Abigail has been in the throes of a nasty virus. There have been catheters, late nights, no eating, blood work and lots and lots of screaming and crying.
There is nothing so simultaneously nerve-fraying and heart-breaking as a sick child. There’s nothing they can do, little you can do, and to top it all off, there is their absolute incomprehension as to what is happening to and around them. Their mushy-at-best coping skills help little – especially when, as was the case with Abigail Sunday, you’ve been forced to wear a mask over your face as soon as you enter the pediatric ER and you can’t get your pudgy little thumb into your mouth.
Her fever seems to abated, at least the insanely high one that she’s had, and there are signs she’s on the mend. She’s still not herself, but then neither are we.
Yesterday morning, after I’d walked in from working out, I was greeted with the sounds of shrieking and inconsolable weeping from Abigail. Typically she sleeps till about 7, so to hear her awake and loud before 6 was a shock to the system. Mine, of course.
Without missing a beat I swooped in and ran upstairs, barked at my husband to get some socks and shoes on Abigail, grab her sweater and get her bundled. In 55-degree weather, and me in running shorts, hoodie and sneakers, I was taking that cranky-ass baby for a long walk in the stroller.
“You should take a shower, get completely ready and empty the dishwasher,” I ordered as I clumsily and hurriedly got Abigail into her stroller. As if somehow Scott would have done anything else.
I nearly forgot her Cheerios. My coffee. With every not-misstep-that-felt-like-one, “fuck” burst out of my mouth as if it had been coiled in position for days, waiting, biding its time to take off and stretch its legs. And, in some ways, it was.
Despite the nearly 19 months – Jesus, nearly two years – that have passed since I gave birth to Abigail, and the subsequent weeks and months of postpartum depression that followed, I still have triggers. I’d like to tell you that I have perspective and wisdom about babies, but not always. I mean, I’m not judging other parents in stores when their kids are screaming, and I don’t fret and dread the night. When Abigail squawks in the middle of the night, I have faith that she will go back to sleep.
I used to look at those occasions as a time to panic over the fact that I’d obviously given birth to the only human who WOULD NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.
But when she is sick and rightfully upset because she is sick and I am powerless to do anything but frantically organize and clean anything I can get my hands on while she naps, I momentarily lose my sense of reality.
And then she howls and screams and we might as well be in Week Four of parenthood for all the ability I have to act like the parent in the relationship. Her cries level me. I get dizzy. Anxious. My blood races, my head throbs. I need everything to stop. I need calm or everything will be over and done.
My brain in those moments, even if only for a few moments, is a rough place to be.
After our walk we’d both calmed down and found our happy places. On the walk I drank some coffee and listened to the news, my morning routine somewhat restored. Abigail got some fresh air and the chance to see some puppies playing in the park. I’d told Scott later that I was sorry, that when AG hits a fever pitch, no pun intended, something stirs inside of me that is so dark, so sad, so desperate that it takes me a few moments to pick myself up, dust off the memories of the past and remember that we’re not the only family in the world with a sick, cranky baby. I’m not the only mother, only person, on earth and guess what? It could always be worse.
When I got home last night, after a long day at work, and Abigail was still cranky and irritable, I strapped her into the stroller for a walk down the street to the grocery store. I wanted wine, we needed milk. I’d hoped that the walk would help AG and her mood since typically it does.
No dice, really, though some of the flat-out crying and screaming was done. She rubbed her eyes on the way back, a sure sign that sleep was eminent. As we approached our house, Scott was getting out the car. I won’t lie, I handed her to him. We all made our way into the house. Within 20 minutes, he’d taken over Abigail duties and gotten her to sleep. I poured a glass of wine.
She slept through the night. She was still a bit cranky, but filled with kisses and desires for snuggles with Mama when she woke up this morning.
I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, except that the PPD has an impact on me still, even so long after the fact. I still have moments that are less-than-graceful, and still need too many personal time outs in order to cope with the fact that raising a human being can be exhausting and I’m not completely equipped to do it without showing my slip now and again.
Then again, I suppose that’s the case for all of us.