Having a sick kid takes practice. We’re two years in and I feel like we’re still working at it. (Like, I had to go back and change some I’s to we’s in that last sentence because even two years in, I still default to seeing it as a solo thing. It’s not.) I know this might seem discouraging, but give me a minute and I think you’ll see the value of realism in this approach.
We just got out of the hospital, or back out, rather. Three days in the PICU with rhinovirus this time—a cake walk compared to the original 151 days we spent in the NICU. This wasn’t the first unexpected admission we’ve had since coming home in September 2016, and I know it won’t be our last. Each time, I carry with us the weight of every day spent there before.
But this time, that extra baggage was mostly knowledge, simple, straightforward facts. She’ll have to wear her puls ox at all times, and heart monitor leads, and probably a blood pressure cuff. They’ll put an IV in her right away. She will hate it and so will you. It will be warmer than you expect. It will be dry—bring lotion, bring chapstick, bring your water bottle. And ask them to give her fluids if she isn’t drinking—she has that IV after all, might as well use it. You won’t sleep well at night, so you better nap if she naps. Bring the iPad. The cost of parking is greater than the freedom it provides. The dogs will be fine. You can say no to visitors. And most importantly, she will be okay.
Therapy and meds and hours upon hours of self reflection have helped me weed out the trauma and the triggers.
Our girl started feeling bad Monday afternoon and by 10:30 pm we were in the ER waiting on a transfer up to the PICU. We knew it would be hard, but that we needed to go. We knew it was most likely just a cold, but that we needed some extra help regardless. A year ago, I wouldn’t have “known” any of that. I mean, technically, yes. But knowing something, and being able to not only recall it, but trust it in the midst of fear and panic, that’s two different things.
I took care of our girl first and foremost, but I also took care of myself. I happily let the nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists do what they do so well. I asked for and accepted help. I stayed hydrated. I got almost enough sleep. I didn’t get mad at my husband for not being there with us all day. (PICU rooms are small and always crowded. Hospital stays are expensive. Our family’s hospital mode functions best when I’m on the ground and he’s running interference.) I kept in mind that she got this cold from me and that I was still fighting it myself. And when our beloved primary home care nurse showed up just 8 hours after we got home on Thursday, I gave her the biggest hug, all the tiny details, and then immediately started planning a Friday full of self care, which included writing this. You see, our daughter’s condition is hers, all hers. I am not a victim here. Yes, when she’s in the hospital, so am I, but just as her job is to get healthy, my job is to stay healthy. I am a mom, not a martyr.
Having a sick kid takes practice. It will change you as individuals and change most of the relationships in your life. Like always, that change can be painful, but believe me when I tell you that it’s almost always necessary. And having a kid, your first or your fourth, healthy or less so, it’s something that always brings changes. You’ll renegotiate the terms of your relationship. You’ll take on new roles. You’ll learn to separate facts from feelings, and to honor both. You can do this. In time, you’ll find your own way of doing this. Just be patient, these things take practice.