You’d think it would get easier. Watching the blood flow from your baby’s body. But in truth, it never does. You’d think you’d get used to it. Watching the nurse, technician, phlebotomist, whoever, digging around underneath your baby’s skin, everyone in the room holding their breath, praying for blood to flow. But you don’t. You learn to live with the circumstances. To numb yourself enough to get through another day. To turn it off.
That switch. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. Sometimes I lose control of it. And I can’t turn it back on. I stop feeling. And I’m gone.
You’d think you’d get used to it. You’d think you’d have more control over it. But you don’t, and it haunts you.
The nightmares come and go. Standing still, unable to move, watching the IV line that’s supposed to help him, slowly morph into something evil. The IV line going haywire, pumping blood out of your son instead of pumping fluids in. The IV site travels to his heart, hovering right above it. The machine embeds itself into his body. He vomits, over and over and over until its covered slick and thick. His skin turns red and then blue and then black. The bruising spreads, and starts oozing blood. It’s dripping down his milky white skin, saturating the stark sheets beneath him. He screams in agony, his eyes rolling back in their sockets, just like they did that first night. His cries, strangled with tears and mucus. It’s horrific, filled with panic and helplessness. Then it’s over, and I’m awake again. Hands fluttering over his body, reassuring myself that he’s right here, safe with me, wire and needle free. Sleeping, hopefully dreaming of things more peaceful than the mutated memories that plague me.
Blood. It’s taken on a new meaning to me. We need more of it from him than I let my thoughts linger on and mingle through. So I turn it off.
That’s the only way I can stomach it. It’s the only way I can forcefully hold down my baby’s body, while worrying I’m holding him too hard, while worrying the technician might bruise his skin, either from grip or needle, the same skin I caressed that morning with such delicate care. It’s the only way I can look him in the eye, while he’s screaming, pleading with tears for me stop, for me to save him. It’s the only way you can restrain yourself from lunging across the table, tackling them, hitting them, until they feel as bad as you do.
It has to be off, it’s the only way. Even if, afterwards, you’re unable to turn it back on, it has to be off. Even if, afterwards, your “I’m so sorry’s” and “It’s okay’s” whispered into small ears are hollowed out and empty. Even if, afterwards, you can’t feel anything for hours. Even if, afterwards, you wonder where your soul goes, when you’d rather give her up to wander aimlessly, so you don’t have to bind her at wrist and ankle, muffle her screams and protests, and toss her aside unwanted and lonely, answering her pleads with cold stares and silence.
It has to be off. It’s the only way.