I cannot describe the feeling of part of my own heart, so smitten with love for my own baby, feeling so helpless as she lays there on the hospital bed. I have run back through all the child development knowledge I have accumulated through college and being a mom of 5. My mind has focused in on her 5 senses.
Hearing. Even with the amount of medication she is on, I know she can hear us by the slight heartbeat change from when it's quiet to when we sing to her. Even if it's just whispered conversations, she knows we are here with her.
Sight. My heart wishes she would open her eyes to catch a glimpse of my face. To see her eyes meet mine and soak in that confidence that she needs. I will continue to wait. Her eyes are puffy after the eye doctor came in. She did an awful exam on Bryer where she used a metal tool with a spring to stretch her eyelids open and hold them open while she looked in her eyes and took pictures of her retinas. She said she saw retinal bleeding, which I don't understand, but it sounds serious. It made me sick to watch my baby have to endure that kind of exam. As much as I want to be strong for her, it was too much to watch and I had to leave the room.
Touch. We cannot touch her skin except to lay a hand on it and keep it still now, but I know she senses our presence even if we are just in the room.
Smell. One of the strongest senses a baby has is smell. When I have to leave, I have taken the shirt I wore the day before and snuggled it up to her as close as I can get it without actually touching her skin. Even if she can't open her eyes or allow us to touch her sensitive skin much, I want my scent to be near her to comfort her. A thoughtful friend bought Jason and I a few new shirts, not even realizing what I had been doing. Now I have enough to rotate next to Bryer. I am thankful for the inspiration of others to see what we need before we even realize we need it.
Taste. Nothing is stimulating her tastebuds right now. The nurses come in and swab out her mouth, just to keep the saliva and germs from sitting in one spot for too long. I have faith that one day soon she'll be able to have my breast milk that I continue to pump and freeze for her.
She had another seizure after her x-ray this morning. The good news is that she is taking in all the fluid they are giving her through her feeding tube. They gave her medication to get the fluid back into the veins and capillaries instead of the tissues. The timing of things is a blur, but they did a blood transfusion and her blood count is up. They will start to wean her off her sedation meds so she may start to try to wake up a little over the next day or so.
There was a group fast held by many people – friends, family, our church congregation, people in our small community. Fasting is going without food or drink for a determined amount of time; we usually fast for 24 hours in our church. We begin and end our fast with a prayer for a specific way we hope God to answer our prayers. A family member counted people from 5 different states that were participating. I have learned that the true definition of offering Christlike service is doing something for others that they cannot do for themselves. We are indebted to those that chose to fast for Bryer. The doctors had told us that they expected maximum brain swelling to happen at 72 hours. They informed us shortly after the fast had closed that the swelling was not nearly as severe as they had expected! Relief comes through answered prayers. I am thankful for true, Christlike service and that sincere prayers were answered in a very tangible way.
Jason has continued to ask the doctors about the scan done at the smaller hospital; the one that didn't show any fracture. Originally the doctors had told us that they should be able to go back to the original scan that was done before the traumatic intubation process. They should be able to locate where the fracture was, now that they know where it is. We have heard from different doctors that they can’t find the scan, that the scan isn’t in a format they can read, and that they can’t view it. It’s frustrating to say the least since that was the initial accusation of child abuse. The fracture wasn't in the original scan. There are a lot of unanswered questions and things that don't make sense. The bruising on the top of her head, her purple ears, the fracture that wasn't there before intubation and then was there at the bigger hospital, the list goes on. Was one of the kids helping with her while I was downstairs? Did I miss-interpret her fussiness and lack of sleep? Did something happen over the weekend when we had 10 kids in the house when Jason's brother and his family came to visit? Could she have chicken pox like the other kids did earlier in the month? It takes a lot of energy to take it all in and try to put the pieces together.
We finally got to meet with the child abuse doctor. He pulled us into the same room where the investigator met with us, just down the hall from Bryer’s room. He went over everything with us again – how I found Bryer, what family history she has, her mood, birth history, recent sicknesses. We reiterated again that it was a quick delivery and she was pretty banged up and didn’t have good color right away. We again told how she had been fussy most of the past weekend, but I thought it was the milk in the coffee cake I had eaten that upset her stomach. We mentioned that all the kids cycled through chicken pox the end of November and December, but we never noticed any on Bryer. He took notes and then escorted us back to Bryer’s room. He didn't seemed interested in or ask questions about the bigger picture. Maybe he doesn't care that my passion has always been babies; that we go to church every single Sunday as a family; that I read child development books for fun; that I graduated from college and both degrees have to do with teaching children; that I am CPR certified; that I would never, ever harm a child. I guess all that goes unsaid. Anyway, I felt a sense of relief after talking with him. I put my trust in him that he had all the tools now to help Bryer and move on. Jason was less trusting than I was.
I am really struggling with trying to carry on when all I want to do is be together as a family. Jason has been so good to go back and forth to his parents’ house where the other 4 kids are staying. He’s pulled things together from a legal standpoint and his brother helped get names together of attorneys. It all just seems like such a waste of time when there is a sweet baby girl fighting for her life. She should be the priority - not trying to defend myself for ridiculous accusations. My husband is such a rock for me, handling things I don’t have the strength or energy for. I feel like there is nothing I can do for Bryer, except that simply... I am her Mom. If for an instant she opened her eyes or needed to borrow my strength, I want to be here for her in every sense – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Instead I am being pulled away to answer more questions and now pulled away to interview attorneys.
I have tried really hard not to be mad when I am forced to leave Bryer. My Mom, Dad, and sister have come to sit with her while I leave with Jason to see the other kids or to interview attorneys. Those are the only reasons I have left Bryer’s side besides a few hours of sleep here and there. I would not normally leave my baby with a stranger, and even though they are trained doctors and nurses, they are strangers to me. I want a familiar face, peaceful company, someone I trust to be with Bryer during the time I have been pulled away. My family has filled that need, and again offered Christlike service – doing something I cannot do for myself.
In the last couple days we have had so many blessings come to us through cards, letters, and gifts. I had forgotten for a bit that the world was still going on outside these walls of Bryer’s hospital room and that Christmas is coming quickly. When we got back to the room there was a big basket of things for our whole family that another family had dropped off. Inspirational posters, small gifts, tokens of their love and support. Jason’s family made another trip up to our house to get all our stockings and the Santa gifts for the kids. They have taken care of all the behind-the-scenes details to help our older kids have as normal of a Christmas as they can. My sister printed out this picture of Bryer with the quote I had shared with my mom earlier. This was taken just a week before she went to the hospital, her first smile caught on camera.
A lady from the hospital dressed as an elf came to my room to ask if I wanted to go Christmas shopping. I wasn’t sure what she meant. I was very hesitant about leaving Bryer without a prearranged person to come sit with her. I made sure my smelly shirt was next to Bryer, visited with the nurse and told her I would only be gone a few minutes and to keep a close eye on Bryer. The elf escorted me to a room full of toys... Shelves and piles and countertops full of new, donated toys! She asked how many kids I had and gave me a large wagon to ‘shop’ with. She instructed me to choose several gifts for each child. I reminded her that I had 5 kids - not a small family - and I would be very thankful to only pick out one for each child. She walked me through the room, pointing out different interests and age groups, suggesting many toys and books for each one of my kids. I was in tears most of the shopping trip and felt overwhelmed at the blessings that filled my wagon - everything from a microscope and books to a tape player and games. She urged more gifts to fill my wagon as I contemplated which one to narrow it down to for each child. When we were finished she handed me a stack of sticky notes and told me to write their names on each one and she would see that they were wrapped and had the right name on them. I could hardly see through my tears to write my children’s names on the sticky notes. It was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude I felt as I made my way back to Bryer’s side. It was the spirit of Christmas that was alive and touched me so much. The gifts were just a bonus.
Toward the end of the day the doctor for disease control came in and inspected for chicken pox. He found one pock on the back of Bryer's leg in the crease where her knee bends. The doctors and nurses all put on disposable yellow gowns to work with Bryer after that, not wanting to infect the other patients. The doctor suggested chicken pox on her brain, but said there was too much swelling to tell. They posted a sign on her door that reminded visitors to wash their hands before and after being in Bryer's room.
The investigator came back to talk to Jason and I. She asked if we would still be willing to do polygraph exams. We now have an appointment for tomorrow to go down to the police station. Another appointment to pull me away from Bryer. It makes me sick to have to leave her, but I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to prove my innocence and help the doctors move on.