Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fear

Every time I see something on Facebook or a blog about someone whose kid gets sick--be it a nasty puking incident or something far more serious/life-changing--I can't help but put myself in their shoes.  It's so awful to have a sick kid.  It's sad when they're not feeling well, inconvenient to stay home or find alternate care, hard to get a good night's sleep, and stressful when it's something that could potentially do real harm. 

The first time Jacob got a stomach bug we totally pulled the first-time parent panic and ended up taking him to the emergency room.  He was only 18 months old and he'd been puking all afternoon...which in retrospect really isn't that bad.  Kids puke for days sometimes.  But he was little and we'd never dealt with it before, and we were nervous that by the time we figured out he was dehydrated, it would be too late.  His last puke that day was right before we went to the hospital, and in the end he was fine.  But that afternoon was torture.  In addition to your child's misery, there's also the fear of getting it yourself.  Craig did, big time.  I ended up with some sort of other, milder stomach issue.  But it's so hard to parent when you're sick, so as much as you could pity yourself, it's more about wanting to make sure your child is taken care of regardless.

Having been down that road a few times now, I have an extra level of pity for other parents that go through it.  Just this morning a very pregnant friend posted that her son (I think he's two) puked all over her car this morning on the way to HER doctor to get checked for a long-lasting migraine.  I can't imagine being super pregnant and feeling like crap, and then having to deal with a destroyed car and a sick kid.  Ugh. 

But in the grand scheme of things, I know that a pukey kid is not a big deal.  Jacob's had plenty of other issues, from his long-lasting cough as an infant, to his reflux, to his mole removal, to his strep and pneumonia this past winter.  But again, as inconvenient and difficult as those issues were at times, it could be so much worse.

Earlier this week a friend of mine from college posted on Facebook that there was a Caring Bridge site for her three year old daughter, the fourth of her five kids.  I went to look at it, and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.  Her daughter had been experiencing vomiting and headaches for a few weeks, and after a number of inconclusive tests, they discovered that she had a small tumor on the back of her head near her spine.  The days since the discovery have been spent at the hospital, which is obviously difficult enough with a three-year-old, let alone with four other kids to care for as well.  Today she had surgery to remove the tumor.  It appears to have gone well, but she'll probably have radiation in her future, if not chemo as well.

There are so many things that have gone through my mind in the past few days.  First, I can't even fathom how I'd react to a situation like this.  I had my moments through all of Jacob's issues, but tried to stay calm and take things one day at a time.  But then again, none of his issues were completely life-threatening.  They don't know yet whether the tumor is cancerous, but I can't imagine how horrible the wait will be even now that the surgery's over, to know for sure what her future holds.  The strength it takes to go through something like this as a parent is just incomprehensible.  The mere thought of anything happening to Jacob, who is so full of life...well, I just can't even go there.  And I'm sure these parents are dealing with those same emotions, but in a much more real way.

Second, after hearing about this and seeing other things having to do with sick kids in the past few weeks, it really hit home that having another baby opens us up to all of the stress times two.  You're never really out of the woods, no matter the age of your child, but obviously babyhood is such a huge unknown because your child is so fragile and helpless.  It feels like a major accomplishment to come out of that period, and now we're about to go into it again.  Heck, next week's ultrasound has been all about the gender, but there's always a risk that they'll find more than we bargained for.  So, not only are we going to go through all of the crazy baby stuff again, but we're going to have two children roaming this earth to worry about.  We'll have two kids that will share illnesses (possibly at the same time!) and have to keep our eyes on two accident-prone little people at once.  Years down the road we'll have two kids in school and later two teenagers who will be faced with tough choices, and we can only hope to teach them enough in the coming years to ensure they will make smart decisions when the time comes.  But you can't control everything, and having another child just doubles the chances of something going wrong.  It also doubles your joy, of course, which is why people keep reproducing, but it's a scary prospect nonetheless.

The thing that really hit me today was the insane amount of support that they were receiving via social media.  Between their Caring Bridge page and Facebook, I can't even tell you how many people (including me) expressed their concern and offered to pray for them.  My suitemate from college set up 24 hours of prayer for them.  The outpouring of support has to be a huge help emotionally.  Given all of the "bad stuff" that people think about social media, it's amazing to see it do such a good thing.  In the old days it would be a church prayer chain of a handful of people, and now it's a worldwide effort of friends, friends of friends, and beyond.  Amazing.  So many of the people involved in this case were college friends, so it's nice to know there's a solid network out there in the event we need it.  It makes the prospect of dealing with the potential problems of two kids a little less scary.  It doesn't remove the fear of something happening to one of our children, but it's good to know we wouldn't go through it alone...on earth or otherwise.  The power of prayer is an awesome thing, and I will continue to pray that this little girl comes out of this healthy and completely healed.  And I throw in some prayers for my little family along the way, as well.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

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