I am aware that there are far too many confessions out there these days, and that most of you are probably sick of reading them. Confessions of workaholics, shopaholics, alcoholics, sexaholics and other forms of addictions you can possibly conjure up in your imaginative heads. But in the spirit of pursuing deeper authenticity (I did specify that as one of my goals for 2013), I feel that I owe it to myself and to you, my amazing Catharsis friends, to come clean and talk about something that has been consuming me for God knows how long.
I am a super-duper-ultra-paranoid parent to the max, especially when it comes to my son's health. I profess my deep loathing for this personal trait, and honestly think that I need help. So if you are a Mom reading this, I’m begging you to read on and share your thoughts below. More than anything, I would like to hear how you might be handling your world differently. Or if you are like me, then you'd certainly be doing me a favor just to let me know I'm not alone in all this. If you're not a parent, I would certainly still love to hear your perspective. You might just be the one I need to rescue me out of this insanity. I perpetually say that I would give anything to finally find my way to Zen land, but as with most things in life, this one's far easier said than done, unfortunately.
My BFF insists I've now become a germaphobe and though I reject the idea, I think she might be at least just a tad right. (Is the voice of denial so obvious?) We (as in mostly my son and I) still touch things when we go out somewhere, but we sanitize as soon as we get in the car. I also insist that as soon as my son steps into the house after each school day, he head straight to the powder room to wash his hands with soap and water. I remind him to cough inside his arm, avoid constantly touching his face or mouth when he's in school, never put anything in his mouth that has landed on the ground and other common sense things that experts remind us to do to avoid illnesses. Admittedly, I am scared being around crowds and people who I know are presenting with symptoms. Actually, I'm not scared for me, but for my son but it doesn't make sense to leave myself unprotected when I'm constantly around him as well. I hate it and feel imprisoned by it but when I think of the alternative, I always feel like I’m left with not much choice.
My 5-year old picks up on illnesses quite easily, you see. Though I know I may be over-reacting (you think??), I can’t help but feel like almost every cold turns into a bad cough and then fever. We’re lucky when it stops there. But can you really blame me for being overprotective when this boy has had severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia in the past, which have led to a hospitalization and numerous visits to either the ER or the urgent care facility? The slightest sniffle or clearing of his throat can send me on a mental and emotional tailspin and it’s not pretty.
As of January 2012, I have kept a journal of all of my son’s illnesses. Complete with dates and times, I made it a point to record every symptom (mostly respiratory), medication taken, as well as abnormal body temperatures. I figured it was necessary to collect real data so that I will not only remember his symptoms but also the way each disease progressed. If I wanted to see patterns, then I certainly needed a record of everything, right? At the end of the year, it also gave me a good picture of how often he really got sick, as opposed to just me saying, “Oh he gets sick a lot”. I needed to realistically quantify and be as accurate as one can be. A bit much? Well, I have my Sociology training to blame. Go figure!
All this data collection proved useful when I brought him to his pediatrician the last time he got sick last December. I’m pretty sure there were a million thought bubbles going on in the doctor’s head when I pulled out a summary sheet of this ‘illness journal’ but I didn’t care. I needed to show her that I had real data and needed her to tell me if all this was cause for concern. Was there anything unusual? Is there anything wrong with my son’s immune system? That was my real fear. I told her we are doing all that is recommended --- being clean, trying to eat well, sleep well, etc. --- and yet still quite frequently catching all these bugs.
The doctor assured me that my son is consistently growing (weight and height) and that if there was anything wrong with his immunity, that would be one area that will definitely be affected. She also said it’s common to catch close to 10 bugs per season (when all along I thought it was 10 per year). I know that this sounds a bit whiny to some of you considering you might have had to deal with numerous strep infections, ear infections, and other far more serious illnesses. But I feel for my son how each parent feels for their child…pure love for one who is the world to them. Everything is magnified, nothing is unimportant.
I read from somewhere before that being a parent feels like having your heart outside your body. This is very true, isn’t it? I have never felt this much vulnerability, this much love but at the same time fear. I constantly think of the world and how life is changing, the viruses and bacteria becoming more virulent in each passing year, while our bodies are becoming more resistant to medications.
On the upside, the sense of helplessness and overwhelming fear have brought me back to prayer. God and I have been ‘weird’ since my 2010 miscarriage but slowly, I have found my way back to the sense of comfort that prayer brings. If anything, I know that it forces me to go within and alter the stream of negative thoughts that drown me at times. It gives me a sense that there is greater energy beyond me that I can access and rely on. On sleepless and restless nights, the repetitive prayers never fail to lull me to sleep. If only for that, I am grateful. Any semblance of peace, no matter how momentary, is always welcome especially since I still haven’t gotten around to getting myself a personal valium drip.
So, yes, I need help. How do you not lose your mind when your little one gets sick? How do you cope? How do you manage to exhale? Is there something in the Motherhood 101 manual that I missed? Is there a secret mantra that sane and zen parents know? Or does my genetic coding simply not have the capability to recognize balance? I am looking forward to reading your perspective on this, and thank you in advance!