The other day, I took the boys to their yearly “well child” visits at the doctor’s office. They were given an overall good bill of health, and that’s all good. But since we had time to kill between all the nurse/doctor questions and required jags for each kiddo, the boys and I had a lot of time to chitchat.
I started describing to them the first time I ever felt the compulsion to willingly want to fully absorb someone else’s pain. My youngest was a few months old and I had to take him to the lab so blood could be drawn for some kind of test. The way he cried when he got stuck with the needle just broke my heart. I had the strongest urge to tell the lab tech to just stick me instead. I realized later that such a desire in me was new. I’m not known to volunteer for anything where I know I’ll feel pain, and yet there I was, wishing so bad it was me getting stuck with that needle.
(And FYI, I’m sure I had these same feelings after our first child was born, but I don’t remember him being all traumatized from similar experiences so I think I just didn’t recognize yet that I had gained this protective “mother hen” instinct. And Gerald, do not feel obliged to share the story about how I let our youngest’s stroller roll into the totally quiet neighborhood street because there was a bee buzzing around my head.)
When my oldest was four and a half, his appendix burst and he had to stay in the hospital for almost a full week after the emergency surgery. Towards the end of the week, Gerald noticed our son’s IV’d hand was starting to get puffy. He alerted the nurse and she informed us they’d have to insert a new IV needle. The vein was too worn out and a new vein would have to be used. I hadn’t been calling our son my anorexic four year old for nothing. He wasn’t eating or drinking. The only thing giving him any real nutrition at the time was his IV. No matter how much Gerald and I, or others who came to visit bearing lots of tempting goodies, tried to get that kid to eat, it just wasn’t working. I suppose the IV pumped antibiotics put the kibosh on his appetite. I found out just how stubborn a four year old could be.
Anyway, the lack of food and drink caused my son’s veins to not be so “plump.” The nurses needed to put in a new line, but how are you going to find a vein to use if you can’t find a vein to use? Do you see where this is headed? My son had to have been stuck with a needle about 20 times that day, trying in vain to find a vein (see how I did that there?). They tried his wrists, the top of his hands. Then they moved to trying his feet. He was screaming and crying, and I was full on crying as well. I started to cry when retelling this story to the boys while waiting at the doctor’s office, and I’m starting to tear up now just writing about it. It was miserable. How I wanted them to stick me with that needle instead! I would have taken his place in a second if I could have.
Then there was the time when my youngest was about two or three, and he was due for some routine vaccinations at the pediatrician’s office. It was a pretty uneventful visit, until we got to the very end when the nurse came in with the materials for his immunization shots. Oh yeah, all hell broke loose. The adults in the room had to catch my son, who had taken to darting all around the room, and physically hold him still while the shots were administered. This escapade bothered me because it hit me that if an adult wanted to do some serious harm to my child, they could. In the end, a toddler isn’t going to win against the strength of an adult. Yeah, so that’s a thought that kept me up at night. I mean, I already had a healthy fear of one of my kids getting injured while playing or being hit by a car or some other horrible tragedy. But then, on top of that, the fear of child abduction now came into a clearer focus.
But as time has marched forward, and my boys have grown older and are more mature (hmm..) and stronger, I’ve found the baby and toddlerhood parental feelings have waned. Don’t get me wrong, of course I still cannot stand to see my children suffer through any physical ailments/injuries, but new fears/worries/emotions have cropped up and have taken more of the center stage. For instance, when you realize one stupid mistake your child makes during adolescence can literally affect the rest of their life, that’s a hard pill to swallow right there. And I can’t describe the anger I feel when I know some other kid has done something mean to one of mine.
Before becoming a parent, I never would have guessed I’d experience all these strong emotions. I suppose new life experiences, like the challenges of parenting, can do that to a person.