Today is Sunday, a very different Christmas Eve. I feel badly for Bo, who wants nothing less than to be felt badly for. We don’t even have a tree. Which is okay because we will be spending the night before Christmas in the hotel down the street. When we’re not in the hospital. Next year I am getting our Christmas tree on Halloween! I feel rested, strong, loved and hopeful today.
I have received many texts and emails about the first “First 10 Days” blog I posted, which have been heartwarming and gratifying. Some people were interested in, or touched by, the perspective Julia and I share of embracing pain, loss and tragedy as a teacher and holder of opportunity. To that point, her boyfriend Colin reminded me of Julia’s reaction last year when she broke her hand and found out that she had to have surgery. “Cool! I’ve never had surgery before!” That’s exactly what I was talking about in my last blog post. That’s my daughter.
Julia is making small movements. Mostly when they poke and prod her. Yesterday she yawned. It was so cute. She looked like a cat. Pat joked that she’s getting bored of hearing the same thing we are telling visitors over and over, as if to say, “Can you change the subject please?” Lol. I’m getting the feel for what she doesn’t like. Getting her mouth suctioned is on the list. Today when they tried to put the instrument in her mouth she clamped down hard. I laughed at how feisty she is. Even in a coma.
She had the valve in her head that monitors her brain pressure and swelling removed which means she has stabilized in that regard which is wonderful! Now the next step, where brain functioning is concerned is the MRI. That may be conducted tomorrow. They removed some 30 stitches from her eye and her leg as well. Ophthalmology just came in and is concerned about the cut on her right eye which is getting worse so they are taping it shut so she doesn’t worsen it trying to open it.
They are still stepping down her sedation, according to what she can tolerate, in preparation of waking her up. Yesterday was challenging for me because, as they did, her heart rate and blood pressure would spike, telling us that she is, at the very least, uncomfortable. But it’s a necessary process because we have to eventually “get her to the starting line” as my brother-in-law would put it. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change… By the time you read this, she will be off all sedatives altogether. From there, it’s 2-5 days of getting those heavy drugs out of her system til she wakes up and we see where we are.
The idea of being “strong” in the face of adversity has come up often. I see people trying to keep a stiff upper lip for one another… For me. My niece who is all smiles all day goes home and cries by herself for an hour at night. Personally, I think a normal reaction to a normal situation is normal. An F’d up reaction to an F’d up situation is also normal. Swallowing your feelings is never a good idea. Swallowing your feelings is not strong. Strong is feeling them, whatever they are. Even when you’re afraid that, if you do, they will swallow you whole. Even if you’re afraid that, if you do, you will upset others. (When people cry, I feel more connected to them.) Even if you’re afraid that, if you do, you will be perceived as “not strong” Being authentic about your feelings takes the most strength of all. Because we live in a society that encourages us to be anything but.
Facing pain means feeling it. It’s work. If you work with a personal trainer, he’ll say, if you’re not sweating, you’re not working. When you’re trying to recover from any tragedy or loss or trauma, if you’re not crying, you’re not working. Feeling and expressing how bad pain feels is the work of facing pain. That’s how you do it. Strength is any authentic reaction to your situation. When your outsides match your insides, that’s authenticity. Being strong is being authentic.
In terms of my authenticity, co-parenting with your formerly semi-estranged ex-husband while your daughter is in a coma is not for wimps. Besides the 8 hrs we each take to sleep, we are both at the hospital the other 16. Most of the work day from early morning on – we are together, in Julia’s room, by ourselves. Sometimes our differing styles clash. Growing up in a family of doctors, I have the greatest respect for doctors, but know, underneath, they are just people. Pat has more of a reverence for doctors, I feel, and wants to stay out of the way and not “bother” them. Both of us doing our level best, in our own individual ways, to get her better. Sometimes I think Julia is not going to wake up until he and I are friends. Real friends like we used to be. When he used to jump on my back when I wasn’t looking. God grant me the courage to change the things I can…
People are incredibly thoughtful. I can’t believe the generosity this situation has brought out in others. Yesterday, Julia’s 2nd grade teacher from Ursuline and her husband came to came to visit her. I was moved by her emotion and clear memory of Julia… after 12 years! Special thank to My brother-in-law Matt, who had the computer I’m writing on delivered to the hospital 30 minutes after my mere mention to someone else that I needed a laptop. And to his wife Jen, who, for the last 10 years, has been less of a sister-in-law and more of a sister to me, and has come through in spades. Matt said the hardest thing about this, beside watching his wife and daughter cry at night, is the guilt of not telling Julia he loved her more. These reminders are so useful to us! Opportunity! So… tell all the people you love, who aren’t in a coma, that you love them! Yea Julia! Thanks for reminding us! Make a list of all the people you could possibly say it to. And say it. For Julia. Even if it’s been 12 years…
Merry Christmas Eve!