles after the event, here’s what might help:
1. Buy a Google home.
It’s a little speaker / smart robot that can play music and radio, tell you about anything Google can, give you directions, answer questions, and remind you to do things. But mostly, you buy it because you have lost all control over your life, and you recognize you don’t get to decide 99.9% of what happens in the world. nope, not even close to .01%. So you buy this little robot so you can boss it around. You buy it so you can tell it, “okay, Google, play my Spotify playlist “Early Riser” and it will say, “Okay, playing your Spotify playlist early riser now.” Then you say, “Hey Google, turn the volume up” and it will do it. You buy it so that, in that one room, you will have dominion. And for just a moment, you are in control of something.
2. Check out copious amounts of library books and free DVD’s.
You do this because you aren’t rich enough to spend all your money on books.. you just spent it on the Google home, remember? So you check out a bazillion library books at once because people who carry books are smart and in control and have their shit together. You carry the library books home and you read one of them. The rest sit on your coffee table as decoration and a sign to all, “smart people live here..”. You also check out the Tom & Jerry DVD because your youngest son loves it, and you watch it with him twenty times in a row and laugh each time something happens with “That crazy cat and that silly mouse!!..” and crack up when, after watching way too many episodes in a row he asks questions like, “mom, have you ever seen a water hose go crazy?” and “hey mom, did they used to fight with frying pans in the old days?”
3. Binge watch a medical-free, violence-free T.V. series at night after the kids go to bed.
The less like your scary, not-in-control of reality life, the better. Think: Bachelor in Paradise (Dean was such a child.. he really has intimacy issues), Madmen, Scandal. That Shonda sure does know how to write ‘em, doesn’t she? But NO Grey’s Anatomy. Sorry, Shonda. Too close to home. Nope, you aren’t ready to watch a doctor giving chest compressions to a dying patient. Nope, nope nope. Don’t even think about it unless you like PTSD and panic attacks. If so, go ahead, knock yourself out!
4. Drink a beer, even though it makes you feel bloated, and eat your weight in homemade chocolate chip cookies because your friend Audrey brought them over and it would be rude not to finish them all..
in one sitting.. in your bed. (#3 can be added to the beer and cookie ritual, and repeated nightly until shame or jeans that won’t button force you to stop.)
5. Clean your kitchen.
Clean it until your hands are dry and look like the hands of a ninety year old woman. Stand in that room all day and feed and water anyone who walks into it. Wash dishes, scrub table and counter tops and floors and fridge. Then clean it again and again. Sure, maybe it’s not necessary, but it’s something you can do to be in control of the moment.. and it’s also where you set up your Google home, so you’re in your happy place.
6. Look at pretty pictures of houses and things on Pinterest and Instagram.
Let the mind-numbing dopamine flood take over for a few minutes and think about how nice it is when light filters through an open European window onto a bed where a bouquet of flowers mingles with a succulent and a svelte 20-something woman looks into the distance with an expression that can only be described as “RBF”. Then look at kitchens and dining rooms that have been re-done like yours, except their tile was laid better and their details weren’t DIY or done on the cheap, and they just happen to life on the edge of a cliff in France or Sweden and have goats and the owner reads all her library books and spoons with her lover who has washboard abs and a beard that somehow doesn’t prickle when he tongue kisses her, and she has hair down to her butt crack and .. oh, fuck it. Pinterest is not real life. close computer.
7. Drink tea and fizzy water.
This is what fancy people do. Wise people. Casual people who read library books. People with nothing to worry about and no place to be. Drink and drink until the earth runs dry from La Croix and Perrier, until tea fills your veins and you pee a lot. So what if you go through a box in one day? You’re casual, a lady of leisure. You have nothing to worry about. (Actually, you have more to worry about than ever before but it’s better than eating candy or drinking your own weight in whiskey, so you make the better choice).
8. Have your husband or sitter watch the kids so you can take a shower.
Spend the whole shower sobbing with your face plastered to the side wall, hot water and hot tears washing down together into a soup of grief. It’s okay, dear heart. Nobody can hear you in here. Nobody has to know that you broke today, and broke hard. No one will worry or think you’ve lost it. Just cry like a small child and call God “Mommy” and tell her where it hurts, tell her you need her, and you need her STAT.
But not in the long, wordy, impressive and deep way. Not in the happy, clappy, saccharine-Christian way. Definitely not. You’re way past that phase of your journey. Just pray the only way you are able to.. first breathing deeply in and out and drinking tea and putting on essential oils and music and clothes. Then use words.. one or two words over and over will do it.. Praying will becoming walking, and walking praying. Every step you take around the house, as you watch Tom and Jerry with the kiddo or as the Oxygen Saturation monitor alarms while he sleeps, you will say one of two things:
“Help, Help, Help, Help..” will be prayer numero uno, the go-to. It will be all you can say from the seconds before he stopped breathing until this second right here, where you are still as powerless to keep him alive. This prayer can be uttered through grit teeth, guttural sobs, deep breaths, or set to the music your Google home is playing.
“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you..” Will be the second prayer. It’s for those moments when you realize your baby is still here, the moments when it all hits you – how much you almost lost but didn’t, how strong he can be, how strong you can be. It’s for those times when friends show up with food or someone writes or calls. It’s for the moments when you feel afraid but your little guy comes up and says, “Mom! hug?.. “ and then proceeds to tell you “I love you, mama.” You say the prayer because, in that moment, you would give everything you have away to hear those words for the rest of your life. Then you realize you already have all you would ever need.
Well, that’s all for today. It’s not everything but it’s a start. If all else fails, when in doubt just do what I do when I can’t finish a library book, and stick to the first and the last.
holding on for dear life over here,
p.s. to my dear pen pals, thank you for your kindness and patience as I take longer than normal to get back to your letters. I have to be in the right head space to pour out onto paper, so just know I think you’re special, I’m thankful for your words and your stories, and I will write as soon as my soul feels able.