Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Wee Hours

Rough, rough day. It started when I woke up at 4:20AM to go to the bathroom. Those middle of the night hours are the worst. I wake up and am immediately reminded of the fact that Hudson is gone (something the brain can sometimes turn off when sleeping). If I can’t go back to sleep right away, then I’m almost always caught immediately in the throes of thoughts that will never let me go back to sleep. This morning, after I crawled back in bed and tried to get comfortable, another thought hit me about 4AM on Monday, May 10. The other day, I was feeling comforted by the thought that if the pediatrician had not known we needed to go the ER at 8AM, how could I have known we needed to go at 4AM? I’m still comforted by that. We just couldn’t have known, and Hudson’s behavior at the pediatrician’s office and her normal white blood cell count during that visit were certainly not indicative of a serious illness. But I was struck, not for the first time, that perhaps her symptoms progressed so rapidly through the night that by morning, her white blood cell count WAS normal, but had dropped precipitously from a raging high number that would have been indicative of an aggressive bacterial infection (this is probably the case, since her temp spiked so high on Sunday and again during the early morning on Monday). And perhaps her symptoms progressed so rapidly through the night that when the doctor examined her at 8AM, she was so lethargic that she wasn’t responding to any painful stimuli (like when I touched her leg four hours before)—that certainly seemed to be the case since she barely flinched when they stuck her to draw some blood.

So in the middle of the night, this brought me back to my original theory that perhaps if I’d taken her to the ER at 4AM, she’d have exhibited symptoms then that would have been cause for concern (even though she did not show such symptoms later)—the leg pain, a very high white blood cell count, the eye swollen from a sinus infection behind it, the unrelenting fever—altogether, maybe these would have pointed the ER docs towards a possible meningitis infection, and they’d have tapped her and started her on IV antibiotics 12 hours sooner.

This is not guilt anymore. It’s not. I think I have mostly let that go. And it’s no longer a ridiculous expectation that I somehow should have just known that her condition was that serious and that I needed to take her to the ER right away. It’s neither of those things. It’s not even the vague feeling of responsibility that so often washes over me. This is just wishful thinking, just wanting so much to be able to rewind the clock, try it a different way, and see if the outcome might be different. In some ways, this is no different than the times I’ve thought, “What if I hadn’t taken her to San Antonio Bar and Grill on Friday night? Is that where she picked up the strep bacteria? What if I hadn’t taken her to music class on Saturday morning with all those other kids? Did she get it there? Maybe at the thrift store later that day?” This is just me wishing that I DID have magical powers, that I DID somehow know that she was dangerously ill so that I could have saved her life and she would still be here with me. This is just me wanting to rewrite the story so that right this instant, I would be sitting in the bathroom watching her splash and listening to her talk incessantly instead sitting at the computer crying hard.

I tried hard to close these thoughts out of my head at 4:30 this morning. One of my tricks when my mind starts to wander where it shouldn’t at that hour is I try to prepare recipes in my head—I picture myself in the kitchen preparing the ingredients and putting them together in the right order. I try to pick complex recipes with lots of steps in hopes that by the time I get to the end, my mind will be drifting back off to sleep.  This morning, I tried to do my chicken soup and also brownies. 

I was awake for at least an hour, but I guess I finally fell asleep, because I had a dream during the last hour of the night that, coupled with my middle of the night ponderings, kept me in a morose mood the rest of the day. In the dream, I had not one, but two children—Hudson, whom I barely saw except in profile as someone was trying to get her to lay down to sleep on a big bed, and another child, a 6- or 7-year-old boy with blond hair and gangly limbs. In my dream, I knew that both of them were going to die. I sat with the blond boy straddling my lap with his arms around my neck and his head tucked under my chin. We were both so incredibly sad knowing that he wasn’t going to be with us much longer. If you’ve ever had a dream that involves grief, you know how palpable the feeling can be, even when you are asleep. We talked, but I don’t remember anything we said. Later in the dream, but with no logical connection (dreams are so non-linear), Ed and I were in the car, with him driving and me crying in the passenger seat (this is a familiar picture), wondering out loud why we should have to suffer the death of two children? Why? Why? Anxiety dreams are so obvious sometimes.

The rest of the day, I had trouble focusing. I was just beset again with intense grief reactions: “No. This could not have happened.” “How did this happen?” “Why did this happen to us?” “Where is Hudson?” “Why is she not here with me?” “Do I really have to live the rest of my life without her?” “Is she really never coming back?” “How do I live with this pain forever?” Over and over and over. I had finally brought some pictures of Hudson into my office this week, and spent today not wanting to look at them because they made me so incredibly sad, and yet not being able to tear my eyes from them, as if by looking at them long enough, she might spring to life right out of them. I found myself actually drawn to all the ghost stories rampant on the internet two days before Halloween—suddenly, the prospect of spirits being able to linger with us somehow seemed not scary, but wonderful. I felt insane even seriously entertaining the idea.

I’ve spent the rest of the day in the same funk. The reality of forever is sometimes just too much for my mind to take in, so it revolts again. And as I’ve said before, the feeling of disbelief is sometimes the worst of all, because in brief instants, I have actual hope that maybe this isn’t really real after all, only to be crushed by what I know to be true a moment later. It’s a wretched, terrible cycle.

A rough day. I knew this post would be rather meandering, as my thoughts and emotions were just all over the place today. It was one of those despairing days where it seems that truly all I can think about is how much I miss her and how much I want things to be different than they are.  I look forward to going to sleep tonight, in hopes that I, along with all those thoughts and emotions, will stay asleep all the way until morning.


  1. I hope you sleep well too, Mandy.

    I'm sure I've told you that I did unexpectedly well for 6 months or so after my mom died and then crashed hard for quite a long while. When I was in the "crashing" phase, I repeatedly had dreams in which my mother had miraculously reappeared, alive, but extremely ill and fragile, and I knew that she was about to die again. They were awful dreams. But they did abate. Now, when I dream about my mom, her status is more "normal." She's alive and being herself (in both the easy and the more difficult ways). Someday I hope to reach the stage I'm at when I wake up having dreamed about my grandparents: happy to have had the chance to see and talk to them again.

  2. Grief, as you know all too well now, is also non-linear so why shouldn't your thoughts be? Regardless, you capture this journey so well in all it's intense randomness that it is painful for me to read as I often relive my own loss. Most of all I hate knowing that you my friend is gong down this road. Love you! Lesley

  3. I hope you get a good night of sleep tonight...and if you do dream, I hope it will be just a lovely dream of your sweet girl ~ a dream that will conjure up only happy memories and bring you good thoughts to lean on throughout the day. That may be too much to hope for, but I hope it anyways! :)

  4. No smart words come to my mind to ease your pain. I live on the other side of the world and I come to your blog daily to see how you are doing. May you find peace and sleep tonight.


  5. Not fair. We are thinking of you, hoping for a better tomorrow.

  6. Wow Mandy. I'm so sorry for sorry for all these horrible emotions and feelings you are living through. I feel so guilty sometimes when i read your posts that i ever complain or get frustrated with my days. Today was an especially hard one for me and things just got put into perspective again. Like i said before, you have changed how I (at times) look at my daughter and i will be forever grateful. Thank you.

  7. I'm sorry today was such a rough one. Thinking of you, and praying for peace.

  8. Mandy, I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking of you and wondering how you're doing. I'm sorry to hear that last night was so awful. I know how a terrible dream can affect the entire day, and I'm hoping that tonight brings you rest and a clear mind for sleep.

    You are right- the reality of Hudson's death IS unbelievable. It should not have happened. I am so sorry it did. I am sorry that you are struggling so mightily to accept it as true. As you said in an earlier post (excuse my paraphrasing): You have to say it's true, but you don't have to believe it. Believing it will come with time. Give yourself that time, and be kind to yourself.

  9. Nights are the worst. No doubt. For what it's worth, from my understanding of the body's reaction to infection, and I could be wrong, I'm no internist, but...I don't think white blood cells act like that. So I actually think it's pretty improbable that she would have had a huge number at 4am, and then normal at 8am. I know about wishful thinking though, and wanting to just see what might have happened if events occurred differently.

    Sleep tight Mandy. When I am up in the middle of the night, I will be wondering if you are too, and wishing you peace xoxoxo

  10. Oh, dear, Mandy. The problem is so huge-you cannot sleep because of your sorrow, and you need to sleep to help you heal and to grow that sweet baby. So you're in a twisted cycle of needing-being denied-needing more-finding more frustration.
    I wish I could help you somehow quiet the dreams to sweet ones, and ease the wishful thinking for things past into happy hopes of sweet memories and wonder to come.
    Just remember-it's still REALLY SOON. Your life was just thrown on its head such a short time ago.
    I'm sorry.

  11. I recently wrote about how grief is a complete circle- and it is completely tied to love. They co-exist with each other like two sides of a coin.

    I have wished I could 'wake-up' from this world so many times. More than I can count. I realize I can't so I often look forward to sleep because of the unconscious place where grief is silent. If only.....

  12. Mandy--Big love to you, Ed, and that baby. Nina R.