I had a memory come to me of a provider asking me if I felt I could handle my children at home. If I felt capable of going home with a house full of children with all the needs that they had. If I felt ready to go home?
This was at some point after the wreck. I don’t have any concept of the timing of this question. I also don’t have any concept of who the provider was that asked it. With the memory of those questions though, came the memory of my feeling about the questions. My instant thought was “Hell no I wasn’t capable, couldn’t they see me?”….my emotion was FEAR and PANIC. The actual words that came out of my mouth I don’t recall. At the time we had 6 kids in our house and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I was going to be a mom to any of them anymore. I had no concept that it was actually 5 kids at home because one of them had left for college the week after the wreck. It saddens me that I don’t remember any of this.
I do know that those two questions made me afraid that if they knew how messed up I felt in my head, or how much I was disabled, that my children would be taken away from me and I would be deemed as unfit. I could not fully understand what was going on with me or what had happened to me. I couldn’t think how the kids were being taken care of while I laid there fighting for my life. I was afraid I was going to die and no one was telling me that. I wasn’t ready to die yet. I felt death pulling me into that dark abyss though, and to be transparent, often I was very tempted to allow the warm embrace of death to consume me if it meant I could shed that pain that rippled through me with every movement and breath. Yet the thought of my children, my husband, my mom….they kept me here. They kept me fighting for life. Despite the pain. Despite me being consciously unaware of their existence.
I could feel my broken body and I could not do even simple tasks without pain.
Hell, I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to string one thought to another. I couldn’t take a simple breath without pain. I could not rationalize that I had a husband who could take care of the kids, or how much time had passed of this already being done for several weeks at that point, which would extend into 3 months. I couldn’t rationalize that at the time, I had relatives that could help out (or that the burden of my care would change these dynamics as well). I couldn’t rationalize that I wasn’t well enough or even ready to be sent home yet, or what being sent home would have looked like to me or my family. I couldn’t organize my thoughts, my notes, my emotions. All I knew was that I was seriously screwed up. The wall of pain that coursed through my body was beyond unbearable. My husband said that the hospital spoke to him about putting me into a drug induced coma so I wasn’t suffering the pain they were unable to manage for me. My husband said he talked to me and I did not want that. He honored that. His fear was also that I would not wake back up if they did that. He at least could hear me talk. Even though I have no memories of those conversations or that I was alive at all. I do remember the fear of not being able to walk, sit up, or do things for myself. We didn’t know at the time that I wasn’t really lucid anyway. Brain Injury will do that. Trauma will do that. Polytrauma will do that. I don’t know what the best decision would have been. I am still alive now, so there is really no way to know.
I knew I wasn’t thinking correctly. Something was off. I felt like I was in a haze. I felt like I was in a mental vortex and at times felt I had to pretend to be okay or better than I actually was, just so I didn’t lose the kids. I wish someone would have told me that they were asking me those questions to see what help I needed at home; to see what in home services needed to be provided; to decide if I should have been kept longer in the hospital or not. I wish someone would have told me that I was not in danger of losing my children to child protective services just because I could not presently care for myself or them. This would have alleved that fear. I wish someone would have told me that the kids are safe with my husband and had been for several weeks now. Maybe they didn’t tell me because it was obvious to them. I on the other hand, couldn’t figure it out. Every waking moment was a confused and painful state of existence.
While I was laying there, I didn’t know how to answer those questions they asked. I was seemingly focused on my healing where I was at. Then again, maybe they did inform me of all those things, and I just don’t remember.
My thoughts were, how could I take care of my children when I couldn’t even care for myself at that time? How could I function when in so much pain, that even breathing was painful? How could I feed them, take them to school, how could I even tolerate their company when all I wanted was silence and darkness all around me. The lights pierced my eyes like nails being driven into my flesh. The noise around me was amplified as if every small sound was being put through a large speaker.
The sound of shoes walking in the hall was enough to make me vomit….literally. How could I be a mom when I couldn’t even wipe of clean myself? How could I say I didn’t want to go home? How could I say I didn’t want to be a burden? How could I say that I was afraid I was going to die if I was left in that hospital for another day?
How could I say that I was afraid if I went home then I would be going home to die? How could I answer anything logically when logic ceased to exist?
The inner drive to live, to exist, to be more than what I was in that moment I believe is what kept me here. The support and love of my family being with me each day and calling me back to reality kept me here. I believe, that even though I did not build memories to remember their presence, having their presence kept me grounded to life. This helped me fight through the pain, hold on to possibilities. Their determination for me and upheaval in their lives allowed me to eventually heal and begin to flourish in mine.
Those questions flooding my memory…..they were unfair to me. I was not in a mental or physical state to answer them authentically. I had no ability to be rational or process thoughts in the way that was necessary. How was my husband not given those questions? How could I make such an impactful decision being as broken as I was?
I don’t recall if I ever talked about this with anyone. However, throughout various parts of my recovery, I fought against the part of my thoughts that just wanted the pain to end, the medical appointments to end, the therapies to end, the ultra slow progress to just stop and the thoughts that seduced me to see death as a much more favorable option, by any means necessary. At my core, I had always been against suicide. My FAITH would not allow me to cross that line. Though I did tiptoe on that line for quite some time. I did not want to go that route, even though I entertained different ways I could die that would hurt my family the least. None of them seemed possible. What if I wasn’t successful? What if I messed it up? What if they thought I didn’t want them or love them? What did I do to deserve this? What did they do to deserve this? What if they don’t love me any more now that I am all broken? What if I live and I am always broken? What is the point in fighting? What is the point in enduring? How much am I really supposed to take after all? Will I ever walk again? If I don’t what will that mean to me? If I do, what will that mean to me? Where can I run when I can’t even sit up by myself? The thoughts were torturous.
What do you answer about being able to go home and if you are capable of taking care of your children when you are going through all that in your body and in your head? Then add on top of it, the inability to get the words from my head to match what came out of my mouth or onto paper. I used to be so good at this….*looking at my hands* …what’s wrong with me? Why does my body continue to betray me?
In the end though, here we are nearly 5 years later after the wreck. I pushed through all that. I gave up focusing on those dark thoughts (though they still knock at times) and forced myself to focus on surviving, enduring, living. I focused on the positive mantras taped to my hospital walls by my family. I focused on the word that was hanging in my direct line of sight each time I opened my eyes – placed there by my mom….. HOPE. My main focus, drive, and reason for moving forward. I embraced and embodied it and never gave up.
The reality is that I am still adjusting to my new normals. I am still getting used to being an active mom again. All the responsibilities, the time, the effort, the deep sorrows, the sweet joyful highs of being a mom they either speed or slow a person’s recovery. They are a continual work in progress. Sometimes though, time seems to stop when I have a pain flare or just cannot get my mind to work like I want it to, when I want it to. I am then reminded that I can never go back to who I was before the wreck.
She doesn’t exist anymore. She died at the scene of that wreck. However, the woman that lived and got to be a mom still….she is filled with HOPE, gratitude, and sees the possibility and a reason to thrive in each step, hug, kiss, and smile of her children.
So those questions. Can I handle my children at home?
Some days still it’s a resounding yes and some days it’s a deafening no. As time passes the yes days become stronger than the no days. However, even the no days are quietly whispered yes days…..as being a mom is the greatest thing in the world….broken or not. Sometimes, in those first few years after the wreck, being a mom and knowing they needed me to show them how to overcome, how to never give up, how to struggle and survive….this is what drove me to make my appointments, therapies, and helped me out of bed, out of my room, and out of the house. If I were being introspective, it drives me still. I want them to be survivors, not victims of circumstances. I want them to find their strength in my example. I want them to thrive.
Was I ready to go home? Absolutely not. That was an unfair question to me from the start. I was not even with it enough to consent to anything. Let alone my release. That was a decision that should have been made by my medical condition at the time, which I was unable to conceptualize, understand, rationalize, or make any conscientious or informed decision about. I was sent home too early. This was an enormous burden to my family that created a domino affect of challenges that we still feel the affects of to this day…..especially financially.
However, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to heal in a familiar environment. This part I believe was an important transitional piece to my recovery. I still have quite a few things I struggle with cognitively, orthopedically, and other areas.
The kids are forgiving and mostly tolerant. They are grateful I am here. They are adjusting as well, though not without bumps in the road, to my new normal which in essence have become their new normal too. When it comes down to it, that inherent need to carry life, to give life, to impact a growing thriving family is still part of my reality….despite the traumas. Every day I am thankful that when we factor in everything that has happened and how things have unfolded, changed, or are different….I sill have the contribution of the Mom Factor that impacts me the most.