I am the Queen of Denial.
August 2001. Adam is 20 days old and I call the Doctor:
ME: Hiya, the baby has a fever, I was just wondering how much tylenol to give him.
PEDIATRICIAN: The baby? Alexander? What day was he born?
ME: Late July.
PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica. I need you to get dressed now and they’ll be waiting for you at Cedars.
ME: Yeah, but how much medicine should I give him?
PEDIATRICIAN: None. Leave your house now!
ME: Oh. Okay.
So I calmly strolled into Cedars with Alexander in the bucket, and when they whisked us both in to the hospital with a waiting pediatric team the enormity of it all still didn’t register. I just felt loaded. Oddly calm even.
I cried a little when they inserted the needle for his spinal tap and I remember feeling distant. Like I was floating in the hallway and my ears didn’t work. Underwater almost. Hardly human.
My baby didn’t cry, and I was calm. Part of me was dead. His fever was 105 and it would stay there for days.
They admitted Alexander to the NICU and I signed the waiver to get rid of the crib.
Every morning I greeted the doctors with a smile asking them when I could take my baby home.
PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica you really don’t seem understand what’s happening here.
ME: The fever is down to 102. Isn’t that manageable?
PEDIATRICIAN: Jessica, I can’t guarantee that you are taking a baby home.
I couldn’t even hear it. There was no part of my being that would begin to absorb the information. I rocked my son and watched familiar faces move across the TV screen for several more days and nights. I spent 5 days and nights in bed with my son at Cedars Sinai; rocking him and kissing him and praying to stop loving him. I thought if I could stop loving my son then I wouldn’t have a need to hold him every second. I prayed that I could stop loving my son so that I could sleep without his milky breath on my neck. I believed that if I could stop loving my son I could begin to function because I feared that holding him and loving him ferociously wouldn’t be enough.
I couldn’t put my son in a crib. He was too tiny. Too new and I needed him more than he needed me.
The prayers didn’t work, and I loved him more every hot second. I spent hours and days putting lukewarm washcloths on his naked body and letting them cool to room temperature. Nurses stopped in and smiled at us with pity in their eyes.
When he cooled to 101 it was joyous.
Finally the fever broke, and 24 hours later we were a family at home again. It was startling that the world had continued to operate without us in it.
It was the week after we came home from the hospital that I finally cried.
So yeah. We feel like failures when our kids get hurt. Each trip to the Emergency Room shaves a few months off our lifespan.
We’re all just muddling through the best we can. We relax when we shouldn’t and then hold on tight because it’s what we’re programmed to do. We worry about vaccines and growth charts, organic meat and corn syrup, but really, we’re just women who love our children uncontrollably, hypnotically and fiercely. Sometimes we miss the mark but we’re always moving forward.
So it’s only with miles between us, that I could ever admit to the most horrible of all prayers. The prayer to stop loving my son.
The prayer never answered.