Right on time.

It’s here. The “post crisis/post admission” aftermath…right on time. It always shows up. I crush the game in crisis…in the hospital I am good. It’s almost superhuman. I can function on no sleep, I am the damn positivity “we’ve got this” queen. And then…something happens. Something good. We get good news…or no news which in this world I consider good. Or we go home. Or she gets better. And it’s good. It’s all I’ve wanted. But then it happens. That superhuman I was…that girl leaves. Or actually she stays…that version of me stays in the hospital and my mortal/broken/traumatized shell of a self trudges back into the world KNOWING that when I wake up the next day it will all come crashing down around me. For years I didn’t understand it…I didn’t really talk about it, I acted like it wasn’t there, I internalized it. I thought I was weak. I thought there was something “wrong” with the way my emotions functioned. How could I be ok seeing her body riddled in cords but be so NOT ok once said cords were no longer needed? How am I ok when she is not and then wrecked when she is? What. The. Actual. {insert expletive here}.

I know now that there is nothing wrong with me, that I am in fact not weak or crazy. Knowing that however does not change the course of events that will play out for this process of mine. However it does change how I will react to it. I went to bed last night knowing when I woke up my entire body would hurt. I mean, hurt. It did. It does. It will for the next 2-3 days. Food will be hard for me, tears will be constantly trying to fall, anxiety will be at all time highs, self-judgement will consume me, simple requests like “Mommy want to play?” will feel painstakingly impossible to fulfill. Instead of fighting it I’m learning to lean in. To listen to my body and mind and attempt to care for it the way I do my children. To not fight the tears, they’re falling now…running down my fingers and onto the keys as I type. To not force myself to feel any way other than I do in each moment. I am breathing in my own advice on the inhale…”it’s ok…” on the exhale “to not be ok.” This PTSD of mine…it deserves respect. This broken girl that I am waits her turn…every damn time. She keeps quiet so Riley can be heard. I have to stop telling her that she is not welcome. I have to stop treating her like she is wrong. This pain, this process…it’s valid…so very valid and necessary and in about 5-7 business days I know will see it as beautiful.

Riley is home today due to a virus outbreak at her school that her team has no interest in her being a part of. She is sleeping now, giving her body the rest it’s due. As for me, like I said…I’m leaning in…a few moments ago that looked like writing and crying…now it looks like crawling right back in bed with her. Alright broken girl, I hear you…let’s rest.

Baby Riley pc: Meg Perotti : Photographer : Little Meg

Yesterday was good. There was nothing spectacular about it, it was just good. I woke up and decided I was going to be super patient with myself, with my tasks, with…whatever was going to come my way. Yes, my first pep talk of the day was before 7 a.m. Don’t judge. I snuggled with Presley, just the two of us. I relished in it, I told the voice urging me to “get up and do something” to mind it’s own damn business. Take that. When Riley started squawking from her crib, yes she squawks…still no crying from that kid, she wakes up giddy and ready for each day. I swear she’s exclaiming “listen here folks I worked HARD to be here, I’m not taking this sunshine for granted!” I picked her up and squeezed her tightly, every inch of my being trying to soak up her energy, her sweet essence. That girl is grateful, it shows, it seeps through her often patchy pores. Everyone reading this has seen enough of her smile to know there’s something behind it. She does rub off on me…every morning, afternoon and night…that grin…it gets me. At 6 a.m. it’s better than coffee (which I can no longer drink due to the affects of caffeine sky-rocketing my anxiety). It’s an instant reminder of those days when the only thing in the world I wanted was to know she was going to be ok…I remember bargaining with the universe, begging, pleading, knowing whole-heartedly that as long as she made it through I could handle anything. That grin. It takes me back. It’s a grin that says “remember Mom…you said it…I’m here, I held up my end of the bargain.” I am so proud of her, so in awe of her strength. Almost daily I wonder who’s really the baby in this relationship. Am I raising her or is she shaping me?

Image

Lately as I’ve found myself wading through the heaviness of the past 9 months I worry that they can feel it. That the girls feel my sadness no matter how much I try to conceal it. In the hospital I was so strict with myself on ensuring that I stayed positive because I was all Riley had. It was just us in that room and I would be damned if she was going to bathe in negativity or worry. But now I wonder if I slip. I’m not in that “crisis-mode” where my only real job was just to take care of her. I now have Presley, work, housework, relationships, bills…reality. You know, normal life stuff. Oddly, it’s more to balance. I think I do good, in all reality when I am with them I don’t really feel it. It waits for when I’m alone. The “it” being the struggle, the weight. Yesterday morning the girls and I walked down to Starbucks…Presley lusts over their muffins and since I decided I was taking it easy on myself I thought what better way than to just be a Mom. Downtown Willow Glen is chalk full of stay-at-homes clad in lulu pushing overpriced strollers with a 5 dollar cup-a-somethin’ in their paws on the daily…saddle up girls, let’s join them. Off we went. It was great. Presley laid claim to a table outside and scarfed down her carb load while donning her finest princess nightgown. Riley as per usual sat quietly in the stroller. She clams up quite a bit when people are around. We got a lot of comments from strangers…Presley’s hair alone sends passerby’s into a frenzy and of course everybody loves a chunky baby so the company I keep is gold. Half the time I’m comforted by the unknowing comments of “what a sweet baby” it’s so amazingly strange to me that to look at her you’d never know anything was ever wrong. She looks perfect. Failure to thrive my ass…girls a beast. The other half of the time it stings…it’s so silly but I feel the urge to correct them, to make them aware that she is not just “a sweet baby” she’s a freakin miracle rockstar that battled her way through chemo and a stem cell transplant while they were making plans for the neighborhood Halloween party. You’ll all be happy to know I’ve never actually gone off on a rant to a stranger. Proud? The outing was bittersweet…99% sweet…the bitter may have just been the shitty taste the decaf Starbucks brew left in my mouth. Man I wish Presley liked Peet’s muffins. Anyway, it was good. I felt refreshed. We strolled home and I got to work. I had a productive day. I didn’t feel so trapped, nothing felt forced. I got more done than I’d expected and my heart never made attempts to leap out of my chest. Success.

Image

After the girls were asleep I decided to tackle a project. To do something I used to enjoy but haven’t done in oh so long. It involved an outing to the craft store, uh-oh alone…public. Damnitt. Can I do this without crying? Worth a shot. Presley (like all girls under 4 feet) is OBSESSED with Elsa from Frozen. She NEEDS an Elsa dress…her words, not mine. They’re sold out everywhere and I have no intention (nor funds for that matter) to blow hundreds of dollars on Ebay on made in china polyester covered in glitter. I used to love sewing, especially making Presley costumes. I made all of her Halloween costumes. Up until this year. Ugh. I still hate myself for that. I just couldn’t do it. Oh well. I figured sewing could maybe serve as a therapy and Presley could get the Elsa dress she “NEEDS”. I conquered the fabric store without a single tear shed, woot woot. My sewing machine and I have a love/hate relationship…I opted last night to leave it tucked away in the attic. I might become over the top frustrated if it didn’t cooperate (even if due to operator error) and since “relaxation” was the goal here I stuck to hand-stitching. It was nice. I got lost. It was great. I felt like a normal “Mom” again. My kitchen island looks as though a stripper with a serious love for aquamarine glitter danced on it all night but nonetheless…I was relaxed and Presley’s snow queen gown is that much closer to existence.

Image

Tonight I wrote. Good for me, two nights in a row I have consciously forced myself to “do something for me”. Progress.  What’s that little fish say? “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…” xoxo