My daughter has just been released from hospital. The euphoria is akin to holding your new baby in your arms. Your little person has been given life, and you are both released into the world.
It is an incredible feeling – I wish I could bottle it. Instead I thought I’d try and write it.
It comes from a place of darkness, where you’re locked up and at the mercy of disease. Alongside of all the others living the same nightmare – like the three week old baby, whooping all night long on our ward. Barely able to cry. Parents looking like ghosts of themselves. Oh, how you wish you could stop it for them. It still makes me cry, I’ll never forget that sound.
The same way I will never forget the look my little girl gave me when she knew that canular was coming, yet again. A look of trying to be brave, holding her breath tight, yet her big blue eyes belied her courage, silently pleading with me to stop it before it begins. But I couldn’t. It had to be checked if the pneumococcal disease had taken over her body again – it was the better of two terrible evils.
The air is stale. The sheets are coated with a barrier to comfort. The beds and pillows are plastic. At every turn you cover your hands in the nuclear version of soap – kills everything, burns the nose hairs, but keeps those tiny people safe from further infection. Sleep eludes everyone on the ward – fluorescents shine fake light on nurses as they check and check and check again that tiny bodies are surviving. Howls stretch out long and sorrowful all through the deep shadows of night.
But in the haze of a morning which has again not started anew, there is a moment when the nurse says the doctor is coming, and that she thinks we might be able to go home. We let ourselves think a little about that place where brothers are real, not video’s on the phone saying they miss us. Where dad will be ready with love in his open arms and a cup of tea.
But we put anticipation away for a little while longer.
One last set of obs are done. The canular is removed, making her cry again. We forget home and remember fear.
A trip to the toilet happens, just as the doctor finally arrives. Of course. But I catch her. She knows the importance of escape, and does not delay it, talking to me outside the bathroom door.
We can go.
Our bag has been packed for hours. We say goodbye before the doctor has even been able to sit at the computer to sign us off. The nurses smile – as happy to see a well child leaving as we are, laughing at how quick a “regular” can make their getaway.
Our whole bodies are smiling. We just can’t believe our luck – our feet hurry in case someone is following us with a change of mind. Holding hands tightly we float down in the lift, along the corridor, one last squirt of the disinfectant, and toward the big double exit doors.
The first step out into a real world feels momentous.
Fresh air. It is a tonic for forgetting. It is as crisp and cleansing as a winter ocean swim.
And sun, oh beautiful sun. Blue sky stretches far and wide above us and we thank God for the spot He has placed us in this world. Gratitude makes me cry. But my daughter is just smiling, large and wide, looking up and around, up and around. Taking deep breaths without even knowing why. We walk past the park and it is insignificant to her compared to the miracle of all this fresh air.
Driving is an out of body experience. It as if I have to learn it all over again. This is life anew.
Four relieved and smiling faces greet us as they hear the car pull into home. We are squashed with hugs, each of them looking closely at their little girls face to see if it has changed, to see if the same sister and daughter has returned. She is pretending to look at them like they are weirdo’s, but the tiniest of happy tears in the corner of one eye, and a shy, shy smile, show me she is overwhelmed with their love. This is family. That is all it is – simple and awesome at the same time.
The noise resumes – three boys and an overexcited dad. It is amplified in my overtired ears, but who cares. It is the sound of life, of children who are as healthy as they can be, who are happy – the simplicity of arms and legs that work, a heart that pounds strongly and breath that comes easily. Happy is all they need. Rules are gone, they don’t matter. Bring your dirty shoes inside, because it means you are able to play. Lie on the grass being lazy, because peace is good for our hearts. And laugh, loud and shrieking, because this is all the stuff life should be made of.
My daughter and I sit cuddling and watching, appreciating every tiny little miracle that we have in our hands. And I say a prayer of thanks.