I could also call this “Welderbeth Sees a Counselor: Round 2”
During The Baby’s last hospitalization, I was stretched to my limit. This GIF is an accurate representation of how I can handle high stress situations. I can look like a total badass until I suddenly don’t anymore.
And by fall all to pieces, I mean do things like hurl my phone across a hospital room after doctors have told us they “don’t know when he will go home but it won’t be soon” or literally weep all the way to the emergency room, taking a few deep gulps of air, before putting on my fake “time to interact with the doctor” face and pushing all of my feelings into the deep, deep recesses of my soul.
This suppression isn’t due to the fact that I’m afraid of being vulnerable. If you’ve been a reader for any length of time, I hope you know that I lay bare all my shit for the world to see in the hopes that someone else sees it and knows that they aren’t alone because I feel alone, ALOT.
No, I told my counselor at our first meeting this past week that I think my emotional numbness stems from necessity. If The Baby is hospitalized all of a sudden, then my family is thrown into upheaval. Someone has to be at the hospital at all times, Alex and I have to scramble to cover work schedules and someone has to get The Kid to and from school, in addition to all of the other things (homework, basketball practice, trombone club) that accompanies a life outside of a hospital room. When we are living in that chaos, I do not have time to be a weepy mess. There are doctors that need medical history and nurses that need to be annoyed by my incessant questions and general pushiness…ahem, I mean advocacy. Me being an emotional wreck helps no one when we’re living with our hair on fire.
And so, I numb it.
Being my counselor is quite easy because I’m pretty introspective and often come to realizations on my own. I realized this past week that, even when The Baby isn’t currently hospitalized, I still carry a tremendous amount of stress because I’m always expecting the next hospitalization just around the corner.
His last mid-February hospitalization involved a rash that confounded every medical personnel in Dallas. Last week, this weird spot showed up on his arm and my first thought was, “What the f is that?” and I got a knot in my stomach.
It is literally like living with a ticking time bomb who is also a cute sack of potatoes. That sounds dramatic but it’s the truth. Even though I thought I was ready for whatever Down Syndrome would bring into our life, I was not prepared for the trauma that a medically needy child brings to a family. I don’t know that you could properly be prepared. Maybe The Kid would be prepared as an adult since he’s living it right now but we try to shield him from the trauma as much as we can.
It is traumatic to show up to a regularly scheduled doctor visit and be sent immediately to the E.R. because the doctor says your son might be dying.
It’s traumatic to be driving to the ER and yelling at your older son in the back seat to pinch the baby so he doesn’t fall asleep because you don’t know if he will keep breathing when he sleeps.
It is traumatic to have hospital stays with an indeterminate discharge date. It is traumatic to not have any control or knowledge over when your life will go back to normal.
It is traumatic (for a serial people pleaser like myself) to have to consistently push back against doctors that are suggesting treatments that we don’t think he needs.
It is traumatic to have to do it over and over again, with no warning and little time to prepare.
I had to drive The Baby to the ER this last time because Alex had pink eye. Remember that? While I was sitting in the driveway, about to take the Baby to the ER for the 5th time in about 6 weeks, I was weeping and I told Alex, “I feel like there is nothing good in my life. There is nothing enjoyable or fun about the way that I am living right now. My entire life is doctors and homework and therapies and exhaustion.”
That’s a serious statement to make.
If you asked me today, of course I could use my brain to come up with plenty of things that are enjoyable and fun (my job, my friends, sometimes my kids, Alex, yoga). But the truth is that I carry alot of stress, even when I think I don’t. While I wish that it wasn’t, the high-stress levels are ever present.
We’re 3 weeks past the last hospital discharge and I thought I was handling things pretty well but I kid you not, the counselor’s first question on Wednesday was, “Tell me why you’re here” and I completely lost it. She only had one tissue in her tissue box (WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU, LADY?) so I literally wiped my leaking face on my shirt sleeve for 45 minutes.
I might look like I’m okay but I am not okay.
This might be hard to read because I think lots of people follow adoptive families because they want warm fuzzies and feel good stories. But the truth of the matter is that this is frickin’ hard. It’s hard. It’s so hard.
Some people might ask me, “Well, was it worth it?” Right? And it’s a good question.
I’m working on a blog about the feminine approach to spirituality but I want to make one point here. Masculinity is typically associated with transcendence and this is how the church has been run since many moons ago- historically and presently, churches want to amass political and social power, money, and prestige. It’s all about moving up the ladder, finding the Truth, #crushing your spiritual goals. It’s competitive.
A podcast that I listened to shared that feminine characteristics of religion tend to look alot more inclusive and alot messier. The feminine nature circles the wagons around hurt and need. Feminine nature doesn’t strive to achieve and #crush goals so much as get down into the shit and the every day life and find God there. Right? I mean breastfeeding moms of infants aren’t trying to achieve anything except maybe survival. There’s no pretense when you feel like your world is depending on you. There’s no long-term plans or strategic decision making when your life is like, “Eat. Feed child from my boob. Sleep.”
This is where I’m at. It feels as if my entire life is consumed with parenting and not fun parenting- the sucky kind that makes me wish that I drank alcohol or had a vice more serious than DQ. I’m waist deep in hard shit and most days, I struggle to see past it.
This is no way to live. And I say that with hope. Because here is what being waist deep in life-shit has taught me:
- to appreciate the days when no one goes to the hospital and no one completely loses their mind. to appreciate the boring days.
- a deeper appreciation for parents who aren’t as privileged as I am who are also waist deep with medically needy kids and a desire to do something to change the systems that make it so hard
- a vulnerability that deeply humbles me. While I might have approached parenting with an “I’m going to #crush it” attitude, I think it’s pretty clear who’s being crushed here.
- control is a total farce. I’m never in control of my life circumstances, even when I try my darnedest to be in control
Peter Rollins is a Christian philosopher that I’m following and he said something the other day that really made me feel very hopeful. The human condition is often on a pendulum swing from “Everything is great” to “Everything is terrible” but there is this sweet spot in the center where we can learn to say, “Everything is terrible, but it’s going to be okay”. And when you hit that sweet spot, you stop trying to control and rage against the world. You cede control and realize that this is just the way life is and then you can begin to really deal with it.
So, while I still feel crushed by the circumstances in my life right now, always tired, always a little sad, always stressed, I do have hope. Maybe I’m turning the corner into that third way to see things- the one that says, “Hey, your life might be hard but it doesn’t have to crush you”.
So, is it worth it? The chronic stress, the everpresent looming unknowns, the tears and the broken phone, the likely notes in The Baby’s medical record about his “pushy, emotional mother”? Yes. Because parenting these two boys has taken me deeper and farther than I ever would have gone with my fairy princess life where I could do whatever I wanted when I wanted. I am strangely both stronger and weaker as a result of having to face my inadequacies and utter lack of control.
Yes, it’s worth it.
So, I’m not okay. But it’s okay, guys. It’s okay that I’m not okay.