Sound… Just thinking of the word “sound” triggers a barrage of noises in my mind, spinning and ricocheting and boring through my eye sockets, and I have to take calming breaths and force myself to refocus. For awhile, the calming breaths quickly escalated to hyperventilating and then to gasping, tearful, heart-pounding panic attacks.
Now I’m coping better, but I think I’ll always hear the ghostly din in my head of pulse-ox monitors dinging, IV and feeding pumps humming and alarming, suction machines snarling, blood pressure cuffs whirring, and thermometers beeping.
I’ll always be haunted by phantom echoes of “thump-smack, thump-smack” and somehow still be able to see the image branded in my mind of doctors covering my baby’s dusky face with the oxygen mask of a resuscitator and force-feeding a lungful of air into him (“thump”) causing his tiny lifeless body to flop on the gurney (“smack”). I believe that for many nights to come, I will be lulled to sleep by memories of the ventilator’s persistent “shhh-whoosh, shhh-whoosh.”
Maybe not. Maybe eventually I’ll reread this and barely remember the sounds described here. Maybe all of the equipment will slowly be stripped away, one by one, until my baby is free of his impediments, free to explore his world without tethers, free to inhale deeply without supplemental oxygen, free to live without a machine monitoring every breath and every heartbeat.
I can’t know how long these sounds will follow me, but these are the sounds that I am grateful for, as much as I loathe them, as much as I dread them, as much as I truly hate these sounds, I am very, very grateful for them.
These are the sounds that have allowed us to care for and love our son for the last year and a half, and these are the sounds that I will listen to for the rest of my life if it means he can continue to grow and love and teach us his extraordinary way of maintaining joyfulness even through enormous challenges.