The second I held my son in 2009, my heart was permanently relocated from my chest and stitched to my sleeve, out in the open and vulnerable. This is not unique to me; all mothers will tell you the same thing: when we give birth to the incredible little humans we’ve created and carried for months, it’s as though our biggest fears and hopes are up and walking around, waving to us as they go down the big slide at the park. We furrow our brows with worry over the fact that we have little to no control over these people who we, quite literally, had previously surrounded with caution and care.
That’s something no one warns us about when we enter Motherhood: no matter what we do or how we prepare, we never know what we are doing, nor are we ever fully prepared.
What may be unique to me is the giant hand I have been envisioning hovering slightly above my head, ready to clench into a fist and come crashing down. A constant reminder that things can and do go wrong, sometimes making it hard to breathe. I haven’t always been like this; until recently, I always tried to find levity and heed my best friend’s words to “only worry when there’s something to worry about.” She talks a good game, but she’s a practiced worrier herself.
Is this what motherhood does? Makes us worry when there is no worry?
But sometimes there is worry, and it’s so big it engulfs you entirely, morphing you into a fetus in the belly of fear, surrounded by all these things you can’t control. A parent’s worst nightmare…
On April 14, 2014, I gave birth to my third child. Miss Lyla was born with holes in her heart that I was assured would close on their own, no medical intervention necessary. Her little heart was checked at every well-baby appointment, and I never failed to mention it any time we saw the pediatrician.
She seems constipated; could it be her heart?
She’s not crawling yet; maybe it’s her heart.
Hey, remember how she was born with holes in her heart? Yeah, about that…
But months wore on, our girl was plump and healthy, and on April 14, 2015, Lyla turned 1, her holey heart a thing of the past. We celebrated with family and cake and smiles.
On April 17, I took Lyla to her 1-year check-up where she was a champ throughout the poking and prodding. She is growing well, her almost 10-pounds at birth gaining nicely. I had to remind the doctor to listen to her heart “just in case.”
On April 19, Lyla got the poops. Diarrhea everywhere. Like, spewing from her diaper and squirting on to the floor where she was sitting and playing. I would have been impressed had it not been so gross. Her poor little behind was raw and when, 5 days later, the diarrhea was still in full force, I was over the “it’s a virus” and took her back to the doctor.
Because she was now refusing to eat or drink a bottle, we were worried about dehydration. As a reference point, she would normally drink between 24-32 ounces a day, but for the past couple days, had only accepted maybe 8 ounces. The pediatrician told us to keep track of her wet diapers, make sure there were tears when she was crying–basically, be watchful. Part of me wanted to scream I’VE BEEN WATCHFUL THAT’S WHY WE’RE HERE! Another part of me was like simmer down, woman; he’s the expert.
We were sent home, but told to check back in with him before the office closed that day. When we called with the news that she hadn’t really eaten and was crying with no tears, off to Children’s Hospital we went.
She was hooked up to an IV, but not without drama. The nurse couldn’t find a “viable vein,” so the IV Team had to be called in to help. These women didn’t walk into the room; they floated. They were on a mission called FIND A VEIN and they meant business. They turned out the lights and scanned my baby with infrared lights which helped them locate a good vein without poking her.
Seriously, how cool is technology?
Finally, Lyla was hooked up and kept in observation for a night, but because the diarrhea continued, we were moved to an in-patient room the next day. There, she was monitored and our goal was for her input to equal her output. Basically, pee, child, pee. She was still refusing to eat, and absolutely traumatized by the whole experience. She wasn’t sleeping well because of the constant (yet necessary) interruptions to check her vitals, give her medicine, and discuss any progress. Her response to the nurses and doctors was heartbreaking; she jumped out of her skin any time someone opened our door or even stopped outside of it. It’s as though the anticipation and worry were making her doubly sick. She quickly got a reputation and the fine people of Children’s would come into our room and not make eye contact with Lyla for fear of upsetting her. Finally, I got smart and asked that they stop checking vitals during the night so she could sleep longer than 2 hours at a time.
Eventually, she started wetting diapers more consistently. Her little eyelids were swollen from the extra fluids, so she was removed from the IV on a trial basis. What a relief that was! You ever try to change a squirmy baby’s diaper while she is hooked up to an IV?! Finally, we were able to walk up and down the halls and I showed her that not every person was going to “hurt” her. She didn’t seem to care, though, and continued to scream her head off. I explained all of the “First World Problems” that existed within the walls of the worst best place ever, like the horrible coffee and the fact HGTV wasn’t among the dozens of available TV channels. Surely she would see humor in the fact that I had forgotten my razor and was slowly morphing into Bigfoot. She remained thoroughly disinterested.
Try as I did to laugh, at several points in our stay, I felt the need for a good, cleansing ugly cry. But it seemed like every time I had the opportunity, it wouldn’t come. C’mon, tears and snot, don’t fail me now! Of course, when the moment hit, I had zero notice before breaking down–what a metaphor for Motherhood, eh? I was on the elevator with a lovely woman; we looked one another’s badges as is apparently the custom when in Children’s Hospital: she was a grandmother, I a mother. We smiled at each other and when she asked me, “What are you in for?” I giggled, but as I began to respond, “My baby is dehydrated,” my voice cracked. I knew it was happening. The tears were in my eyes and spilling onto my cheeks before I could use the back of my hand to swipe at them. This complete stranger gave me a knowing look that said, I’ve been there. Cry, you deserve it. She then told me her 6-year-old grandson had just gotten out of open heart surgery and was recovering nicely. I cried harder. This kind stranger simply said, “I will pray for you,” and was gone. She stepped off the elevator and I was alone, feeling grateful and guilty all at the same time.
Lyla and I came home on Sunday, May 3, the day before my Dad’s birthday. I was super excited to know she was well enough to come home, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something else was wrong.
The child was almost 10 pounds at birth, and has continued to gain and grow normally. In fact, we joke that her chubby legs are the reason she sweats so much, and have expertly explained away things like her not meeting physical milestones; “brother and sister do everything for her–she doesn’t have to crawl!” It sounds nice, and it even makes sense.
But now there’s worry. So much worry. We have so many appointments lined up, therapists who are coming to our house, doctors who want to look at her heart, and finally a pediatrician who thinks Lyla’s sudden refusal to nurse 6 months ago actually means something. All of the pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together, and while so many different hands struggle to create the big picture for us, we wait. And worry, because that’s what mothers do.
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