Thursday, May 27, 2010

Extreme Motherhood: ER Edition

As a Phobic Mom, I have carefully confined myself to the minor leagues of motherhood. As in, I generally do not put myself in situations where a meltdown or vomiting binge would be catastrophic and/or situations where the amount of work I will have to put in exceeds the amount of entertainment Charlotte will get out. For instance, a trip to a nearby park with age appropriate equipment is OK; a trip to Disneyland is absolutely out of the question for another decade. I go to the grocery store alone (or we just eat chicken nuggets, which I buy once a year, in bulk, at Costco). I go to a church with a nursery (you could say I go to church FOR the nursery). I get on planes rarely, and only after drinking. I go out to eat NEVER. I do this not only because I am phobic and lazy, but because I find that Charlotte never appreciates the effort that goes into outings. Her grandmother and I took her to the National Aquarium in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and apparently, the reason we drove for over an hour, paid $20 for parking, paid another $50 to get in, and painfully carried all 30 lbs of her around for 4 hours (because those sadists don't allow strollers) was so she could say, "Go Home!" every 10 minutes. The most fun she had all day was going through her grandmother's purse at the dolphin tank. Which she could have done AT HOME, for free, and without causing me to rupture a disc. So that is where we mostly stay. Eventually, she starts climbing the walls and loses interest in all 539,221 of her toys, and I am forced to take her out of the house, but I consider this a fairly desperate measure.

Given that I think leaving the vicinity of my home is a major ordeal, a trip to the Emergency Room tests the outer limits of human survival in my mind, something akin to the Bataan Death March or being stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a volleyball and an ice skate. I have lived in fear and trembling of just such an occurrence ever since Charlotte was born. But, despite having quit breast feeding, Charlotte has been shockingly healthy, and I went over two years without having to experience the terror.

Last week, my luck ran out. In a big way. Not only did I have to take my child to the ER, I had to take her in the middle of the night. While my husband was overseas (probably on purpose). And I was pregnant. And I had a hang nail. Charlotte had been getting progressively more congested as the day went on, but she was desperately clinging to my legs and eating her chicken nuggets just like normal. By evening, her breathing was pretty loud, so I called her doctor, who asked me some questions and listened to her on the phone and said she thought she'd be OK. So I put her to bed and put on a movie. I went in to check her before I went to sleep, and she sounded kind of like Darth Vader. So I called the doctor's line, the nurse listened to her on the phone and told me to take her to the ER. Now, I must be the worst mother in the world, because my first thought was not, OMG I hope she's going to be OK but, OMG How am I going to survive a trip to the ER in the middle of the night, by myself, pregnant, and with this hangnail? I just knew it was going to destroy her sleep schedule and probably deny me of rest until she was in kindergarten. In my defense, my experience is that American medical professionals are some of the most cautious people in the world so that they don't get sued. My ex-OB (the one I fired for being a crazy Nazi) had me leave work and rush immediately to the hospital when I was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte for what turned out to be gas. So I was a little skeptical of the ER verdict. But what is a mom to do? Can you really afford to call their bluff? I imagined having to call Kevin in Turkey to tell him his baby girl had died because I just didn't have the strength for a visit to the ER. So I got Charlotte into the car and took her in. All by myself, pregnant, and with a hangnail. I felt an instant, spiritual connection to Angelina Jolie.

I will not detail every horror of what followed, but let me just pass on a very important lesson learned. If you have to take your child to the ER in the middle of the night, NEVER EVER assume that just because said child is supposedly deathly ill and would ordinarily be sleeping, they will do so at the ER, rendering toys and other entertainments unnecessary. This would be a tremendous error in judgment. If you make this mistake, you will almost certainly end up in what could be the next TV reality show, where the producers put you and a surprisingly lively small child in a small, sterile room with nothing but a pair of latex gloves, a vomit tray, and a few cotton balls, plus a bunch of other dangerous and/or breakable stuff, and challenge you to entertain the child for 4 hours straight. If you manage to stay calm and emerge with most of your hair still on your head, you win a trip back to your own bed. At 3 am. Still alone, still pregnant. At least you got the hangnail treated while you were there (which will cost your insurance company $439).

So I feel I am now at least in qualifying position for the upper echelons of motherhood. Although I think they only let breast feeders in there.

Charlotte is fine, by the way, and I am also recovering.

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