Towards the end of January this year, my life was like boot camp. Both my kids got sick simultaneously, with what would turn out to be a mean attack of gastroenteritis. One had to be taken to the hospital and strapped to bed, a needle stuck into the back of his hand. I remember saying to a work colleague a thousand miles away how, before having kids I was practically fearless. But that day, seeing my three-year-old son weak and pale, all cried out on a hospital bed, his cheeks hollow—I felt fear clutch my heart in its icy grip.
I was eerily calm all throughout this crisis. I called my sons’ doctor, made arrangements for Jeremy to be admitted, and then packed for the hospital. I left detailed instructions for the yaya staying behind with the baby, who was also vomiting intermittently, crying for me. I herded Jeremy and his yaya into the emergency room, got all the paperwork in order, bullied nurses into submission, held my son down firmly despite his heart wrenching cries so that an IV needle could be inserted into a delicate vein. Twice, because the ER nurse couldn’t get it right the first time.
Only after things had calmed down, when we were finally in our room and Jeremy was fast asleep, that I opened the narrow wooden closet next to his bed, stuck my head in there, and cried silently for about a minute. I just let the tears come, all the while staring at the dark grain of the wood, inhaling the faint scent of Lysol. After that shaky minute I was fine again, I think.
It’s during times like these that I feel blatantly how hard it is to fly this parenting thing solo. For a few days there I had to shuttle back and forth from hospital to home, running ragged at the edges, trying to be in several places at the same time. There was the constant worrying about logistics: check on the baby at home, rotate shifts with the yaya at the hospital, buy meals, make sure money doesn’t run out, keep the fridge stocked, pay bills on time, check on what’s happening at work. I got by on two-three hours of sleep a day. My body kept on going, navigating on autopilot, fueled mostly by adrenalin.
Well, this is what it takes then, now I know. I’ve had a sampling of nasty things to come. I would have to be strong in so many ways, at all times. I always knew that. But to stay sane when you are being pulled in all directions, besieged by worries, running on empty—well, let’s just say it’s a little bit hard. But one must plod on, I guess, and so of course I do.