Tag Archives: Sick

Excuse Me, My Crack is Showing

There was this art project that I used to love to do as a kid: we would take an egg and make a tiny little hole in each end with a pin. Then we would blow through one end, and all the raw egg inside would come shooting out. Once you got all those pesky insides out, you would have a perfect eggshell to decorate. It would be fragile, of course. But unlike a regular egg that would eventually fester and rot, the eggshell could last forever if treated carefully. The idea is so simple: remove the parts that can go bad, and the shell will endure. It is preservation at its finest.  But, I never really appreciated the idea of preservation. When I was a kid, I just liked blowing out all the disgusting raw egg into my friends’ faces… and by “when I was a kid” I mean yesterday.

When my baby boy was three months old, I mentioned to my pediatrician that he had a slightly odd birthmark on his back.  It was something my husband and I had noticed about him from the day he was born.  It was tiny and hidden right above his butt crack, a place no one would but a parent would ever examine closely enough to notice. I didn’t mention it to my doctor until my son was three months old because it seemed innocent enough: a cute little birthmark. The human body is an amazing thing though, and sometimes these innocent little markings are warnings of something much more nefarious.

My doctor told me it was probably nothing, but we should get it checked out to make sure. She told me that I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  But of course, I lost sleep over it. A lot of sleep. Luckily I had a toddler and a three-month-old baby, so I wasn’t sleeping much anyway.

After an ultra-sound, an MRI and a few meetings with a neurosurgeon, we discovered that my son had something called a tethered spinal cord, and would need surgery to correct it. A tethered cord is a birth defect, where the spinal cord is literally tethered down by something (in this case a fatty growth called a lypoma) so that it cannot hang freely as it normally would, and instead stretches and pulls, damaging the big bundle of nerves that make up the spinal cord. That big bundle of nerves is tied to many different things: legs, feet, bladder, bowels, and brain to name a few. If not corrected, it can cause any assortment of developmental and physical difficulties. In addition, that innocent-looking birthmark was actually a tract that ran directly from the spinal cord to the outside of his back. So that cute little marking actually put him at risk for meningitis and other infections. Scary right? You don’t know the half of it. At least, I hope you never do.

Before Jan 13th, I didn’t know the half of it either. But on that day, the day of my baby’s three-month doctor appointment, and the months that followed, I learned what scary really meant. And it wasn’t just sleep I lost over those months, it was everything. Sadness, guilt, anger, and THE FEAR plagued me every minute of every day. My perfect baby was not perfect. My sweet little boy would have to undergo surgery and so much more. And there were so many unanswered questions, so much we wouldn’t know until it was possibly too late. How could I sleep? How could I think of everything else?!

There was a brief moment of each day that I forgot THE FEAR: each morning when I woke up and scooped my delicious bundle out of his bassinet and looked into his smiling face, I got at least two minutes of unadulterated joy. Two whole minutes of staring at his perfect face. Of breathing in his sweet smell. Two luscious minutes of reveling in the perfection of him before – BAM!!! – my memory, and with it THE FEAR, would return with such force that it took my breath away. Every. Single. Day.

So, I couldn’t sleep at night. I would spend hours crying during the day. I couldn’t play with my wonderful daughter, or even enjoy the sweet miracle that was my baby son. All I had was my sadness, my guilt, my anger and THE FEAR. I was drowning in them all. So I did what I had to do to endure. I made myself stop crying. I made myself stop thinking and stop feeling. I removed everything inside me that was festering and rotting, and I became a shell – fragile yet enduring. It was self-preservation at its finest.

The problem with hollowing yourself out like that, is that you cannot choose what stays and what goes. You cannot remove the sadness without removing the joy. You cannot remove THE FEAR while leaving the hope. So I became an empty. I went about my daily life, of course. I did what needed to be done.  I took my daughter to school and to dance class. I took my son to his doctor’s appointments. I made dinner, I fed my children. I sometimes fed myself. I even went out with friends. I laughed at their jokes. I drank too much wine. From the outside, everything looked normal. But on the inside, I was empty.

Slowly but surely, though, little cracks began to show. Maybe not big enough for everyone to see, especially because I was master at painting myself up to look the same as I was before. I began to hide out to protect myself. I shut out most of my friends, because I didn’t want to take a chance of having to talk about what I was feeling. I picked fights with my husband about anything other than what I was really upset about. I stopped writing. I quit doing anything that would force me to be honest about myself, because I felt like if I was honest, then my cracks would spread and I would break into a million pieces. I thought that if I really started crying that I would never stop. And mommies can’t do that.

But I endured. My son had his surgery almost two months ago, and he is doing great. Kids are amazing in their resilience. His scar, that takes up almost half of his back, is quickly fading. But somehow, my scars are still angry and raw. I thought that once the surgery was done and life went back to normal, the FEAR would go away and that I would go back to normal too. But I guess once you empty yourself out like that, it’s hard to fill yourself back up. I guess once THE FEAR finds you, it’s really hard to ever chase it away.

I am trying. I am trying to be brave enough to let go of THE FEAR. I am trying to be brave enough to allow myself to be filled with emotions, both good and bad. The strange thing is that I cry now more than I ever did. But I smile more too. I am repairing my cracks, little by little. I think the first step is to let my cracks show, and to realize that admitting that you are broken doesn’t mean that you can’t be put back together.

egg

 

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

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Life is a Real Dick Sometimes

My daughter is sick, yet again.  Fever spiked up to 105.7 last night.  Hives covering her entire body including her face, and it makes me want to weep every time I look at her.  No sleep for many nights due to fever and hives.  One car with a busted transmission even though it only has 60,000 miles.  The other car I used to sideswipe a parked car in the street in front of the doctor’s office today.  Hey, my sick daughter was crying in the back and did I mention I am tired.

All I can say is that life is being a real dick right now. So if I don’t return phone calls or clean my house, or if I polish off an entire bags of chips in one sitting (hypothetically of course) or yell at inanimate objects (also hypothetically)… don’t blame me, blame life.

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Mothers Don’t Get a Sick Day… AKA Vomitfest 2012

Back in the day, when I was a young college student and “boot-and-rallying” was a badge of honor, the name “Vomitfest 2012” would have implied a crazy night involving numerous shots of dubious quality, dancing on the bar 100% convinced that I looked fabulous, possibly an ill-informed bar-makeout session, and ending most definitely by kneeling before the porcelain goddess before hitting up Denny’s for pancakes, french fries and cheesesticks.  Now that I am a mom, the word vomit doesn’t conjure up nearly such grand images.

Vomitfest 2012 started as my nights rarely do with a dinner out with girlfriends. My husband was home with my daughter, and I was a carefree woman on the loose, free to enjoy a great restaurant with a wide variety of delicious dishes, which I would greatly regret later, and many drinks. Later that night, as my husband and I were going to bed, I started to get a raging headache and a fluttery stomach.  I joked, “Is it bad that I am ALREADY hung over?”  This might be the first time that I have ever said this, but oh, how I wish I was hung over.

By 2 am I was puking my soul.  After 10 minutes of vomiting so hard that I expected my head to spin around, Linda Blair style, I returned to bed, chilled and sweating.  I heard my daughter making a little noise and coughing a bit, so I looked on the monitor to see her calmly sitting her crib.  I repeat “calmly sitting her crib.” At 2 am.  Not crying (which is scary at 2 am because you know it’s going to be a long night,) not playing (even scarier as this usually equals an even longer night,) but calmly sitting up in the corner of her crib, hardly moving a muscle (the scariest thing I have ever seen, akin to Paranormal Activity.) My husband goes to check on her and after 10 minutes I hear him call my name.  I rush to her nursery and discover what looks like a horrific crime scene… an explosion of purple-black vomit (the result of some unfortunate blueberries for lunch) covering every surface of my daughter’s crib and my daughter herself as she lay on the floor, staring sightlessly into space.  My husband says, “Can you watch her?  I’m going to be sick.” as he rushes out of the room, and I am left with my filthy, sick daughter, wishing that I had something left to throw up.

Seeing my normally active-bordering-on-manic daughter laying on the floor barely blinking was probably the scariest experience yet in my short career as a mom, and I instantly forgot my own illness and snapped into Mommy Mode.  I swept my daughter up and began to hum while initiating the Mommy Mode Cleaning Cycle (when you don’t know what to do, clean!) opening windows and stripping off pjs and sheets. Somewhere during this time frame I was vaguely aware of the fact that my husband had returned with the news that he was also throwing up and, after briefly passing out in the bathroom, had called 911.  Even armed with that news, I was still quite surprised when halfway into my Mommy Mode Cleaning Cycle, 6 giant men stormed into my house.

Now I realize that my husband had told me that he called 911, but for some reason I thought that he had called a fictitious 911 advice line, where they had given him some sage advice and then hung up.  Apparently this does not exist.  And if you have never called 911 before, let me tell you a little secret:  when you call, they come… 6 big men and a fire truck and an ambulance.  I know this because I said, “Wow.  There are a lot of you guys.  So, this is what happens when you call 911?  I wish I would have known this when I was single.”   In my defense, I make really bad jokes when I am nervous and right then I was scared as hell.

Ignoring me, the six giant medic-firemen continued to storm around the house testing for carbon monoxide, while taking our blood pressure and asking all kinds of questions like, “What did you eat for dinner? Could this be food poisoning?” (We all ate separately. No.) “Could you be pregnant?” (Recoil in horror. No.) “Do you use recreational drugs?” (After this experience I am considering it, but… No.) “Do you have any known enemies who would want to harm you?” (um. swallow… run through a fairly long list of people I have offended in my head and decide that there is no one who would want to actually kill me…No.) “You go to Lake Powell?” (Yes. No. What…Huh?)  “I saw your photo there at Lake Powell.  We all go every year. It’s pretty cool.” (Now, I know that I’m not a trained firefighter or medical professional, but how is looking at my family photos helping anyone?  Just… No.)

Anyway, after of all this, they deemed our house free of carbon monoxide and determined that we had most likely all gotten a stomach flu at exactly the same time.  They did suggest that we take Lyla to the ER because she is so small and susceptible to dehydration.  We declined the fancy $1500-a-pop 5 minute ambulance ride and decided to drive our daughter to the ER ourselves.  So, armed with a plastic bag for me and a waterproof bib for Lyla, we headed to the closest ER.  After a brief detour so I could throw up in the parking lot, we made it inside and proceeded to wait… and wait… and wait.  My daughter, of course, didn’t get the memo that we were waiting and continued to throw up continuously.  I guess you truly know that you are a mom when you let your daughter throw up on your neck because you can tell by her frightened eyes that loosening her death grip on you is not an option.

After what seemed like an puke-soaked eternity, they finally brought us in.  They checked out Lyla and said that she was going to be just fine.  They gave her an anti-nausea medicine and some Pedialyte, and after a while they let us go.  On the car ride home she was already returning to her normal self, singing and playing with her toys.  By this time it was 6 am and after a 3 hour nap she was as good as new.  Her parents, however,were another story.  I have never been so relieved to see her tearing around the house, causing her usual chaos and destruction.  But as thrilled as I was that she was doing better, when I looked at the clock and saw that it was only 10 am and realized that we still had to get through the entire day… if I wasn’t already throwing up, I would have thrown up.  That’s when I came to harsh realization that parenthood is the only job that truly has no sick days. My husband and I had to take care of our daughter.  But who was going to take care of us?

Somehow we managed to tag team our way through a long, long (long, long) day with a little help from Sesame Street (for 5 minutes) Etch-a-sketch (6 minutes) and Goodnight Moon (11 times and counting).  Finally at 9 Pm, we put Lyla down for the night, slapped each other a pathetic high-five and passed out.  Lyla let us sleep for a blissful 11 hours and I woke up feeling… well maybe not 100% physically (or even close really), but in some ways even better than 100%. There’s something about that first day back after being really sick that makes you appreciate everything a bit more. I appreciate the energy and life in my sweet, wonderful, crazy daughter; I appreciate that I have a husband with whom I am sure that together we can face any obstacle (even when the obstacles are coming out of both ends); and I appreciate how damn good it feels to just feel normal.

Now I’m going to go celebrate life, love and health… by drinking till I feel like crap.

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