You Are Not Alone

Friday, January 21, 2011

It Matters

The other day, I read an article this article in my Facebook feed:
It reminded me of when Colin was in the hospital for Salmonella poisoning.
From the moment Colin’s pediatrician informed me that admission to our local hospital would be necessary, I found myself putting on my “Mommy Armor”. All those years of working in Customer Service, plastering on a smile when I seethed on the inside, served me well. I found myself gripped in the experience of outward cheerfulness, joking my way through my considerable nervous energy.
I smiled and shrugged as Colin’s Pediatrician announced his sentence with grave regret. I comforted Nurse Jackie, the Pediatrician’s head Nurse, as she broke down and started to cry. (We have such a relationship with Colin’s medical team, they aren’t just a team, they are family.). Nurse Jackie had joked with me earlier, saying that she had told Nurse Crystal and Dr. Cornett that, after Dr. Cornett had asked Nurse Crystal to call me to break the news (When Colin had been in to see Dr. C the last time, I had crumpled and folded during his catheter for a urine sample while singing, “Twinkle-twinkle-Little-Star. I was in the midst of feeling my little love’s pain and anguish when Nurse Crystal and Jackie told me that they couldn’t finish because I was crying. I apologized but, they were so kindly and understanding, they said they felt horrible to cause our little Man such pain and they were sorry to do it.) that I would be running down the street, from my house to their practice to get Colin to the Doctor. Well, I couldn’t decide whether or not to feel offended or cherished so, I decided on the latter, since they thought so well of me as a Mom and loved my Son so much. It was, undoubtedly, with broken hearts and regret that they gave the order to have Colin admitted to the Hospital. I asked many questions, would I be able to breastfeed? Would I be able to stay? Did I have to go straight to the Hospital or, could I go home and pack? I could do all and, they even called ahead to the Hospital to tell them that I was going home to pack and would be there shortly.
Like a whirling dervish, I went home and began to pack bags full of items I felt would be needed at the hospital because, there was NO WAY I was leaving my child’s side. My Mother-in-law graciously stayed downstairs with my Son while I flew between rooms upstairs, throwing clothes and toiletries into bags, unconsciously rubbing my forehead in an effort to make my brain work more efficiently for the task at hand. I felt pretty sure about what I could bring at the moment, pushing down the panic that pulsed at the center of my heart and soul that I was forgetting some vital thing, a thing that I would be kicking myself in the ass for when we finally got settled in our hospital room and I had time enough to breathe and think about what I had forgotten. Turns out, I had forgotten quite a few things and, as the long hours and days passed, realized that the hospital could not provide some other things that I felt would make a difference in my Son’s convalescence.
Looking back, I realize that, while I could not heal the physical part of my Son, since it was beyond my ken, I COULD nourish his spiritual and emotional health. I had become a force of primal nature, gathering small bits of material comforts that helped us both feel less alien but, even more importantly, I threw open the doors of my very self and embraced the tender soul in my care with all the light, love and wisdom I had to offer.
Time blurred and our inner clocks shifted from how time was kept in our home to how time was kept at the Hospital. At the mercy of the Hospital staff, my Husband and I embraced what we felt safe and what we felt we could trust. Our darling Son embraced everything, cherishing his new surroundings with a vitality that belied his illness. On foray’s from his established room, he would tramp down the halls in hospital gown, baby legs and I-Play shoes, touching all those in the halls with his brilliant soul light, charming and beguiling them with his unchecked curiosity and cautiously reserved social nature. My Husband and I joked that Colin had become the Pediatric ward’s mascot because, despite all the invasions into his body, the poking and prodding, (that was done with as much consideration and care as permitted) and despite his completely justified protests, he bounced back after a good snuggle and croon in my arms, close to my heart that ached and fretted and staid stalwart for my brilliant beam of sunshine.
While Mark and I found ourselves in the grip of a true test of parenthood, sweating as we walked a fine line that was so hard to see, our Son thrived. I can see that now, though at the time I was at the highest level of stress and anxiety I had experienced since Colin was born. Mark and I put on glossy veneers, polished to high shine with politeness and consideration. Yet, under that surface of gloss and shine, a pool of healthy doubt and concern lay. Our souls and hearts were ragged with concern, wishing to be soothed and smoothed by confidence. We listened to our doctors and nurses, taking in what they said and, what they didn’t say. When it came to medicines and procedures that we felt were common place, we did not object much all though we agonized over what it would do to Colin’s sense of self, sense of security and trust in the thinly veiled form of how it would hurt him, signaled by a distressed cry, a separation from the ultimate source of comfort, being enveloped in his Mom and Dad’s loving arms.

No one wants to see their child being forced to lay still while an I.V. line is being inserted into their tender, chubby arms, encased with skin softer than dandelion fluff. No one wants to see fat tears roll from the corner of their baby’s eyes as they look at you in fear and pain, seeming to ask, “WHY ARE YOU NOT DOING ANYTHING FOR ME MOM?! I DON’T’ WANT THIS! THIS HURTS! PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP!” Oh god, the AGONY! My heart constricts in pain just thinking about it but, it was to be done and nothing else. All I could do was sit near him, holding his small but strong body under my arms, crooning in a soothing voice that all would be all right. Not a lie, no, not a lie.

On the third or fourth day of our Hospital stay, after Colin being his usual energetic and curious self, had pulled his I.V. line out of his arm for the second time, (the second time, blood had poured out of the line, QUITE alarmingly) Mark and I were broached with putting a PICC line in Colin’s arm on the Friday after we had been admitted.

The nurse on our service for that shift must have sensed our anxiety about the procedure and, being such a wonderful, considerate human being and, excellent nurse, (if a bit flighty to Mark’s consternation and I reluctantly agreed) offered to try to reinsert an I.V. line into Colin. My heart DREADED another I.V. line procedure since the first one was so strenuous, distressing and painful to Colin, (the nurses made several attempts, the first time, before trekking us down to the Pediatric E.R. to have the Pediatric E.R. nurses put the line in and, THANK GOD they did because those E.R. nurses did it the FIRST time!) but I found myself more willing to attempt putting an I.V. Line into Colin as opposed to a PICC Line.

Alas, but the I.V. insertion did not succeed and Colin had only been subjected to more distress, stress and pain!

The Nurse on our service said she would call down to Radiology, (the department that would perform the PICC procedure) and see if “Jeff” was on duty.

Jeff, was not at work that day.

We had been built up for Jeff, hanging on to the idea of this individual who could perform this invasive procedure on our child with the least amount of pain and stress as could be afforded because, we had been told that NO ONE aside from the Radiology staff could be present while this procedure was performed on our tender Son.

Neither I, or Mark could be present while Colin was surrounded by strangers who would be holding him down, inserting a thin line of tubing into his arm.

Colin would be terrified.

I was terrified, heartsick, beyond myself with worry.

At least, if this was to happen, if it NEEDED to happen, we could have, “Jeff” perform this invasive procedure on our precious child but, it was not to happen that day. We were told that we could have someone else in radiology perform the procedure but, I balked and, Mark followed suit, trusting my intuition as, we were both blind but, I have more experience with trusting my intuition than Mark. Our option, in light of stalling the PICC line procedure for Monday, was to have the antibiotic’s prescribed for Colin’s healing administered through injections in his thighs.

A small piece of tubing, inserted from the cleft of his elbow to a main vein in his heart or, burning, painful injections into his tender, still chubby thighs.

I wanted to scream, “WHAT CHOICE IS THIS?!”

For the first time, I felt as if I were making a truly terrible decision, knowing the pain it would bring, being the one who had the articulation and maturity to make such a terrible decision. My Son’s sweet soul and well being was in MY hands but, at the time, facing a procedure done by someone who was NOT recommended, a procedure that would be SO invasive, come SO close to my Son’s heart, such a vital organ, as opposed to once a night injections into his thighs, I decided the latter.

There won’t ever be a part of myself, even if it is a sliver, that I won’t regret that I had to make this choice. Will Colin forgive me? Maybe. Will I forgive myself? Only as much as I can, given the circumstances.

So, it happened that for two nights, the little harbor of our Hospital room was invaded by a kindly Nurse and student, to administer his injections.

Oh! Colin screeched! Oh, the terrible wails and tears, the first night but, I was there, quicker than a blink to swoop him into my arms and give him whatever comfort I possessed. In minutes, the tears that had escaped his eyes had dried and, Colin was back to being curious and energetic once again.

During the course of the weekend, I had found a lull of security. Colin wandered the halls of the pediatric unit, enjoying the toys, the attention and the access to discover all that he could. Colin was a brave, intrepid explorer, desiring to plumb the secrets out of every nook and cranny he could. He found one section particularly compelling, especially since both Mark and I deemed it off limits. Fortunately for us, the Nurses on the weekend were so nice and relenting toward our boy that they welcomed him into this room we were not sure of and, he embraced the admission with such confidence that our hearts soared in gladness to watch his avid eyes and agile body feel out the space and wander into the light of the office, tucked away in the corner, to socialize with the Nurse or, Nurses who occupied within.

Because those hours and days passed so very slowly, it seemed like a week before it was Monday but, finally, Monday was upon us. We had already been keeping a regularity of hours but, even more so since being in the hospital. Thankfully, Colin was not much bothered during night checks because he had my breast to return to and nurse upon when a cold stethoscope was applied to his chest or, fingers chilled from Air Conditioning were pressed to the skin of his sleep warmed wrist.

Anyhow, Monday morning dawned and, from our window the sun burned the sky with an artistry that allowed the most gentle but, passionate of hues to hang in the sky. Our curtains open and hunger beginning it’s stirring within my belly, the new Nurse on our service barged in and began to ask questions.

Had Colin anything to eat in the last twenty-four hours?

I replied that he had but, only because we were told that because Colin was a breastfed child it would not be necessary to deny him anything to eat for that long of a time.

Inwardly, despite my polite response, the embers of my anger from that dictation mentioned to us on Friday ignited and I was willing to show it some, if need be. Who would be so foolish as to decree that MY baby, my darling young Son, only just fifteen months old NOT eat when he should be hungry?! Who would ask that of such a young, tender soul? I had previously been put at ease and assured that, in light of our lifestyle, it was not necessary to deny Colin any nourishment for THAT long but, here was this…this…THIS “Nurse” barging in and asking us, without any consideration or compassion, if we had FED our son.

I calmed myself. I hold a belief that everyone I meet should be treated with, at the very least, polite social grace if not kindness. Mark and I both feel that those who work in industries of service to humanity should be treated with respect, courtesy, consideration and kindness, if not compassion. Both Mark and I have worked in forms of the service industry and have both felt the brunt of casual abuse from the patrons who came to the establishments we have been employed at. Mark and I both feel that it is a shameful disgrace to treat those who work in a service industry with such disrespect, even to go as far as feeling disgust for those who casually abuse those who are fulfilling job duties to the best of their abilities. Neither Mark or I wish to make a person, who works in a service industry, feel disrespected or abused but, this Nurse started off on the wrong foot and, to be even more cliché, rubbed us the wrong way.

Perhaps this Nurse was one who felt the need to work, “by The Book”. Perhaps this was a Nurse who felt that we were being, “babied” too much and need a firm hand. Whatever the reason, she lacked any gentility, compassion or understanding for our Son or, our family.

I was worked into a fluster at the start and, she further fanned the flames by pressing us to admit Colin to the PICC Line procedure, conjuring guilt and impatience into the beginning what was such a beautiful day. I stalled her, despite her admonitions and reproaches, waiting to shed my trembling shell of authority until the door to Colin’s room closed and I turned to face the tender eyes of my Son and Husband.

As Colin busied himself with anything he found fascinating and curious and could possibly touch, Mark and I looked at each other, our bodies stiff with the desire to be strong for Colin, each other and ourselves but, our hearts were in our eyes and, as I looked into his, I saw them reflecting the aching tenderness, the fear, the resolution to be strong, the desire to find strength in each other and, a truth; we felt horribly vulnerable and adrift in the chaos that we had been living since Colin had fell ill. We were clasping and grasping at each other, trying not to be desperate in our clawing because, we both knew that we needed to and, that we desired to, be strong and steady for each other and Colin.

In spite of our strong desires, we felt overwhelmed by this Nurse, this Woman who barged in to our world, un-thoughtfully, coldly, rudely and slapped us in the face with her demeanor because it was so different from every Nurse we and Doctor and care giver we had encountered thus far. I had not yet begun to loathe her but, there was still time left in the day.

She magnanimously told us that she would allow us time to “decide” while she had the unfortunate task of taming the unpredictable, diva like nature of the radiology department. She would “stall” them and give us an hour.

I felt as vulnerable as a butterfly trapped in a glass jar and, seeking solace and rationality, clung to my Husband, desiring him to be an anchor of reason and stability but, he was as vulnerable and uncertain as I, if not more so because he had Me and our Son to look after. I could not blame my Husband for swaying toward medical dictate and I, drowning in the eye of such a storm, clung to the life raft he built, even if it wasn’t as confident and stalwart as either of us hoped. Even so, I still questioned, my heart still ached and sought comfort and confidence.
Guided by the blaze that had been ignited by the Nurse that morning, feeling her and reacting, I called the head Nurse on duty and asked for the Doctor on Duty.

I was terrified. My outside was a trembling shell, holding onto a shred of complacency. I wrestled mightily with the part of myself that wanted to give in and just agree without a fight but, I couldn’t ignore the feeling of sickness, the feeling of Wrongness in my heart and, the defiant part of myself that I let out in little dribbles and leaks burst forth, to my relief and I called the had Nurse. I spoke with her awhile and then, we agreed that I should speak to a doctor. The Doctor, the one we had been seeing most regularly came in especially for us and assured us as best as he felt able, (even HE had reserves about this procedure) that we should go through with this procedure. I couldn’t help but feel that he was exasperated with us, wished we didn’t question so much, didn’t quite value the kinship that my Husband and I had valued in the days since we had been at the hospital and had been working with that particular Doctor.

The pressure was immense. The push that this procedure was the BEST thing for our Son was INTENSE. We finally caved in and agreed but, even our agreement was not without conditions.

The Friday before, when we had been faced with this procedure, when it was new and we hadn’t the time to think it over or, research, I had said it might be better to allow our Son to be under General Anesthesia for the procedure. After the attempt was abandoned and, after my anxiety and fears and desire to have it all be over with was past, I realized that GA was NOT the best thing for my Son, in fact, it was a dangerous thing to do for Colin. I was glad that I listened to myself that, fate had intervened. Now, on this Monday when the Nurse was being a bully and the Doctor on Call was indifferent, we were being told that all that had been our choice, our decision was for naught, it was horrifying. They wanted to put our baby under G.A. That’s why the Nurse was upset we had fed our Son! We said, “NO!” Colin was just fine under the drugs that they gave him on Friday, (which was terrible. It’s sickening to see your baby love under such influence of drugs SO young) why would he need G.A.?

The Nurse gave him the sedative he had on Friday, reluctantly. After some monitoring, we wheeled him down to the transport station to await radiology’s approval, just like Friday.

People from the radiology team tramped in and out of our little curtained space and checked in on our child. In between times, the Nurse assigned to us that day, the horrid Nurse Ratchet, kept pressuring us to keep our child still and quiet. She would suggest that we wrap him up in blankets, that we do anything to keep him still and quiet and she would remind us that we should do so every minute. Her energy was frantic and anxious, disapproving and urgent. She was a loaded energy gun, ready to blast but, she had no idea that she was already facing an emotionally loaded gun, ME. I barely held my fury and outrage in check, trying to soothe Colin as best as I could which, was not very well considering I felt like I was offering him up to a firing squad and, as close and in tune as we are, he felt it and knew something was amiss. Under the drugs, Colin was jovial and stumbling, active as he always is and, in the text book induced stupidity of the medical profession, they assumed Colin was not ready and did not want to perform the procedure.

The truth was, Colin was NEVER going to be ready like they wanted. Colin was NEVER going to be complacent or dazed.

Mark and I, blind and flailing, terrified and searching for a firm hold, did what we should never have done and, not because it is “bad” but because we KNOW…OUR BOY and, in our terror, our uncertainty, we gave up, we surrendered, we…shut down.

We watched as a kind but strange woman took our Son from us and, our Son was carried away from us, looking at us with his trusting brown eyes full of curiosity. His eyes were saying, “I still see you and, because I see you, I know I am safe. You let me go into the arms of this person because you trust them and, because you trust them, I feel safe about going with them. I feel curious. Where am I going? Look at THIS! WHAT is THAT?!”

We watched him until he was out of sight and then with hearts heavy with anxiety and fear, we walked to the waiting room, which was too loud and bright and shameless. We retreated to a corner in front of a T.V. and my eyes glanced over crayon drawings and my heart broke just a little more. Finally, I could not be brave anymore and I turned to Mark and said, after some silence, “what if something happens to Him? I…if something happens…that’s it for me, Mark”.

Mark squeezed me tenderly, tightly and kissed my head through my hair and, even if he was not sure of it he said, “it will be alright”.

He always says that but, even if there is a niggling of doubt, I believe him more than I don’t.

Despite feeling the warmth of my Husband and, the horrible distraction of a NASCAR race on the channel that was on the television, I couldn’t help my fear, my deep doubt that what I has agreed to for my Son was WRONG.

Mark and I kept watching the time. I would wonder and, as if he was reading my mind or, as if our minds were in tandem, he glanced at his watch at the same time I wondered what time it was. It had been fifteen minutes. It had been SO long.

I didn’t actually pace but, I have such a jumping soul that it paced for me and, My darling Husband is so sensitive to my Soul that he knows, after some debate, (about five minutes) I got up and went to ask how it was going. The Nurse behind the desk was sympathetic enough to get up and check.

He came back to me, within five minutes and told me that the procedure hadn’t started but, they were starting soon.

I was crestfallen and heart sore and went back to the waiting room with Mark. A Nurse came in fifteen minutes later and informed us that it was rough going, that Colin had put up quite a fight but, he FINALLY fell asleep and they were able to start the process.

By this time, it was noon and lunch and we hadn’t eaten and, not that we’re callous by any means but, it was either sit around and despair or, get up and do something besides TRYING to read and failing miserably.

I asked Mark if he was hungry, really saying that I was hungry and wondering if he was hungry and if it was a good idea to go and get food for us. He said he was hungry. As a wife, I have this sneaky suspicion that Mark would take offered food anytime, anywhere as long as he deemed it edible.

Feeling somewhat brave but, more guided on the desire to get up and move and be distracted, I offered to navigate the Hospital labyrinth to get food since we were told that the procedure would be long enough for me to do so.

Twenty minutes, an elevator ride, countless hallways, ridiculous Air Conditioned temperatures and three fun food service personnel later, I was laden with two sandwiches, two sodas and two bags of chips.

Mark and I had devoured nearly all of our respective lunches when a Nurse appeared at the door, a negative against the agitating white gleam of the horrid florescent lights of the Hospital, and told us that the procedure was done.

Mark and I hastily put away everything that would keep our hands full and keep us from filling them with our Son. I wiped my hands on my pants, shoved every bit of trash into one bag and gave it all to Mark so that I could briskly walk down the hall, (in a supreme effort of restraint NOT to run and, Colin honey, there was some dignity too, by god!) and wait like a pound dog for a person to pick them as I waited for my Son to appear.

I peered down a horribly sterile hallway, with far too many doors for my eyes to watch all at once so, I let up and gave over to my heart to lead me. I stared for seconds but, what seemed forever and glanced over at Mark for reassurance and, when I looked back to that sterile, harshly lit hallway, I saw people, carrying a bundle walking out.

My heart knew that my Son was in that bundle before my eyes knew.

I ached and, I wanted so much to run and to tear him away and sweep him into my arms but, I held steadfast, not sure, not wanting to do anything more to hurt my darling boy.

Then, halfway to me, Colin picked up his head, that had been resting rather forlornly on the Nurse’s shoulder, (a shoulder I was so jealous of) and his eyes whipped around and…as much as my heart broke to hear it, my heart celebrated to hear his cry, his beautiful, personal, passionate cry, for ME.

We were magnets, drawn to each other. I don’t even remember taking steps toward him. I remember looking into his eyes, mentally showing him I was here and open and full of sorrow and regret and love and desiring above all, to take him in my arms to love and comfort him. Colin held his arms out to me, eschewing the person who had held him completely, leaning away from that person as soon as she got near enough.

He was naked, except for the rough cotton blanket wrapped around him. His tender arm was bruised and a sickly brownish yellow from the iodine. His skin was puckered and wrinkled underneath sterile tape and wrap and, as I did when he was first born and brought back to me after his regretful circumcision, my eyes scanned his body for all harm and damage as my heart reached out to him in love and comfort before my body even touched his.

Colin spent scant seconds in the air between me and a sympathetically smiling Nurse loosened her grip on My Son as he reached forward and, we FLEW toward each other.

Colin knew that I wanted to hear all about his ordeal so, he started crying in earnest as soon as he saw me and, didn’t cease his crying for a good minute after I held him in my arms. I couldn’t seem to get him right, from the thick cotton blanket and my worry over hurting him but, I held him close and as tenderly as I could. I crooned and told him that it was okay, I was here, I am here. My heart said, I love you and, I am so very, very sorry that I could not be there when you were most scared. I feel very bad that I was kept from being at your side while you were left vulnerable and scared and, my darling love, I will NEVER, EVER, EVER abandon you again. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from it and, more importantly, hospital regulation won’t keep me from it. If I have to scour myself with the hottest of water and staple my mouth shut and sew my hands together, I will NEVER leave you alone in such a way, ever again, EVER.
I held him all the way back to the room and, I nursed him to sleep and, I kept him close and toyed with his hair and admired his lashes and felt joy that he was alright to my eyes.

In the back of my heart and mind, I should never have let him go.

You see, the radiologist who was to perform the procedure came out to greet us and, in a moment of candid horror, told Mark and I that it had been “awhile” since he had performed a PICC line procedure.

The nurse who came to inform Mark and I of Colin’s progress midway told us that Colin had put up quite a fight and, had finally “gone to sleep” and that they were able to perform the procedure during that time.

My poor sweet baby love, fighting so hard for his life because, he didn’t know, had finally succumbed to overload and passed out from fear and exhaustion. My poor darling love. My poor darling boy, whose parents he had trusted and let him go into the arms of strangers with smiles who were to terrify him and hurt him and be unkind to him.
I raged at myself for being so weak and, all the while, I had people tell me that it was BETTER that he should have this procedure done than to endure painful, burning injections in his thighs.

I WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE FOR THOSE INJECTIONS. I couldn’t be there during his terror when he plain shut down from fear and exhaustion from strangers who held him down while he screamed and cried and felt abandoned and alone. No friendly loving face, no heart he could relate to but, I could have been there for his injections. I would have gladly gone to the doctor everyday, I would have snuggled my boy close, would have grieved for him and taken on his pain and comforted him after with an offering of my breast and my heart and warmth.

Instead, I was pressured into…into distancing myself and putting my child in a position that caused him so much distress and pain.

And you can stuff a dirty sock in your horrid mouth if you utter one word about how babies don’t remember. Maybe they don’t remember but, they STILL feel pain and fear! Babies are not some blank slate, some plastic dolly! They have FEELINGS. They have personality and individuality and, certainly MY SON has made it know from the day he was brought into this world that HE IS. So, don’t you tell ME that it makes no difference, it has no matter.

My Son matters. The love we share as a family, matters. Who my Son is, how he shows who he is, matters. His distress, matters. He is a PERSON. He may be a little person, a person just starting out who doesn’t know his ABC’s and math and such but, he has a soul and a heart and a mind and he KNOWS.

While he was crying his first cry on my chest, I praised and soothed him and, he quieted almost instantly. With his brilliantly innocent eyes, he peered at my face, heard my voice and listened and was soothed.

Now, you tell ME that babies don’t feel!

I hope to heaven that we NEVER have to go to the Hospital for Colin again but, if we do, you can take a bet for me that I won’t be meek and stand by and allow my Son to be subjected to such whims that cause pain because I won’t speak up for fear of being THAT MOM.

I’ll be THAT MOM all my life, for My Son.


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