Perspective

June 28, 2006 at 11:45 am (Uncategorized)

Last night was a terrible night. A horrible night. A night of feeling helpless and worried and scared.

Andrew caught some variation of the flu, and around 3 AM he spiked a fever in the vicinity of 104 degrees. We gave him Tylenol; we gave him Advil; we pumped him full of fluids and put a cold washcloth on his forehead. And his fever would not budge.

Jay and I are still figuring out this parenting thing. Should we dash him to the emergency room? Call his pediatrician in the middle of the night? Make a burnt offering in the hallway? While Jay held Andrew and made the universal clucking sounds that parents make when they’re comforting their children, I read the children’s health guide that has proved to be the single best baby present in the history of the world. Don’t totally freak out, the book said (though slightly more eloquently than that), your kid’s brain is not going to fry unless his temperature goes to 106.

I’ll give it a half an hour, I thought, and held my hot bundle of boy as he whimpered and shivered. The cat circled him, acting pretty worried herself, before finally nestling up against him. About twenty-nine minutes into the allotted thirty, Andrew’s fever dropped to 102. I took a breath, and realized every muscle in my body was clenched.

This is the normal stuff of parenting. Kids get sick; they run high fevers; they make their parents crazy with anxiety. And Andrew was such a sweet little patient. He asked for his favorite stories and then embellished them along with me in a voice as pure as a choirboy’s. He fell asleep around seven o’clock, and finally woke up after noon. He is still sick, but better.

There is nothing like helplessly watching the person you love most in the world suffer to make you realize how trivial the rest of your concerns are. As Andrew shook and shivered, I had a couple of moments of absolute clarity and pure love. I would do anything for this small person– anything. I have been stressed about whether to fly to Jay’s brother’s wedding on Friday while I’m still recovering from pneumonia. I have been stressed about work projects and being away from Jay. I have been stressed about the sarcoidosis and my prednisone taper and my pneumonia. Five minutes with feverish Andrew in my arms drove home to me that everything in my life is small in scale next to this little man. He towers over chronic illnesses, deadlines, and family obligations.

Perspective is one of the things you shed first with a chronic illness. Lurching from health crisis to health crisis, feeling uniformly crummy on a good day, getting dire news that later gets reinterpreted by another doctor. It’s like living in or looking at the world as pre-Renaissance painters created it, before they had developed the technique of perspective. Everything looks oddly close; the scale is wrong. Stare too long at one of these paintings and you’ll start to feel a little seasick.

Andrew restored my perspective last night. He is fine; Jay is fine; I am fine. It’s a better way to look at the world.

2 Comments

  1. Mellissa Welford said,

    I just wanted to say sorry that you are still feeling under the weather. But wanted to thank you very much for these web blogs. I feel like I have known you for years and can totally relate to many things you type. So even when you are feeling like the bottom of a black hole, know that you have helped out other people and just from writing from the heart. Keep up the great work of being a Mother/Wife/Inspirational Friend.
    Mellissa

  2. rebecca said,

    Thank you so much for the message, Mellissa. It’s funny–ever since I started this blog I feel all of this support and goodness coming from all around (not to sound too loopy!!). I’m glad you can relate to some of this stuff and I hope that things are going well for you.

    Rebecca

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