I am finally home.
After my fourth 12 hour rotation, I somehow pull my weathered body up our long staircase. I drink in the quiet. I rub my tired neck, which I somehow managed to sprain while putting my scrubs over damp hair the night before. As I climb the stairs, I spy my toddler son sprawled out next to my husband, and I quickly duck into my daughter’s room before he notices my arrival and hits me with demands that his mama make special blueberry pancakes, or instructs me to “Go! Hand! Play!”
There is no more will in me to undress or brush my teeth or even get up and pee. I have witnessed the human condition at its most vulnerable, and have spent my last 12 hours alert to the needs of 11 individuals who all believe their problems are of the utmost importance to the world. And they are, of course. To their world, anyway.
As I lie down with my daughter’s warm back to my growing belly, she senses my presence. She wraps my hand around her and I hear her quietly murmur, half-asleep, “you are the best, mommy”. Hearing this makes me want to crawl in a ball and have a good cry. I feel her heat begin to heal me. I grasp her tighter, my much-needed life raft in the middle of the storm in my head.
Slowly, my mind is pushed away from all of the responsibilities of being charge nurse on a medical floor and as an obstetrical nurse always waiting for the labouring mom to rush in. Of the possibility of having to take action upon hearing “code blue”, or beginning resuscitation efforts on a limp, apneic newborn infant while hearing his mother wailing in the background. I begin to push back the mental and physical suffering my patients endure, the weight of choosing between spending time with my young children or leaving my coworkers short-handed, and the responsibility of using my assessment skills to notice a change in condition.
I rest my head on my daughter’s pillow, and breathe her in. The smell of Play-doh and strawberry shampoo takes me back to the innocence of childhood, and my life before responsibility. I begin to remember that feeling of going far too high on a swing and then jumping off, of riding my bike without holding on, of my father pushing two couches together so we could both lie side-by-side with the flu, or of my mother making homemade double chocolate cake for my birthday and unabashedly helping myself to an extra-large portion.
Finally, I feel safe.
Finally, I realise that I need her right now more than she needs me.
My children are my windows to Neverland.
The power has shifted, even just for a short period of time. I am under a four-year-old’s mercy. Surprisingly, this thought doesn’t make me nervous in the slightest. For someone who responsibility came knocking at such a young age, the weight off my shoulders is refreshing.
It is a difficult realization for a mother to have, coming to terms that one day your kids will grow and you will be left alone. While I lay there, I am filled with gratitude for this tiny being with an infinitesimal amount of love and forgiveness for her mama. I am thankful that I can lay next to my daughter in our warm, safe home. I am also thankful that she is at the stage of her life where when I squeeze tighter, she squeezes back and smiles, and when I pull my hand away to reposition, she quickly grabs hold and prevents me from slipping away.
Someday, my daughter and son will not look to me as their saviour. One day, their eyes will narrow and I will return to my human form. Like a flick of a switch, I won’t know all of their answers and my flaws will begin to show through. Instantly our realities will shift. There will be no turning back. My Peter Pans will grow up and fly away, and I will become Old Wendy, waiting by the windowsill for a glimpse of magic once again.
I can’t know for sure how much time I have left, and right now I don’t really care. I’m just going to lay here, and appreciate this moment for all that it is worth.
I’m sure you all knew already, that we need them more than they need us.