Monday, November 16, 2009

An open letter to my nausea

Dear nausea,

I hate you.

Please understand -- this is not the immature, fifteen-year-old "I hate you" utterance that erupts when teenagers decide their parents are evil. This is not the ironic "I hate you" that you say when your best friend tells you she's lost 15 pounds. This is not even the more heartfelt "I hate you" that drivers mutter to the idiots who are inching along in traffic ahead of them -- the ones who keep slamming on their brakes for no apparent reason. See, none of those are really sincere. Those utterings are either regretted later or just not said with enough personal knowledge and history to be taken seriously.

Hear me when I tell you -- I mean it. I know you well. We have lots of history. And I'm very sincere.

You probably aren't taking me seriously. You're figuring it's a pregnancy-induced fit of rage, one fueled by a few months of daily intimacy with you. I'll admit that the last three months have brought things to a head, but the truth is, I've known you all my life. Any time my body or emotions were the least bit out of balance, you would show up. Bad migraine? Pukey. Fever? Nauseous. Ate too much? Gack. Worried about the SAT tomorrow morning? FACE IN TOILET. You have been an unwelcome part of my life for far too long, and I am determined to speak my mind once and for all.

I'm tired of you. You're the reason my 21-month-old watches more TV than I ever thought I'd let him watch -- because some days, the only 30 minutes I am free of you are the ones during which I lay in bed after we wake up and I let him watch "Curious George" or "Sid the Science Kid" on PBS. If I can manage to turn the TV and cable on, and get to the right channel, all while remaining perfectly flat, I can sometimes delay the inevitable dash to the toilet by a few precious moments. You're the reason that same amazing kid has learned to plead with me, "Mom play!" -- because some days I'm so listless from a morning spent with you that all I can muster is the energy required to recline on the couch in the playroom, WATCHING him maneuver his trains around the train table rather than helping him do it. You're the reason my neighbors think I'm a recluse -- because I'm afraid to talk to them for fear of retching in the middle of our conversations on the sidewalks in front of our homes. You're the reason my husband has to juggle not only his 60-hour-a-week job, but also more than his share of the household maintenance, along with the parenting we both want and expect him to do. You're the reason my mom sometimes sadly hangs up the phone after talking to me, because I can't scrape together the enthusiasm to chat the way we always have. You know, LIKE A NORMAL ADULT. You're the reason I had to bypass the dinner I'd made for myself tonight -- wheat pasta with red sauce -- AND the dinner my husband kindly made me -- my favorite frozen pizza, baked and sliced and arranged invitingly on a plate -- for a honey bun and two Oreos. You're the reason that some evenings, I cry. Because I'm tired of hanging out with you. Tired of greeting you every morning and trudging with you through the day and laying down with you at night. Tired of pushing through and past you to do the things I should be able to do, the things I want to do, or at least a passable fraction of those things, like run around with my son. Or shower AND brush my teeth on the same day.

You drain me of almost everything that makes me feel like me.

So, eff you, nausea. (The only reason I'm not using the word I'm screaming in my head is because my mother reads this blog.) Eff you and your stupid, omnipresent self. I want you to leave. I never want to see you again. The only reason I've put up with you this long is because I want this baby so badly, and if you have to come along for the ride, then I'll deal. But you know what? I'm in my second trimester now. I'm done with you. There's no more reason for you to hang around. So shove it. Hard.

And take your stinky ginger ale with you. Never effing worked, anyway.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

On the mend

It can't have been more than a week ago that my husband and I were remarking on our tremendous luck, in that boy had never been seriously ill. We'd dealt with a few runny noses and random low-grade fevers, but overall, we had really been fortunate. Our conversation was just the sign God was looking for that we needed to be reminded that we are not in control, because two days ago, boy was definitely out of sorts. I chalked it up to the fact that his second birthday was approaching, and that he was just trying out the whole expressing-an-opinion-forcefully idea, but in retrospect, I'll bet he was already feeling punky. I was also feeling worse than usual -- my pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting were making themselves more than known after about a week of lessening symptoms. Their return to full force was not welcome. All in all, we did NOT have a good day.

And then yesterday, I woke up next to a sick kid.

When I opened my eyes in the morning, I didn't really notice much out of the ordinary, except that boy made a couple of strange burping noises I'd never heard him make before. He didn't seem to be bothered, though, so as I got up to head for the bathroom myself, I didn't think much of it. The wave of nausea that hit me halfway there was just. Wrong. As I stood bent over in the bathroom, trying to keep my knees from buckling from the sheer intensity of the sickness, I remember thinking, "Whoa. What the heck is up with THIS?"

Despite the relatively alarming strength of the experience, the basic act was nothing new to boy or myself -- it's how we start all our mornings these days, with boy hollering, "Mom cough? Mom ok?" from the other room -- so I got cleaned up, washed my hands, and went to truck boy out to his high chair for breakfast. As I rounded the bed, he started being sick himself. I wasn't really all too shocked, I have to say, based on my newly-in-perspective sickness myself and his burping, so luckily I was pretty calm.

(If you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip the rest of this. Please know I'm not trying to be intentionally gross -- it was just a very vivid moment. It was kind of a defining moment in my motherhood experience, if you will.)

I've seen people get sick before. My mom took care of children in our home for many years, and I've been around my share of miserably ill kids. Anyone who watches MTV these days is bound to see someone throw up. It's no mystery. But there's something particularly rough about it when it's your baby who's sick, your child who's at the mercy of a body rejecting a bug. The force of his retching made him almost go limp, and it was so relentless that for a few seconds at a time, he couldn't draw a breath. It seemed to go on forever, and as he fought to breathe through it, arching his back as he started to panic, I felt more helpless than I have ever felt in my life. All I could do was hold him upright with a towel under his chin, and tell him it was ok, he was doing fine, mommy's here, just get it out, let the yuckies out and it would be all over. My little champ got through it, and sat panting and sweating as he recovered. He never once cried. I asked him if he was ok, and he said, quietly, "Det." That's his version of "Yes." It had never sounded more pitiful.

I scooped him up, and we headed for a room without carpet, as I had the feeling this wasn't going to be the last time we went through it. I called my husband, and my mom, letting them know what was going on, and consulting over whether a trip to the doctor was in order. As I was hanging up with my husband, another wave of nausea hit me. I ran to the powder room with the little guy in my arms, sat him just outside of it, and basically buckled. As he listened to me, he would cry out, "Mom?" Like, "What the hell, lady? Are you gonna die or what? 'Cause you don't sound too reassuring, if you know what I mean." All I could do was try to tell him, "Mommy's ok!" between retches. THAT'S when I knew it was bad.

I decided to just try him on some water once I got him into his high chair, instead of his regular breakfast. The sip he took stayed down for nine minutes, and again I had to witness his full-body retching, his gasps to get in air between the spasms. When his pediatrician's office opened at 8:30, I called and got us an appointment for 11, their first available. The hours from 6:45 to 8:30, when I could finally reach someone, and then the wait from 8:35 to 11, seemed like an eternity. For some of the time, I let him sit in his high chair and watch Sesame Street on my computer. My sick little guy insisted on sitting with his beloved Monkey and Pig tucked around him, and I didn't get any smiles that morning.

After it was clear neither of us would be eating anything, we went upstairs to his playroom to divert him from his misery. I thought the sight of his beloved "car-trucks" would inspire him to play a little, but all he did was lay on the floor and say, "Mom? Tired."

If any of you have met my son, you know that this is as unlike him as it is possible to get.

He threw up once more, then fell asleep in my arms. I let him snooze until it was time to leave for the doctor's office. My amazing husband came to drive us there so that I could sit in the back seat with boy in case he threw up again and started choking in his car seat. Normally a garrulous traveler ("Mom! Big bus! Yellow bus. White car?"), he sat silently, a small toy clutched in each hand, although he had no energy to actually play with either. He allowed himself to be carried into the doctor's office waiting room, where he sat listlessly on our laps. He then wailed through his entire examination, where we learned that yes, indeed -- he had a stomach virus. I was tremendously thankful for the fact that he had no fever or other symptoms, but the vomiting was worrying me, because by that time, he'd had NO fluids since 8 pm the night before. That was 16 hours of no fluids for my little guy, and that seemed alarming to me.

Luckily we got a prescription for some amazing medicine (yay, Zofran!) and it put a stop to his vomiting almost immediately. He slept all the way home, had some Gatorade and a cracker once we got there, and then took ANOTHER nap for an hour and a half. The rest of the day was spent regulating how much food and water he took in -- he wanted WAY more than I thought prudent to let him have -- and then he collapsed into bed before 9 pm.

I'm happy to report that he's now doing MUCH better, and has a newfound love of chicken soup with alphabet noodles. ("Mom! Eat Ps? Eat D! More Q. Mom find! Find K!!") I seem to have fought off my own stomach virus too, and we're slowly getting back to normal. But I'll never forget the feeling of holding my very sick boy in my arms, listless and miserable, and feeling powerless to do anything to make him feel better.

Lord, thank You for the blessing of the health of this family. Thank You for watching over us and touching us with Your love and protection. Please watch over us as we continue to mend. Protect us and our loved ones from illness and injury and pain. Help us to do Your work.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Incoherent ramblings on the nature of parenting

I've finally been able to articulate the basic gist of my parenting philosophy. It came to me in a flash the other day. And I'm still working on it -- I imagine that this will be more or less in some sort of flux as the boy and I and his daddy grow and change, but this is what it is at its heart.

I think a lot of people look at children and want to make them into who they think they're supposed to be. And maybe some kids need that. I don't know. But I believe that children come to you ALREADY THEMSELVES. They're hardwired with some personality traits and characteristics and such. Even if I didn't believe that before, I believe it now. And what I think most shapes my parenting is the deeply-seeded (-seated?) belief on my part that my job isn't to change who my son is. I can guide him and help him develop healthy habits -- eating right, sleeping well, being polite and respectful, taking care of himself -- but my job isn't to make him into a "real" person. On the contrary -- my job is to learn who he already is, and glean from him how best to guide and teach him. And maybe even more importantly, it's to learn from him whatever he has to teach me. These days, he has much to teach me about patience and consistence. We've entered the "no" phase ahead of schedule (with his particular twist on it being "no like it!!") and the days have become more of a challenge than before.

Now, don't get me wrong. When I say I want to learn from my child, I don't mean I intend to let him walk all over me. I know that children need boundaries to make sense of the world. They need to be shown what's off-limits, like hitting and biting. And taking your cousin's favorite horsey stuffed animal and refusing to give it back. (Let's not do THAT again, buddy.) I'm good with boundaries.

Maybe I just got lucky, and God sent me a child who responds well to the approach I've taken. I don't know. He's just SO AWESOME. He's funny and adaptable and laughs a lot. He calls his cars and trucks by the useful hybrid "car-trucks." He loves his stuffed pig and his stuffed monkey, and looks for them every night before bed. "Mom? Pig monkey?" He gives kisses to his mom and dad when asked. He loves to watch squirrels in the yard ("Oh, wow!") and he says please and thank you, sometimes even without being reminded.

Yeah. I probably just got really lucky. Maybe I don't have it figured out after all.

Never mind.