Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sick Baby

Zachary is sick. He’s a fairly tough kid, rarely breaking down over a physical wound or ailment. As a baby, he would bang into a corner, suffer a huge lump, but never cry.

Or slow down.

When he was almost three, he needed to have surgery on a small hernia. He was, and still is, a generally shy kid in a new circumstance. Sitting in a hospital ward with his two moms, funny yellow slipper socks and a Johnny on was clearly a moment to give pause. When they gave him the little purple drink though, he suddenly became chatty.

With everyone.

Jeanine is the calmer of the two in our marriage, at least that’s the story everyone believes. But when they wheeled Zachary down to surgery, she whispered, you go. I held his hand, listened to him gab with the nurses. He looked so small on the gurney. Part of me was terrified I’d lose him, most of me knew better. The anesthesiologist covered his face with the mask and kept him talking for the few seconds it took before Zachary was out. I remember squeezing his hand just before and saying, I’ll be right here when you wake up.

And I was. The nurses advised he might be groggy or cry when he woke up. Zachary just woke up. Ready to go. Keep him quiet, they said as we brought him home. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Within two hours of getting home, he was tearing around the house after Ben. I worried about his stitches; the fresh wound but was relieved his eyes were bright. There seemed to be no bad side effects from the anesthesia.

When Zachary walked out to the playground yesterday after school, he told me his throat hurt. His voice was garbled and he came up and leaned against me. This does not happen on the playground under normal circumstances.

The boy was hot. I knew he had a fever.

In the middle of the night last night, Jeanine got up and gave him some Advil. His fever was back and he complained of not being able to breathe- his throat too sore and nose too clogged. Jeanine tucked him in and came back to bed. Within a minute, I heard him still struggling to breathe- I knew he was afraid it would not stop. I went in and sat behind him in his bed and had him lean back against me.

The rough coughing stopped.

It hurts, he whispered.

I know. I’m right here. Just close your eyes. You need to be sitting up.

Eventually, he fell asleep.

It was three thirty in the morning and as I held him I remembered something really important. All the different jobs I have had, the different people I have touched, none are as important as my children.

Last week I applied for a job. I don’t know what will happen, whether or not I’ll get very far in the process. It was a door, in a line of many that I have in front of me. Choices of different paths to take. As I peek into each, I have to remember one thing; it may not be revered in our culture, it may not pay and it may not look sexy on the city census, but being a mother is the most important thing in the world to me.

Zachary is a tough kid. He could have gotten home by himself yesterday. Crawled into bed, knowing he didn’t feel well. He’s not a baby anymore.

Jeanine may appear to be the rock in this family but my boys know better. In the middle of the night, they go to her side to sneak a forbidden snooze in our bed. But when they’re sick, I’m the one who calms the painful cough and rubs their back. I’m the one holding their hand in the operating room and again in the recovery room.

And when we walked home together, my arm around him, and his head against my shoulder? It was the only place in the world I wanted to be.


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