La La How The Life Goes On

Going Viral

Posted on: January 30, 2011

I’m sitting here on our blow-up bed in Baby Sister’s room, watching her alternately sleep fitfully, cough like a 40-year smoker of SuperTarNoFilter cigarettes, appear to struggle to breathe, wake up, cry, yell for Dada, see me, decide that’s fine if it’s what’s on offer at this late hour, say, “Stay, stay” while grabbing my hand, then go back to fitful sleep for another 20 minutes until we begin again.  My total sleep tonight will range from 1-2 hours.  My total level of concern about that: 0.

3/4 of our family has RSV, Respiratory Syncytial Virus.  Yes, that one for infants.  Only,  apparently it’s now widespread and virulent in January and February.  No idea how we all picked this one up, but here it is, with only the BabyDaddy as yet unaffected.  Poor Gram and Pop await their fates, as they babysat Baby Sister for us while I went to Dana Farber to get waterboarded (they call it a nasal lavage but those of us who’ve been to Abu Ghraib know the real deal).  From that little collection of my salinified snot, they were able to determine the presence of said RSV.  So when we got back and Baby Sister arrived home, I noticed that she looked a little off, a little too watery in the eyes for my liking.  So I brought out the thermometer and voila–102.8F.  Called the grandparental units to offer heartfelt thanks–and the gloomy outlook on their 8 hours with fevered child.

Bambina was a little off that morning, a little hoarse, but no fever, no major complaints.  But again, she came home A MESS.   I felt so sick on Friday that, seriously, when BabyDaddy suggested I lie on the couch and watch some TV I replied, “But then I’d have to push all those buttons on the remote.”  And trying to figure out what to watch seemed intellectually akin to solving the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  So I just laid there, every now and again managing to reach for my juice box (because who can reach up all that way for a heavy glass?) to hydrate.   The three of us were on the couch, hacking up lungs and green stuff.  Baby Daddy was in the kitchen saying, “Wow. That sounds like one healthy group of people in there!”  I laughed.  But don’t worry;  I secretly drank out of his glass  in revenge later.  (I keeeed!)

So today I woke up sans fever but still feeling hit by a truck.  Bambina woke up pretty much fine, with a minor cough.  Baby Sister woke up as sick as she’d gone to sleep.  I felt much better by  noon and after a nap (and by “nap” I mean lying in bed with my eyes closed while Bambina played “Horse Goes Trick or Treating” with me.  Luckily she allowed me a dialogue-only role in her latest production, so movement was not required).   Since poor BabyDaddy was up with Baby Sister all night last night, this was my turn tonight.  So here I sit, irritated at Big Pharma for not yet inventing a cough medicine that can safely be given to kids under 4 years old.  I mean, come ON!  I had robitussin and nyquil to at least let me get an hour’s relief from hacking up unspeakable phlegmy atrocities.  This poor baby child? Nothing but tylenol and advil.  Might as well give her cotton candy and Mr. Goodbars for all the relief they give her.

I’m not sure why, but I feel a ridiculous level of protectiveness for this little one.  Don’t misunderstand; I’m insane about protecting Bambina too. But something about Baby Sister makes me want to fuck up anyone or anything that even looks at her funny.  Maybe it’s because she seems to not need any protecting these days, little social, happychappy, nutball dynamo that she is.  Maybe it’s because she has survived.  She had two congenital  heart conditions–one of which is super rare and super life-threatening–and she gave them both the finger and kept keepin’ on keepin’ on.  She met us when she was 16 months old and eminently traumatizable from the experience.  She dug down, transitioned(which is a clinical way to tidily sum up: grieved the loss of her mamas, her surroundings and her culture, underwent the shock and naw! of being given to us, flown to a strange country with strange people and smells and foods, accepted us and began to love us and accept us as her own.  So, yeah, she “transitioned”: an experience that would have shattered grown men) and re-emerged into the blossom her nannies had told us to expect.  So please believe this girl is a survivor.  Which makes me want to protect her, perhaps because I think a kid’s life shouldn’t be so complicated before the age of 3.

With Bambina I am slightly less protective because, as cautious as she is, she is very expressive of her concerns, her feelings, her worries.  In those expressions I hear a resoluteness and a hidden strength that sometimes she doesn’t realize is there, and which I only have the task of revealing to her.  As I tell people who harp on about how little she is, “that girl is 32 pounds of pure power; underestimate her at your peril.”  Sometimes that is exactly what I say to Bambina herself, and it is all it takes to move her from frightened to fearless.  Bambina is a survivor too, but in a way that I know can/will accept help and encouragement.  Baby Sister, on the other hand,  will routinely fall down, start crying, and then wave you off when you run to her.  She walks it out, shakes it off on her own.  That’s great, I suppose.  But it tells me that I need to be there to force my help on her when she doesn’t realize she really does need it.  Like tonight!  Midnight.  Time for Advil because your fever is insane.  BS: NO!  Me: It will make you feel better, and it tastes yummy.  BS: No!!  Me: [Force open mouth, jam syringe in, push in medicine].  You’re welcome.  (I didn’t really say that out loud).   Five minutes later: peace for 40 minutes!  My main challenge will be knowing when to turn off that motherly instinct to foist myself into her life’s issues.  I’m thinking around the age of 45, when she has three grown kids of her own will be a good time, don’t you?

As much as I use the term “survivor” my intent  is not to give the illusion of tragedy in my kids’ lives.  They are not and never have been charity cases.  I always speak carefully when addressing my girls’ early lives, because people (even some, sadly, within the adoption community) often believe that All Things Can Be Traced to Adoption.  Prime example: each of my girls has a very different personality, different ways of approaching life’s situations.  The number of people who tell me it must be because the relative amount of time/no time each spent in an orphanage just staggers me.  Ok, obviously a person’s environment affects her life.  But my brother, my sister and I were all born to the same biological parents in the same damn country. Not one of us is like the other and NO ONE suggests it’s because my sister was born at home and I and my bro in a hospital. Or because he had cloth diapers and I had disposables. Or whatever.  We were just clearly Born This Way.  I cried if my mom left the room for 5 minutes to pee.  My sister didn’t care if she was gone for 5 hours.  Neither of us suffered some defining experience that explains the difference.  We just were that way from birth, which seems easy for people to accept.  But when you have two kids not biologically related it seems  like a stretch to imagine that they too were just Born This Way.

I know that an orphanage was  not a great place for my Bambina.  Not because the orphanage was anything but professionally-run and good, but because she was born a kid who would not thrive in that kind of environment for 9 months, 16 months, or 4 damn days.  Baby Sister?  She does fine wherever she goes.  Not because her orphanage experience made her that way, but because she was born the kind of kid who loves kiddie sociality, kiddie chaos, interactions of all kinds.  I was very much like Bambina as a child and I can guarantee you (as can my poor never-peed-alone mother) that no amount of sending me/making me/forcing me to go to play groups and playschools and all those “social interaction” things I now find so necessary for my children ever made me like them.  I went.  I dealt.  I remember not loving it. Ever.  I remember seeing my sister and brother going off and doing their thing and I remember not wanting any part of it.  I just wanted to sit on my mother’s lap and be with her, watching the other kids play.  It’s just who I was.  Obviously I’m less shy and more social now. 🙂  But I’m sensitive to that aspect of my kids because I remember the stomach ache that always accompanied any social outing before the age of, maybe, 10 years old.  And–BOOYAH!–it wasn’t because I was adopted. It’s because I was a weenie.  🙂

So what’s my point? I don’t have one.  Because it’s 2:35am and I’ve yet to close my eyes and I am swiftly losing the plot.  I am not, however, losing my sanity, because I long ago figured out that nights like this depend upon the parent assuming that there will be no sleep, and then being joyfully tickled pink that you got 2 hours out of 12.  Any other expectation and you are setting yourself up for a long, dark night of the soul wherein you begin to hate your life partner sleeping peacefully upstairs in your big, comfy bed.  You begin to get short with you poor sick kid who, if she’s feeling anything like I was feeling, can’t even bring herself to push a TV remote button.  Most tragically, you begin to hate BravoTV.  Not for producing such monstrosities as The Real Housewives and Salon Takeover, but for not producing MORE of them so you can see something original at 2am. Which, come to think of it, IS the definition of tragedy.

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1 Response to "Going Viral"

Well said E! I too have two monsters, who although share the same biology, and were even born at the same hospital by the same Doctor, are TOTALLY nothing alike in any way. So peasha to that adopted theory! I’m sorry you are all feeling so lousey, I hope that you are all better soon. And whats with the Baby Daddy dodging these illnesses all the time? WTF? LOL… 😉

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