May 132014
 

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

Oct 092012
 

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote a solid post, and to those of you who plan your life and all major decisions around my blog posts, I sincerely apologize. To the rest of you aka all of you, I apologize as well. As you may have gathered from my mostly short yet bitter posts over the past few weeks, I have had a bit going on. My daughter got Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, which was an agonizing week of high fevers and Contagion-style quarantine. She was recovered for approximately two days before she spent a night throwing up for reasons unknown, and then miraculously recovered again for about a week. She then got Erythema Multiforme related to the HFMD virus, which caused even higher fevers and horrible hive-like lesions and sores all over her little body, including the inside of her mouth. Fun for the whole family! After a week of that madness, she recovered for a day – just long enough for us to overconfidently decide to celebrate with a weekend getaway. On the first day of the vacation she got a nasty cold complete with, yes, a high fever.

Needless to say, it has been a tough month.  Definitely the toughest month since my daughter was born.  And it feels like maybe the toughest month since I was born.  I have had some hard times in my life, though admittedly not as hard as many.  I have had my fair share of illnesses, surgeries and hospital stays.  Somehow though, it seems more difficult to take when it is happening to my daughter rather than directly to me.

Of course, it hasn’t been all bad.  There have been some great moments when she is feeling better and all seems right in the world.  I have learned a lot of lessons.  I have gained a bit (ok, a teeny, tiny bit) of patience.  I have discovered that I can be stronger than I ever thought I could be.  However, I have been working so hard to be a good mom that I haven’t had much time to be a good… anything else.

I haven’t had much time to be a good friend. Many a phone call, text and email has gone unreturned in the past month.  And when I do manage to find the time to chat with my friends, it’s mostly just to vent.  I end up talking so much about what’s going on in my life, that I rarely ask what’s going on in theirs.  Jerk!

I haven’t been a good worker.  I have turned down a lot of work simply because I just can’t take care of my daughter and take care of work too.  I had a choice to make, and as a freelancer, I was in the position to make it, so I chose my daughter.  I wouldn’t change those decisions, but it doesn’t exactly make me the most reliable person to hire.

I haven’t been a good homemaker.  Not that I usually excel in this arena, but my usually feeble attempts at cooking, cleaning and hosting have gotten beyond pathetic – we’re talking frozen dinners/baby stuff covering every surface of the house/turning my underwear inside out so I don’t have to do laundry – pathetic.

I most definitely haven’t been a good wife.  When I am stressed, sad and angry at life, or even when I am frustrated with my daughter, I have to take it out on someone.  I obviously can’t take it out on my daughter and I don’t have life’s email or phone number, so the back-up choice has been my husband.  Fortunately I picked a partner who doesn’t usually feel the need to take his frustrations out on anyone, but who understands me enough to know that I do.  And so he lets me.  Usually.

And out of everyone, the person I have treated the worst is myself.  I have stopped exercising, managed to take stress-eating to whole new level of disgusting, and some days have decided to forgo even the most basic levels of general hygiene (I guess I should apologize to my husband for that one too.)  And as a general warning to anyone who encounters me on the street, I am prone to break down in tears for no reason, and just as likely to start muttering to myself in a scream-whisper.  Oh yeah, and there’s a strong chance that I will be wearing a dirty bathrobe.  At first I thought I might be pregnant.  Now, I realize that I have slowly been losing my mind.

I am a half step away from ribbon roll earrings and rollers in public. Next stop: Eating my own hair.

But things are looking up.  My daughter is finally recovering from the latest installment of Outbreak 2012, hopefully this time for longer than a day or two.  So, there will be no more excuses.  No more of the selfish friend who only talks about herself.  No more of the wife whose husband is slightly afraid he will wake up in the middle of the night to find her standing over him with a butter knife.  No more main-lining red wine/coffee/entire sleeves of Oreos.  No more half-assed work.  No more depressing blogs (for now). No more messy house…Ok, ok. Who I am kidding? I have a toddler.  The house will always be messy.  Deal with it… or you may wake up to find me standing over you with a butter knife.

Oct 082012
 

I swear that being a parent is the craziest roller coaster in the world.

My daughter is sick yet again, for the third week out of four weeks. This time with a nasty cold and again with a fever hitting above 104. She was up at midnight night crying inconsolably. Probably because she was tired but couldn’t sleep, scared because she couldn’t breathe, and angry because Mama couldn’t fix it. She was screaming and crying, and I was crying because I couldn’t help her. And I was tired because I haven’t once slept through the night in the past month.  And it was midnight. And I was thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

Then, morning came. And the sun was shining. And my daughter woke up feeling a bit better. And she hugged me tight and said “Lub you” in her little, hoarse, stuffy-nosed voice. And I thought, “I don’t know what I ever did before this.”


photo credit: Hamed Saber via photopin cc

Oct 012012
 

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.

Sep 182012
 

I just wanted to let you all know that Lyla is recovered and seems to be back to normal…well,  as normal as a one-year-old can be.  Mostly I wanted to thank you all for your concern, well-wishes, thoughts and messages, as well as the sharing of your own personal stories, experiences and worries.  It meant a lot and reading them helped me get through a LONG week.

But Lyla is recovered and back to confusing and terrifying me in new ways and I am done stressing about this illness… and on to stressing about everything else.

Thank You!

Sep 132012
 

On the crazy up-and-down, round-and-round carousal that is parenthood, of course a fun and laughter-filled weekend with friends and family would be followed by illness.  I found out yesterday that my daughter has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.  Huh?  Although many people, me included, would I argue that I have a perpetual case of Foot-in-Mouth Disease, I had never heard of HFMD until yesterday.  It sounds pretty damn gross, but it actually sounds much worse than it is. It is a viral illness with the primary symptoms being blister-like sores all over the body but concentrated around the hands, feet and mouth… ok that is pretty gross… and a high fever.  And when I say high, I am talking Snoop Dogg hotboxing with Willie Nelson high – my daughter hit 104.5 last night.  The good news is that the fever does come down with medicine, as well as scream-and-cry inducing cool baths; the bad news is that it doesn’t seem like good news at 3 am when her fever has shot back through the roof.

There is nothing worse than when your child is sick.  It is not just how horrible you feel for them, but how totally helpless it makes you feel.   You can have a medicine cabinet stocked full of anything your child might need, you can have your doctor on speed-dial, you can read books, websites, medical-journals, mommy blogs, and doctor advice sites.  You can prepare for the worst, but nothing can prepare you for IT – for that feeling that nothing is really in your hands.  Not even your child’s life.  And nothing can prepare you for how insignificant that makes you feel.

I wonder if it ever goes away –  the worry, the heartache, the pain of watching your children suffer without being able to do anything. I think not.  I guess I hope not… I wonder what it would mean if it did.