Do you ever find yourself going throughout your day, when suddenly, out of what feels like nowhere, you mind is transported back to a memory in an instant? It’s almost as if you are there, in that very moment that has long since past, or perhaps it was in the so distant past. You close your eyes, the feelings associated with that moment overwhelm you as your mind races back, reliving what was.
I have had a handful of those lately. Days that I find myself going throughout my day as usual when suddenly I’m caught off-guard by a memory flooding my entire body. I am abruptly removed from the present day, my gut wrenching as my mind forces me to relive the moment that was triggered. Moments like those make me shutter. My neck tenses, my jaw clenches, and my grip tightens. All for but a moment as it passes on its way.
I have a handful of triggers, especially this time of year, relating to things I have walked through with Bernadette. October through March can bring such sweet moments of happiness along with intense moments of sorrow not far behind. I don’t always know what will trigger the memory. More often than not, it’s something that maybe I have long forgotten about or haven’t processed fully. Others, it’s born out of the trauma I have endured and it takes me moment to pry my mind from the past and bring it back to present day.
It starts with her birthday. Followed quickly by the two year anniversary of the first day she was admitted to the hospital. The two year anniversary of her very first heart surgery. A few weeks later, the anniversary of her second heart surgery. The two year anniversary of going home from being in the hospital for two months. Our third Christmas together as a family of 5. Another two year anniversary of going back to the hospital the day after Christmas for possible heart complications and heading home shortly after. The one year anniversary of Bernadette’s first sleep study which discovered her severe sleep apnea. And in a few short weeks, we will hit the two year anniversary of one of the scariest nights of my life which included an emergency ambulance ride followed by a 10 day PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) stay as Bernadette’s fragile tiny body fought hard against RSV.
I share this because I think it’s important to recognize that although I have worked hard to process through the trauma and grief I have faced, the circumstances in the past have still happened. I cannot change the past or what I have walked through. Instead, I can acknowledge the presence of the memory and remind myself that by God’s grace, I made it through. For better or worse, more scars than I can count, and with the addition of a perspective I could not have gained otherwise.
For so long, I pushed down the memories induced by triggers. I would not let my mind even go there. It has been a part of my healing process, to acknowledge the memory and praise God Almighty for His kindness and patience through it all.
I see it when Bernadette closes her eyes or smell vinegar. I hear it when an alarm sounds or certain types of shoes squeak past. The hand sanitizer that is on every single wall of the doctor’s office. Dates in my calendar I would have never given a second thought to. Clothing I wore, blankets that kept me warm, and a certain shampoo. Other times, it’s things I would never be able to pinpoint. Foods, scents, and sounds. You just never know.
In those moments, I can feel the well of emotions spring up to the surface as I process through the event. Instead of pushing them down, I am learning to acknowledge the memory, knowing full well this is not the present situation and reminding myself that God brought me through to the other side of the intensely dark valley I found myself confined in, ridden by anxiety.
It’s hard. Some days are just sad days. And, it’s hard to talk about. I often don’t fully have the words to formulate what my brain and my emotions are experiencing. So, I don’t. More often than not, I pray, ask God for strength in the process and pray that I would know Him more deeply because of it. I sit in the emotions fully expectant, that another piece of what I endured has been revealed in that particular moment begging for healing.
I look around and see my beautiful girls, playing together, enjoying life as they should. I see the growth in our family as a whole, in my marriage, and as a mom. I see how much bigger God is to me now having walked the road unknown.
I see how far Bernadette has come. From that tiny, medically fragile, blue infant breathing a million breaths per minute to a thriving toddler. So many life or death situations, fighting for survival, one right after the next. Yet somehow, here we are.
Last night, I decided to watch one of the medical dramas on TV. The alarms sounded as the actor portraying a very ill patient started crashing. I was instantly transported to an all too familiar moment with Bernadette, when I was uncertain what the outcome would be. I could visualize the room, the bright sun glaring through the open window, the multitude of people that came swiftly running into her room. I could feel the lump in my throat forming as it had that day. There I was, standing in the corner like a frightened child, unable to speak or move.
I panicked for a brief moment, but quickly looked around to my familiar surroundings of my home. The girls asleep in their beds, my husband sitting beside me on our couch and the low hum of the air purifier in the background. I leaned in closer to David. He wrapped his arm around me. He gently smiled at me as if to offer me comfort while reminding me our baby girl is safe and that God, no matter what, loves that girl more than I could ever imagine and has a unique purpose for her to fulfill.