I haven't taken a picture of Annika since the surgery. I haven't taken any pictures of her on the ventilator, or shadowed by an I.V. pole decorated with bags and tubes and the festive lights of triple-line pumps. I haven't taken any pictures of her hugely swollen belly, or the large dressing that still covers her new incision, which follows the scar from her previous transplants. And I will not take pictures of her now, with the greatly detested N.G. tube snaking across her cheek and streaked with blood, which is being used to monitor her bleeds more closely. I will not take pictures of her little belly button, which is ringed red with the pressure of the fluid stretching it taut, but resolutely still an inny, much like my own belly button, when the pressure against it was Annika's own unborn baby self. I haven't taken pictures of her curly hair, rubbed angrily into the hospital pillowcase for the past 9 days until it has formed into little stalagmites rising perpendicular from her scalp, the gravity-defying dredlocks of a Trollz doll
I took pictures, many pictures, when Annika stripped naked and crawled up into the bathroom sink, taking advantage of the view afforded by the large bathroom mirror to see how she would look covered in 3/4 of a bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion. I found her giggling as she slipped and sloshed greasily around the cool porcelain basin, unable to lift herself out of the slippery mess. I took pictures when she took the giant plastic jacks that she had "won" for holding still for an I.V placement (piece of cake), and carefully stuffed one in each of her nostrils and the openings of her ears, proudly showing off the look like it was the new facial ornamentation for Tribe Annika. I took pictures of her the first time she dressed herself, with her underwear jauntily displayed over her pants. I took pictures of her the first time she fed Frankie, yogurt dripping fetchingly from Frankie's chin and smeared up Annika's arms.
Somehow these hospital images don't feel like the kind that should be placed in a photo album alongside the pictorial record of all those firsts and all those amusing antics of childhood. But I know this makes little sense. For one thing, I know of parents who have taken moving and beautiful photos of their children at their most physically vulnerable, pre- and post-transplant. For another, I have devoted more words to describing the hospital life and transplant experience than to any other topic. So it's not exactly like I'm letting these moments pass into amnesiac oblivion.
I wonder what Annika, the future, mature Annika, would want or need me to do. Jörg brought me some magazines from home to pass the time while Anni sleeps. In last week's Newsweek, the My Turn article was written by a mother describing her efforts to reconnect with her teen-aged son, and to make sure that his typical teen feeling of carefree invincibility was tempered by a respect for both the majesty and the frailty of life. Will there come a day when Annika will want to see photos of her younger self with tubing radiating from her body in all directions, while the delicate tissues of her lungs inflate and deflate with gentle puffs from a bedside machine? Will there come a day when those images might teach her the lesson that life is both fragile and remarkable?
Maybe I should just take a few pictures and then put them in an envelope marked, "Annika: for when you're ready." Or perhaps more accurately, "Annika: for when your mother is ready."