My daughter has an ongoing health issue. I don't write about it here. You might be surprised to know, given my compulsive over-sharing, that there are things that are just private. If she wants to write about her body someday, she can.
It's nothing fatal or devastatingly serious, so don't worry. It is nothing that will change the course of her life in giant strikes. She is, with a little perspective, really very okay. It is, in a cosmic sense, even something of an annoyance, rather than a crisis.
It is enough to kill me, though.
Every time she gets sick, I turn into a machine. My pistons pump and my electrical connections fire. I say, in a very calm voice, "Sit down by your sister, My Love. I'm just going to get dressed and call daddy, and we'll head to the doctor. I don't want you to worry, because everything is awesome and we will take such good care of you." I ask her to give me a hi-five, and hope that she doesn't notice how much my hands are shaking.
I tremble and my head spins, but I make it up the stairs without falling apart. I call Kurt at work and whisper-breathe to him, "I'm so worried. Oh, I'm so worried." I sob violently for a moment into a fist of blankets. He tries to talk, to undoubtedly tell me that she'll be fine, but I cut him off. I hate him, sitting at work under the air vents telling me that she will be fine. I know that. I KNOW THAT. I do. "I have to go," I snap at him.
He begs me for updates. I know I will be too worried to remember him, to have the capacity to pull my phone from my purse and type the tiny words.
IN WAITING ROOM.
WAITING FOR DOCTOR.
I will be able to call him once we're safe and together and buckled into the car with a prescription or a referral, to tell him that she is okay. That we made it through another appointment. I love him.
(Is there anything more terrible than having a sick baby?)
When my daughter is sick, I am a well of boiling poison. I don't want to talk. I don't want to get out of the house for a moment to relax. I don't want a bath or a warm cup of tea. No, I haven't eaten. I don't want to eat. I don't want to sleep. I tell Kurt I am going to bed early and leave him downstairs in the glow of the television with the volume turned down low.
I brush her red hair from her forehead, and she smiles in her sleep. I marvel over what a beautiful little thing she is, that even being disturbed while she is sleeping, she smiles. I curl up next to her and watch the rise and fall of her little chest. I marvel over how her face looks the same as the day she was born, in the moonlight.
In the morning, I wake up before anyone else so that I can scour the internet for information. I scare myself with these searches. I tell myself to stop, not to look, but I always look. I forget to eat and drink and suddenly the baby is awake and it's time to get ready for school. I carry the scary things with me. They flash and tingle around the edges of me, turning my stomach and making the walls close in, over breakfast.
I am a hot boiling well of poison and fear and panic. The air is full of sulfur. My heart is stuck at midnight. I fill and fill and fill with worry, gulping fear and stars and blood, choking myself on it. I fill up with worry and my stomach is a boiling hot center of poison and stars. The universe is so big and she is so tiny and she is everything.
When she is sick and I worry this way, I tell her, "Let's go pick out some clothes for Louisey and get dressed. We're going to spend every second of today having fun and being together."
And that's what we do.
I think of all the times I groaned when she woke up in the night, as a baby. All of the times I cursed having to load and unload her from her car seat. The times I told her, "Mommy just CAN'T, right now. Mommy needs some time, and some quiet." I hate all of those times. I hate myself for those times. I want to go back in time and slap myself hard on the cheek. "She is healthy and she loves you," I want to say to myself, in the past, the one who groaned over how everything was too hard. "Nothing is hard, yet. Nothing is scary, yet."
Sometimes, I want to shake people who don't have children, who have never murdered themselves with worry over a diamond snowflake in their hot and clumsy palm. "Tell me all of your worries," I want to say to them. "I would worry all of the worries of my life a thousand times over, to skip this one. Tell me yours, so that I can remember what worries were like, before the first time my child got sick."
(My childless friends will hate me for a moment, upon reading that last paragraph. They will accuse me of not respecting their lives, their choices, their pain. I believe in your pain, friends, and I want to shake you; rattle your brains and gobble up your loneliness and anxiety. I want to bathe myself in it, to remember it... the nights with a slew of knives to my veins. I want to do anything to get away from this worry. This one trumps everything. It is the only thing, and I am alone on an island. This one, when it shows up in the dark, is the only thing.)
It's just where I am, right now.
In a few days, things will calm down. I will breathe and eat too much at dinner time and laugh. I'll read a scary book in bed and the shadows from my book light will startle me. I'll take a walk, have sex, write a letter. There will be other things, again. I'll put on makeup, invite a friend over to talk. Right now, though, give me your hands.