I want to be the one to soothe her and wipe away her tears when she cries

The title of this post is taken from a blog post.

Let me start out by saying that the following is in no way aimed at denigrating the author of the blog. My intention here is to provide a little reality into what it means to “be there for your kids”.

The post is an interesting read about how the writer, Joanna, does not wish to be labeled as a “feminist”. The line I have used as the title caught my eye because I want to relate to you the reality of “soothing your child’s ills”.

Let’s be clear, I’m not mocking would be parents. I had that same child-like innocence about parenthood before I became “Daddy”. Joanna is noble and touching in her sentiments and to me at least she sounds like she would make a good parent, i.e. someone who actually gives a damn about their child (seriously, you don’t need to do anything else, but that doesn’t make being a parent easy).

Unfortunately the reality of being there for your children quickly strips away any innocence you once dreamed of for parenthood.

My second son, who is nearly 1 year old was born with only a single working kidney, the other is known as a “dysplastic kidney”. In essence the kidney tissue rebelled when the kidney was forming and now it’s a strange mass lurking in his abdomen. Apparently the condition is very common, not life threatening and people often only find out they a single working kidney when they have an ultrasound or are involved in an accident. I could write another two thousand words about the condition and the things we have gone through but that’s not the point of this post.

Over the past weekend my kidney challenged son was running a high fever and periodically vomiting for no discernible reason. It started on the Friday evening and by the Sunday night it showed no sign of abating and his temperature was creeping steadily higher. Naturally we were concerned about his strange condition and so took him down to the hospital. Note: we had been advised, when he was born and given his quirky medical status, that we should bring him straight to the hospital if we were concerned or if he exhibited strange symptoms.

We waited to see a doctor for three hours since he wasn’t considered a priority Initially the doctor thought it was an ear infection. We breathed a sigh of relief, an ear infection is easy to treat, has nothing to do with his kidney, hurrah we thought, give us some pills and we can go home. However, they also wanted to rule out a urinary tract infection so they wanted to get a “clean catch” (basically I had to hold a cup over his penis and wait for him to urinate) so they could test for bacteria. So, there we stood, in the Emergency department, taking turns at holding a little plastic cup over his private.

Then his fever disappeared, he went from 39.6C to 37C in the space of a couple of minutes. Was this a sign he was getting better or worse? We told a passing nurse. She was rather busy though and made a joke of it. Now as all parents know, you develop a spider sense with your kids, a kind of internal worryometer that fires when you detect that something is wrong with them. Until now we’d been concerned but the worryometer had been firmly in the green, now as Rebecca and I exchanged worried glances I felt mine starting to creep up towards amber.

Then around midnight another doctor arrived, basically the boss of the first doctor we saw. He checked him and said it definitely wasn’t an ear infection and asked us whether the strange mottling on his legs was normal? No we replied, the worryometer was now firmly out of green and rapidly lunging through amber. What made matters worse was that my son had produced no urine at all, not even a drop. The doctor now decides that it would be best to stick a catheter into him to get some urine out since the mottling could indicate an infection in the pelvis area.

We all go to to another room and a friendly male nurse gives the little chap’s bladder a scan and it seems to show there is something in there. With some difficultly he puts the catheter in but nothing comes out. My son is now looking very scared and confused about all the people around him despite our best efforts to reassure and calm him. The doctor decides to put a needle directly into his bladder to see if he can get something, but still no urine can be found. This is doubly strange because he always has a bottle before bedtime and so you would think that something would be there.

As you can imagine the needle on our worryometer has now spun past red and is doing frantic laps around the dial. It’s now difficult for us to hide our concern and fear from our son who is six hours past his bedtime, in a strange place and has various strangers keep doing awful things to him. The doctor decides to put a canula in his leg and draw some blood so they can do some tests. Once that’s done, we dutifully return to waiting for the clean catch to appear, a fresh cup in hand.

Three hours pass, still no urine and they decide to keep him in. The blood tests are back and there is no sign of any infection. It looks like it could be a viral infection but they want to be sure.

Now just as an aside, there are two things I noticed whilst waiting for hours in that emergency department. Firstly hospitals, I’ve come to realise are like mini cities, they have hundreds of people working every day to make sure the hospital runs smoothly, from food, to care, transportation and communication. Every member of staff knows their job and does so with a quiet smooth efficiency (at least from the point of view of visitors). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the medical staff are obsessed with making you healthy again. I am pretty sure that if Idi Amin, Stalin or Hitler were submitted to the hospital with mortal wounds then the staff would feel compelled, regardless of their personal feelings, to do their up most to save their lives. It is an astounding thing to watch and my meager faith in humanity is raised a fraction whenever I have to visit a hospital.

Exhausted I go home to relieve the grandparents who, after being called upon at very short notice, are looking after son number 1. Rebecca stays with number 2. At 5am I return home, tired and worried beyond belief. But I don’t sleep, son number 1 rises at 5.15am and I need to fill in the grandparents who themselves are naturally worried. I try explaining to son number 1 about the situation but he’s only 4 and these things can be difficult to describe to one so young, the inadequacy of my explanation irritates me. The grandparents leave (for a flight, they have a holiday booked, talk about a confluence of bad timing) and I cobble together a makeshift bed in front of the TV, put on a Bob the Builder DVD as an impromptu baby sitter, sit my son down next to me and lie next to him to try and get some sleep.

At 9am I get a call from Rebecca, they can’t find anything wrong with my son but they know he’s ill, very ill. The new shift doctors are worried that his disappearing fever could be symptomatic of Meningitis so they are going to do a lumbar puncture to double check. Now I was worried before but my worryometer has decided to get up and leave since it’s no longer able to keep up with how I’m feeling. The word “meningitis”, understandably so, strikes terror into the heart of every parent. The fact that your child can go from perfectly “healthy” and normal to dead in a handful of hours is a fear that stalks the dark corners of your mind. My heart crumbled and in a matter of milliseconds every terrible and dreadfully possible scenario flashed through my mind. For the next three hours I was unable to think clearly the worry was so great. It wasn’t until the next phone call from Rebecca did my worry start to fall from the extreme heights it had reached. He was in the clear, but the experience was terrible for both of them, one of the worst Rebecca had ever gone through she said (and we’ve had our fair share of worries and late night hospital visits with son number 1).

However, he was clear of meningitis but they wanted to keep him in because his lack of urine was still a cause for concern.

And now I think I’ll leave my little tale at that point. In short, my son was in hospital for a further two days but soon returned to his feisty, independent self again. They never did identify what was wrong, we all chalked it up to a viral infection.

So what is the point of all this? A number of times in the past four years, I have been caught out by the intensity, stress and worry that go along with raising children. Most of the time your child may just have the sniffles and yes you can wipe away their snot and give them a hug to make them feel better. But sometimes, too frequently in fact, they are staring up at you with pain and anguish wracking their little faces and your impotence and inability to take away their suffering breaks your heart. You are supposed to protect them and you’ve failed and you have no way to explain why you have had to put them through a dreadful ordeal. This is a reality that we do not talk about as parents, we dare not because sometimes reality is too awful to contemplate but it is something that would be parents, I think, need to know.

Joanna you have your heart in the right place, but sometimes raising children is so hard and so painful that you pause and wonder whether it really is worth it.

Thankfully it is
Thankfully it is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.