I’m not a disciplined writer. I just write when I have the compulsion. It comes and goes like motion sickness. I’ll be sitting on the couch and it will just come up in a glut, like vomit, and I’ll have to run to my computer to get all the words out. Sick.
We went to the pediatrician on Saturday and they did the whole well-child thing for both the kids, back-to-back. The doctor did a once-over on Henry and checked in his mouth told me he wasn’t teething when he very obviously is. Then he moved onto June. The doctor checked her ears, and her eyes, and down her throat, and then her chest.
And her chest.
And her chest.
and her chest.
And he checked it for what seemed like forever.
|What I was doing, in the meantime.|
I closed my eyes and started saying Hail Marys. Oh there BETTER not be a problem, God, I kept thinking. I kept making eyes at Lou, who was calmly and comfortably sitting next to me, and he reached out and squeezed my elbow, not understanding or not acknowleging how long the doctor was taking to examine her chest. And when the doctor motioned to June to lay down on mommy’s lap while he listened to her heart more, I felt the familiar wave of anxiety and hot sickness like on the day that we went in for a fun little gender reveal ultrasound and got hit with a mack truck that is Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele.
I fall into this little trap sometimes where I think that because I had a child with a neural tube defect and we endured one month in the NICU and countless other problems, I’ve already gone through the worst thing that can happen to me, and therefore I’m immune from all other bad things that could happen. Like the chickenpox. I also fall into this trap where I jump immediately to the worst possible conclusion — probably a defense mechanism of some sort. Or just rampant anxiety. I can’t watch Monsters Inside Me or Dr G: Medical Examiner for precisely this reason — I’ll start to get convinced that every slight headache is a horde of maggot larvae hatching in my brain, or something. So when the doctor hovered over her chest and listened, and listened, and then made her lay on my lap and listened again, and again, I went from thinking hmm, he’s awfully thorough to welp, better call the Make-A-Wish foundation.
We’ve had a rough year. A rough, rough year. Henry’s diagnosis. My grandpap dying. Mental health problems. The NICU. A new family member. A mild car wreck. This nurse called us up and told us we qualify for food stamps, for the love of God, and then called my precious boy an adverse outcome. So when the doctor checked June’s chest and frowned slightly, I closed my eyes and thought are you FUCKING kidding me right now, God?
I’m not proud to say that my first reaction was one of utter anger and disbelief. On the outside, of course, I was completely stoic. I’m great in a crisis. I can shut down and deal with the situation at hand and stave off an emotional collapse for a long, long time. So I asked detailed questions and didn’t lose my cool. But on the inside I was fuming. I alternated violently between thinking, Thank you, God, for our health, for these children; we are so blessed. You’ve blessed us immeasurably. Whatever the outcome of this, thank You, thank You for these children. And then in the next minute I’d think, you know, God, I haven’t had dinner yet, and maybe you should take me out to dinner first before you FUCK ME. Are you kidding me right now? These children are my life. Why are you doing this to me? I already have one ‘sick’ child. You cannot do this to me again. YOU JUST CAN’T.
And I do realize how selfish and disgusting I sound, thanks. Because really, with Henry’s Spina Bifida, it’s tempting to think of our family as this wretched gang of Dickensian street urchins that has been, as of late, anyway, really down on their luck. In reality though, we have it pretty great. In reality, Henry is pretty much just like any other four-month-old, which is extraordinary considering he’s developmentally more like THREE months old, and he was a month premature, and he has this whole hydrocephalus and spina bifida thing going on. But he’s really awesome. And he seriously has the best attitude of any baby I’ve ever met — perpetually happy, talkative, social, smiley. And really, we have had far more than our share of blessings: a steady paycheck, excellent health insurance, a roof over our heads. Lou and I are blessed with an awesome marriage and there’s not a day that goes by — not one day, since the start of our relationship six years ago — that he doesn’t squeeze my hand and say thank you for being my best friend, and my wife for life. (This dude has been calling me his wife since the first month we started dating, I swear.) I mean, we’re ridiculously spoiled. But that doesn’t protect me against the stabbing fear in my stomach when the doctor lingers a little too long over my precious baby’s chest and knits his eyebrows together. It doesn’t shield me from this rush of terror and anxiety and absolute anger. I spent the rest of the day simmering in a silent fury, wanting to punch God in his stupid face, wanting him to come down and explain Himself and just what the hell He means by scaring me like this and wanting to tell Him that there better not be anything wrong with my baby. Better not. Or else. OR ELSE. Pretty intimidating, I know.
So, the doctor finally stopped listening, at which point I was almost in tears, and said that what he heard was a slight heart murmur, and that he was referring us to a cardiologist. Cool. Except not.
To be honest, I want to be all
but then I’m like nevermind, Jesus, you’re a terrible driver. You’re driving me right into a panic attack.
Prayers, please, that it’s totally nothing?