Saturday, January 26, 2013

Balancing Act

Let me start this by saying first off that I know that all parents face some of these issues, so please don't think that I don't know that two parent households (especially those with multiple kids!) face a lot of what I talk about below on a daily basis.  However, this knowledge that I am not alone, doesn't really make me feel any less alone.  I hope that makes sense to you.

Munchkin is asthmatic, in the grand scheme of childhood diseases, not so bad, I get that, and I am grateful. However, when his lungs get inflamed, Murphy's law applies. Now I am Irish, so I should be used to Mr. Murphy by now, but really, I wish he would go take a vacation and never bother our family again!

Since mid-December Munchkin has had: Strep Throat, Influenza A, Pneumona, we had roughly 7 days of "better" (meaning breathing treatments were only every 6 to 8 hours instead of every 3 hours!) then we had another strain of Influenza, 2 days of "better" and now viral pneumonia and RSV (for those not acquainted with respiratory stuff, the last two pretty much go together and are bad for a normal kid, for an asthmatic kid--usually results in a multi day hospital stay, at least with us!)

So since December I have lost track of the number of times we have seen or called our pediatrician.  Let me tell you, he is awesome and very well acquainted with us! He is patient and empathetic to Munchkin-from experience, not all pediatricians are so I count that as a huge blessing!

Here is the kicker, when we got admitted to the hospital early in the week, I was genuinely caught off guard.  I did not bring supplies to entertain him, changes of clothes for either of us, or even my laptop to do some work.  I really thought that when the nurse called back and said that doctor wanted to listen to him, that he would take a listen to his lungs, maybe adjust one of his meds and send us home.

When the doctor said that he needed to be admitted, I just went with it, I didn't have Robert here to tell me it would be OK.  I needed to swallow my feelings and reassure munchkin that it would be ok, that we would put some "superhero strength medicine in his arm and he would get better quick".  Mind you he is 5, needles are scary for him, IV's are no fun, and he was running a high fever and not able to breathe.  Thankfully, I did think to grab my "doctor office" bag, so I had a "blankie" for munchkin, a few books to read to him, a toy car and a pad of paper to entertain him.  That is it.  No games, no movies, no legos, not anything more to occupy him for more than about ten minutes at a time....and certainly not enough to entertain him for four long days. 

But really here is the thing, when you have a two parent household, you have someone on your side. You are a team, you can take turns comforting you child when they come to give him a treatment or coax him to cooperate when they want to listen to his lungs or any thing else that needs doing. In theory you have two voices to advocate for your child, and two people to look at idiots who suggest that you give a five year old a COUGH DROP to stop his wheezing---right, cause cough drops eliminate inflammation in the lungs and are not a choking hazard when a kid is coughing and wheezing so badly he cannot even speak....and let me tell you, Robert had a much better "ARE YOU AN IDIOT??" look than I do.   Maybe it is because he was a teacher and actually calling middle school and high school students an idiot is generally frowned upon, therefore he had more practice??  I don't know, I tend to revert to sarcasm.

We were very blessed with some phenomenal pediatric nurses that engaged him and made this whole thing as comfortable as possible for him.  He literally only threw one fit.  In the middle of the night, one of the nurses came in to do his vitals and he was only half awake and he fought her off like a NINJA!  Literally, she had gently grasped his wrist to take his blood pressure and was met with instinctive kicking and blocking and screaming that he has learned in TaeKwonDo to be able to get away from adults.   I'll go with being thankful that he has that instinctive reaction and feel better that he can defend himself, I did feel bad for the nurse who got kicked and made sure I was the one who called his name from there on out when he was sleeping so that he didn't have the same reaction.   I will file that story for a later date when I am sure it will be hilarious. 

The entire time we were there, I did not leave his hospital room.  Robert was not there to tell me to go and find some coffee--thankfully, we have added a few people to the "I really mean it when I ask you what I can bring you" category of friendship.  I am eternally grateful that as my support system modulates, it appears to be expanding for the crisis mode.  I was blessed with friends who supplied me with coffee, munchkin with coloring books and other activities to pass the time.  Family who came to visit us.  I know I am truly lucky to have people who are willing to help me.

The way that the local hospital handles kids is that your pediatrician is the primary doctor but then they have pediatricians on the floor that round on the kids hourly if needed, but at least twice a day.  We stayed on hourly to every two hours up until he turned the corner on the last day.  But they are not familiar with us, and they are not familiar with Munchkin.  Every time a new one came in "Mom, you look exhausted, can Dad come and let you have a break?" Thankfully, munchkin has my tact and wit---"Doctor, Daddy can't come back from Heaven!"  Which resulted in that shock followed by pity face, followed by "I'm so sorry, what happened?" Followed by me holding back tears "He died in a car accident, how is munchkin doing?"  Becuase really, we are here to get munchkin better, not to talk about my sad pathetic circumstances, ok? Having your child lying in a big hospital bed, feeling so crummy that they don't even move, joke or laugh, really that is torture enough for a parent, let's not relive other horrors, and there is no need to remind me that I am exhausted and alone, trust me I don't forget that-EVER!

Now the irony here, is that from talking to my other friends who have had kids in the hospital, usually one stays there and the other works or takes care of the other kids, so really having just mom there should not have been all that unusual.  

Now here is the other thing.  I am our sole income and sole support.  That means that FMLA (unpaid) isn't really an option.  So I have to maintain a work presence while still devoting my energy to Munchkin who needs his mommy, thankfully, I can do work at any time of the day, so that gets done between midnight and 3 am.   You know, once munchkin has calmed down enough from the steroids to pass out and get some sleep....instead of sleeping when he does, I have to boot up my laptop and dig in.  At least to make sure that the bare necessities are covered and hope that I'm not so sleep deprived that I make a mistake that comes back to bite me at a later date. 

So here I am, five days later.  We are home and I am extremely grateful.  My pipes froze, and my brothers dealt with them, installed a heater and thermostat in my crawl space so we should not have to deal with that again (THANKFULLY).  My mom cooked some nutritious food for us and went shopping and filled my fridge, I have three friends that have offered to run and do anything that needs doing, my brother shoveled my sidewalk and driveway and I have most of our laundry done.   But here is the thing.  We are still on breathing treatments every three hours around the clock.   So there really isn't much time for either of us to get much sleep...although he did pass out last night and slept for 7 hours and I just put the mask over his face.   But I am home alone with him, no one to give me a hug, tell me munchkin will be ok, tell me to go take a shower and a nap, tell me to relax.  It is just me and munchkin fighting through as best we can and praying that this is our last bout of this mess for a long while.  

And all the time that I am doing this and caring for us, I have to make sure that I keep up with work as well.  I know that I am blessed to be in a job that allows me to provide for us, but sometimes I just wish that it was not all on my shoulders, and at that time I think about one of my favorite quotes "When life is too much to stand, KNEEL!"  and I pray.  I thank God for all the blessings that he has bestowed on us and I ask him to continue to provide for us and I give my struggles for him.   I cannot change my circumstances, I cannot bring Robert back, I cannot make munchkin not have these lung issues, I cannot heal my broken heart, I can only have faith that God willl continue to provide for us.  I hold on to that faith to sustain me and know that tomorrow is another day.