They’re walking around the bed
On their head
Arrayed in braid
Pink elephants on parade
“Pink Elephants On Parade,” from Dumbo
Since Nik was born, this has always been a very difficult time of year for me. I know that it should be filled with joy and hope, faith and miracles, and all that sort of stuff. But for me, try as I might to let it go, it still carries the essence of anxiety. The glimmers of impending catastrophe that gnaw through my veneer of calm, cool collectedness.
We knew just before Thanksgiving that there was something “not quite right” with my pregnancy. I spent the two nights before Thanksgiving at the hospital getting steroid shots and being monitored for hours before they would let me go home. My sister’s in-laws —who always welcomed me with open arms to every family gathering since my own family was 3000 miles away —pampered me and waited on me hand and foot that year. Nik was born via emergency C section the following Tuesday afternoon following a scary non-stress test (you gotta love the oxymoron name of that one, huh?!). My husband was somewhere under the San Francisco Bay —on his way to a conference in the same town where I sat alone and terrified in a hospital labor and delivery ward waiting to find out whether our child would make it long enough to be delivered.
Nik was in rough shape with no amniotic fluid to cushion him, the umbilical cord was wrapped a couple of times around his tiny fragile neck, and he was in a breech presentation. Try as they might, the OB and perinatologist couldn’t get Nik to respond to any stimuli. His body was shutting down and his heartbeat was irregular. Time was slipping away and attempting to take my child with it.
Niksdad made it with some few minutes to spare. Nik followed soon after.
I don’t’ remember much of the delivery, except the feeling of my insides being stuffed back in before they stitched me up. Niksdad had left my side to be with Nik. He was the only one of us who saw our son’s face unencumbered by breathing apparatus for weeks. Niksdad’s strongest memory of the moments after the delivery is of touching Nik’s hand and feeling Nik’s miniature grip around the tip of his index finger. “I’m here, Daddy. Don’t go away.”
Yet here we are four years later with our strapping boy. He has so many challenges and he fights like a hero every single day. I know I should be reveling in that spirit. And most days I do but, for some reason, these days approaching Nik’s birthday are always a roller coaster of emotions for me —and for Niksdad though he doesn’t show it quite as obviously as I do. There never seems to be an end in sight, a soft place to land to catch our collective breath.
I am sure some of this feels more intense this year because of the episodic pain that Nik has been having and our anxiety about finding a cause —and putting an end to Nik’s pain. Then, too, there is the fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead for Nik in terms of his overall development. We refuse to accept that Nik will not progress beyond where he is now in terms of his ability to communicate his wants and needs. With each passing day I see Nik become so much more engaged in his environment, so much more interested in socializing with familiar people like his grandparents and his therapists. Yet we also see so many times where Nik is simply not present at all; he has retreated into a place where we cannot reach him. There seems to be no middle ground, no place where we can see a continuum of progress unfolding.
We feel lost as to what to do for Nik. We pulled him out of school because we knew it was too overwhelming for him. Yet he needs something more than I am able to give him by myself. There is such a dearth of resources in our state unless your child is in the school system. It feels so damnably unfair that I have to put my child in a situation that I know is not good for him in order to gain access to certain services. And it breaks my heart that our financial situation is what it is right now and that we are not in a position to be able to pour dollars into additional therapy for Nik; he responds so well when he gets it.
Maybe that is the emotional parallel that I am feeling right now —the uncertainty, the fear of whether my child will be alright, and the worry that I am not up to the task. It definitely feels the same as it did four years ago; that’s a feeling I haven’t had for a very, very long time. I know that I cannot see into the future and I’m not certain I really would want to know anyway. But I seem to have lost my sense of being grounded recently and I don’t know what to do to get it back.
I need guidance, practical guidance, to find resources I can use to help my child. Things that I can do right here, right now —at home —that aren’t going to cost me an arm and a leg. Things that will give Nik some good sensory input and help him regulate himself enough to stay present more than spurts and moments in a day so he can learn the things he needs to learn. To communicate when he’s had enough and needs a break, when he’s hungry, when he’s bored and wants my company —and so much more.