One day I woke up to get ready for work. By the end of that day, my 14-month-old daughter had been to the ER after bumping her head, was admitted to the PICU for hydrocephalus, and had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. That was one day. Twenty-one days later she was gone. I know I didn’t have time to become an expert. I know there was no way for me to think of all the questions I now wish I would have asked. I know no one expected this to be the outcome. But none of that matters. My baby girl is gone and now I am left with painful questions.
It has taken nearly 7 months for me to start to grasp to the true nature and the serious danger that my daughter was in as she was rolled out of my sight and into the operating room. I know that at the time my ability to think and process was compromised. That doesn’t stop the daily torture inside me. That doesn’t change the flashes of details from the last time I saw her alive and the first time I saw her dead. That doesn’t change the deepening ache inside me that screams, where were you?!
As I have mentioned before, my memory is shit. As soon as I found out that my daughter died, my short term memory has failed me again and again and again. Up to that moment, however clarity remains. Though I cherish every moment I had with my sweet little Bug, my brain feels malicious. Moving pictures of the last few hours I had with my daughter roll through my head. I can’t turn it off. In the PTSD world, these are called flashbacks, an overused word that doesn’t come close to capturing the pain of what it is. When this happens to me, I am stuck. Whatever pictures my brain chooses to show me, I am forced to watch. The memories come to life with blaring sound and vivid color. I can’t look away. I can’t speak. I can’t move. All I can do is wait for it to be over. The strangle hold on my throat loosens as the memory passes. Now the real torture starts.
I re-live the day my daughter died over and over and over. Now I am left with questions. As time passes, the questions vary some, but I keep coming back to one so painful and that no one can ever answer. In those hours before my daughter went into surgery, I was attentive. I wanted her happy and comfortable. I was present, taking in the softness of her skin, the sound of her breathing. I was loving, piling on the kisses and hugs whenever I could. But through it all, I held it together. I felt the need to hold it together. I have no idea who I was holding it together for. And now, as I look back at the last hours I had with my daughter, I know I did not treat those precious minutes as if they were the last that I might ever have with her. Why? Because I had no idea they could be the last hours I ever get to feel her warm skin on mine, hear her say mama, make her laugh, feel the weight of her in my arms. I didn’t know.
Now, almost seven months later I think how the fuck didn’t you know that? My 20 lb. baby was having brain surgery to remove a lemon-sized tumor. How could I not know the danger my sweet little girl was in? How could I not know that there was a chance we would lose her? These are the questions I am left with today. I can never answer them. No one can ever answer them. I am stuck with wondering. Was I not paying attention? Was I avoiding the truth? Was I trying to be optimistic? Was I blindly trusting the doctors that kept saying how fortunate we were to have found the tumor? In the most serious moment in my life, why do I feel like I didn’t take it seriously enough? A question that will haunt me forever. A feeling of failure I can never forget.