Watchful Waiting. And waiting and waiting…

Or, Zen and the Art of Motherhood and Crisis Management.

One of the most delicate and challenging aspects of motherhood is the straddling of the fine line that runs between letting things run their course naturally and aggressive intervention.

Playground disputes: step back and let the kiddies work it out? Or….leap in, tackle that kid who dared deny your precious that last vacant swing and threaten him with shame, dishonour and ruination up to, and beyond, his college career if necessary if he doesn’t let go right.NOW?

Lovey’s puzzling over the new puzzle….step in and teach her? Or let her figure it out herself (that’ll keep her busy for 15 minutes.).

But nothing, and I do mean nothing, challenges that line like these two words : swallowed object. As we found this week when dear Emm happened to ingest a decidedly inorganic piece of plastic. As in lego. Or so I thought. More on that later.

I heard it first. Emm hacking and choking and coughing. Immediately, I cranked open her mouth. Nothing that I could see. Heimlich maneuver, grope around the back of the mouth, repeat. I could touch it. It was slippery and small. Slipping and sliding, not quite able to grasp it. I lost the battle. The lego had gone down. I stared hard at Emm, who looked relieved at the end of the struggle. She was breathing. She looked normal. She had a plastic lego inside of her.

And this is where that fine line came slithering in. On one side of the line, we have watchful waiting, the other, The Panic Button. I’m a big believer in letting nature take its course. And though I’m a button pusher from way back (my poor mother), The Panic Button is one button I try my best to ignore.

So I waited, watchfully, since Emm’s breathing was perfectly normal, and there was no distress. In fact, she demanded that we go bike riding. And things went well, until she attempted to eat a scrap of ham later in the evening, which quickly returned, slimy and macerated, into my hand. We tried flooding her throat with liquids, in order to get the piece down into the stomach and on its way. Every ounce returned with a vengeance at three in the morning, all over the sheets. And at seven the next morning, desperate, I tried feeding her ice cream in order to lubricate the throat and coax the supposed lego along again. And after that came up, I did it. I pushed the button. Called her pediatrician, who sent her to the ER.

Crisis situations used to send me hyperventilating over the edge. Oddly enough, since becoming a mother, I get through these things on a small prayer and a calm, practical demeanor. I patiently reconstructed the story at least nine times. Signed papers. Took in all of the possible scary scenarios and nodded.

And the only one calmer than I was the patient herself. Pale and subdued, Emm cooperated with the all of the checks, and even consented to change into a pair of pajamas. I have to say, though, that it was heartbreaking to see my little firecracker so passive, so devoid of her usual chickaboom ‘tude. The nurses and she had a little Croc mutual admiration fest going on…I may have to ammend my previously snarky Croc comment to include hospitals at least. There were just so many sweet and cooing and kind and helpful nurses all along the ordeal. Many sporting Crocs.

We both hit a small speedbump called The I.V. just prior to the xrays. Emm was quiet and supremely cooperative until right before the tube went in. And then she was a howling, sprawling, screeching, squirming mess, with me trying to hold her down while desperately trying not to look (needle phobia). It was in, and then it wasn’t. Blown vein. Restart. Success. I had to take a quick dive between my knees to get some blood into my light head before I passed out, and then I was good to go. Emm continued howling. Until a nice, smart and resourceful nurse popped in a Wiggles dvd and suddenly, she stopped and cooed. I could have kissed every one of those damned Wiggles full on the mouth, honestly.

And then the barium swallow, in which Emm swallowed some chocolate flavored barium, while an imaging machine scanned her throat. And there on the screen was not the supposed lego. No. The princepessa had ingested a plastic flower. And that thing wasn’t going anywhere. Her esophogus was hugging that sucker and assuming its five petaled shape snuggly like cling wrap. So this was the form that had snatched away the chickaboom in my Emm and held it hostage in the birdcage of her throat.

Three hours until surgery. Naps all around. And some quiet time, staring at the ceiling, thinking and admiring all of the KidArt on the walls. I love KidArt. Uncontrived and quirky lines. Inspired pallettes, telling proportions. Wonderful.

And then they took her away, which was probably the hardest part. We were given a time frame of twenty minutes to half an hour for the whole procedure, and it was a damned long twenty minutes. My philosophy regarding these things is that it’s all gonna be ok until and unless it’s not. Twenty minutes creeped up to thirty, and then forty. That damned Panic Button was hovering around again, flashing. The calm in me was starting to leak.

Finally, they got us, and we found her in a little sleepy ball. In an hour, she was up and clinging into my arms. And then I cried. Perhaps all of those stories I’d read to Emm about mommies and their missing bunnies weren’t so sappy after all, I reflected, as I watched Emm slurping hungrily on her carrot colored popsicle.

Home again, a full 9 hours after arriving at the emergency room.

Later, the parents all snuggled and snoozing heavily in their bed, the little firecracker reemerged and announced herself, demanding more popsicles, juice, and Pooh videos and, and, and…..

All at the ungodly hour of 2:30 A.M.



2 Responses to “Watchful Waiting. And waiting and waiting…”

  1. 1 Elaine Kleifgen October 3, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    I loved every word! Keep writing, you’re very entertaining. I’m a mom and grandma, as well as a second grade teacher for 22 years so I’ve been in your shoes a time or two. I wish I could write as well as you do but I can’t so I’ll just keep reading your blog.
    Betsy Lewis’s mom,

  2. 2 petitmuse October 3, 2006 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you! It’s nice to meet you :>

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