So in the two weeks since O’s surgery, I never mentioned that walking into the surgery center with her, being bombarded with the smells that only exist in a hospital setting, actually managed to take me back nine plus years to those days she spent in the NICU.
I honestly thought I was past it.
I mean, even the Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes barely registered last year.
But that day, with that girl holding my hand and trusting me as I walked her into the surgery center, I was jolted back to when she was a five pound infant in an isolette. I pictured so clearly the day when she was three or four days old and needed a new IV. It took three nurses to hold her down and several nurses tried to get that IV in as she fought and screamed and kicked and all I could do was hold my hand on her head, a simple touch to let her know I was there.
One of the nurses at that point told me I didn’t have to be there for that. I clenched my teeth together and replied, “She has to go through it, so do I.”
And here we were again, assaulted by the smells, the sounds of a hospital. I was leaving my baby in the hands of doctors and nurses who were going to hurt her in an effort to make her better.
For about two minutes, it was awful. I fought the panic I felt rising in my chest. But then the receptionist called my name, I did all the paperwork and we waited all of half a minute before O was called back for the first step of the procedure.
At that point, she was nine year old Olivia again. She was smiley and cute and being silly. She wasn’t that tiny baby who cried like a kitten. And I wasn’t the mom who had to leave the hospital without her every single day
But I guess it never really goes away. That trauma our family experienced all those years ago is still there, buried by the minutia of day to day life, waiting to be triggered by something like a smell, or a snack cake or even just a song that played on the radio during those daily drives to the hospital when she was incarcerated in the NICU.
I do find it interesting that I wasn’t triggered by the smells when we took Alyssa in for her tonsillectomy four years ago. I mean, obviously, I get it. I get that Alyssa’s surgery didn’t trigger me the way Olivia’s did because Alyssa never spent time in the hospital. I never had to leave her there, alone, in the care of strangers while I went home and just…waited.
So yes, the trigger wasn’t just the smell, it was the fact that I was hit by the smell while holding Olivia’s hand, preparing to hand her over. I knew I wouldn’t leave that hospital that day without her. I knew it was a routine procedure that would be over quickly and we’d take our girl home with us that very same day.
I knew all this in my head but my heart was transported back nine and a half years to those days when I did have to leave her; when I wasn’t in control of her care. And it was kind of awful even though it only lasted a few minutes.
Triggers…you never know when they’re going to be pulled, when you’re going to be hit in the solar plexus with a memory you didn’t even realize you still had access to, that you thought you’d buried deep in the archives of your brain.