Sometimes I wonder what the right answer is when people ask how Brooklyn is doing. I'm asked this about a dozen or so times a day at work. When I first came back from maternity leave, Brooklyn was having so many problems, and of course we didn't know what was wrong. So people would ask, "How's the baby?" The first few days, I would actually try to explain what was going on with her health. But after getting some blank stares and some odd responses, I quickly shortened my answers to things like, "Well, she's okay. She has an appointment with a specialist next week." Or..."She's all right. We are about to have some tests done to try to figure out what's wrong with her breathing and why she isn't gaining weight." Things like that. But I keep it short and sweet. People still seem uncomfortable with that. If something positive is going on, I tell them that...for example, "Well, she gained some weight!" Or, "No, she's not better yet, but we found out what's wrong, and that's a huge step in the right direction." Or I'll tell them how excited I am about her sitting up or saying "Mama" or reaching some other milestone. If I go that route, they usually ask about her health next, but it seems like they still don't REALLY want to know.
I don't lie to people. I don't just say everything is great or good or fine with us. Honestly, I don't really feel like I should have to. I know that's the acceptable answer...but am I alone in feeling like if people are going to ask, they deserve a real answer? No, I'm not going to go into detail, but why should I have to give you a fake perfect picture of what my life has been lately? When you specifically ask me how my child is, why should I have to lie to you about it? Just because you might not know what to say?
I know we all do it. When we ask people how they're doing, we generally don't want to hear the truth. It's just a formality most of the time, and all we really want to hear is "Fine."
I wonder what it must be like for parents with terminally ill or very, very sick children. I wonder how they handle the everyday questions about how their kids are without making people squirm. Trust me, I know our situation is nothing compared to these. And I think that's what makes me feel kind of guilty about giving people a real answer. Then they might not think that I'm happy enough about being a mother. They might think I'm just feeling sorry for myself, or that I'm not grateful to have my sweet baby bear. What if they think I am fixated on the negative and don't think that I am totally crazy in love with my adorable daughter?
A few months ago, when we still didn't know what was going on with Brooklyn, when we had tons of tests coming up, when I was terrified of what could be wrong, a former coworker came by my floor at work to visit. He had retired about a year prior, but we had occasionally exchanged emails since then. He knew that I had just returned from maternity leave and that Brooklyn had been having some problems. He asked me how things were going with her. I gave him a little bit longer version of our situation, because I felt like he would be understanding. He was a parent and his first grandson was just a bit younger than Brooklyn. I told him about all her medications, breathing treatments, lack of weight gain, the tests she was having to go through. And his response was, "You know, there are a lot of parents that go through much worse. It's not that bad."
You don't think I know that? You don't think that I feel guilty all of the time because I know there are so many parents suffering through so much more? That I don't think I should be happier or less stressed because other mommies lose their babies, or live with the reality that they could lose their babies any day? I KNOW these things. This man made me feel about two inches tall. I felt like I should never tell anyone anything other than "Everything's fine."
Really and truly though...I don't feel like we should have to apologize or feel bad about for things in our lives that are beyond our control. I don't think that we should have to create a false reality, especially when it comes to our children.
Right now, my reality is this: I have a beautiful, sweet, smart-as-a-whip eight-month-old baby girl. She's the most wonderful thing I could have ever imagined having in my life. Unfortunately, she has some health problems right now. She has laryngomalacia, a problem with her arytenoids, severe reflux, and "failure to thrive." She's been through all kinds of tests and procedures and she has several specialists. She takes multiple medications, but they really don't seem to help. I don't know whether she will outgrow this or whether she will have to have surgery. I hate that I can't fix her and that no one else has yet either. And I get stressed out, and I get scared. And if you're going to ask me how my baby is, I'd appreciate it if you would validate my feelings instead of making me feel like a terrible person for telling you the truth. I'm not asking you to feel sorry for us, because Lord knows there are many, many others who you should feel sorry for before us. But please, just don't make me feel worse about a situation that already makes me feel bad. Thank you.