Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: I'm Not Dead Yet

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet

For the last week I have been plagued with gradually increasing fatigue, the likes of which I have not known since my pregnancies. It soaked into all of my bones and eventually toppled me into a pile on the love seat, the place I normally go to die quietly. I spent the majority of the weekend there under a blanket watching trashy movies. I managed to go about my duties during the week, including a business lunch and an outing to the martini bar, but I felt something was horribly wrong. I made a mental note to call my doctor and have blood drawn to make sure I wasn't the next in our familial line of women with a fizzling thyroid. Yesterday I awoke with a slightly sore throat, and my situation suddenly became very clear and much less sinister. I apparently have been fighting the germs Erik had picked up at day care one week ago. All week long he cried and shot impressive streamers of mucus from each nostril. He has taken a liking to sucking water from the straw in my Weight Watchers water jug. Since Erik continues to drool all over me daily, anyway, I thought there was no harm in that. Now that my illness has manifested itself in the form of a common cold and I have stopped fighting it, the fatigue is subsiding and I feel like me again. Erik, of course, is back to his old self.

Yesterday I got myself together and attended Dominick's 3rd birthday party. Overall, I enjoyed myself immensely, even though Brian had to leave early for his fantasy football draft meeting across town. Anything involving other children is and will likely always be difficult for me to attend. There is always an emotional hangover of varying severity hours to days later. There are some situations I avoid entirely, such as baby showers, which I will likely never again attend. I never know how a birthday party will affect me, but I am usually up for finding out. I wouldn't miss Dominick's for the world, anyway. Kathy called before the party to remind us to bring Erik's swim trunks for the Slip n Slide. I brought his pool therapy bag with us but knew deep down he would not participate in that activity, as he would simply get run over. When we arrived, I poured myself a glass of red wine and found a chair under a tree, where Erik sat on my lap and we watched the party unfold. I was able to coax him into playing with a toy monster truck and later an abandoned pile of plastic tools while the other children swarmed the play equipment and Slip n Slide. There were other 1 and 2-year-olds there, walking around like they had done so for years, which always makes me giggle but gives me a giant case of the creeps, too. They still look like walking fetuses to me. The worst, though, is the soft coo or loud squealing of babies, which remains foreign and strange to me.

These thoughts, of course, played in my mind in the background as I enjoyed the company of my friends and their extended families, which many years of events like these have made me a permanent member of. As the children whacked at an impressively fortified Curious George pinata built to withstand more force than an M4 Sherman tank, my friend Kathy asked if Erik would like a try. I almost hugged her for thinking of him but was unsure how to answer this question. Erik was in the driveway quietly playing with toys and wouldn't know if he missed out or not, but I shrugged and said that he might. My heart began to pound, as I had no idea how he would react, and I was trying this for the first time in front of a crowd. I retrieved him and placed him in front of the pinata. I wrapped his thick fingers around the broomstick and raised his arm into the air, pushing it forward, feeling the wood connect gently with the surface of the pinata. By the second whack, I felt the muscles in his arm contract and his arm move forward ever so slightly under its own power under my steadying hand. When I felt this tiny movement, I smiled. One more whack, and we were done. Erik enjoyed the cheering and applause and then went back into his own world again. I returned to watching the walking fetuses swinging sticks with ease in this slightly disturbing birthday tradition, Tootsie Rolls beginning to bleed from punched-in holes in the body of the ailing paper mache monkey. Once the candy spilled en masse from a giant crevice, I watched the other kids scramble forward to stuff candy into their pockets. Oh, what the hell. I ran forward as well, gathered a few candies, and returned to Erik in the driveway. I placed a few small pieces I had unwrapped into his palm, and he immediately turned his hand over, scattering them onto the asphalt. He returned to rolling a plastic screwdriver on the ground. I felt my heart sink but knew that I had to try. I consumed the remainder of the candy myself.

On the drive home, I thought long and hard about my friends, some of whom were holding brand new babies who slept peacefully or gurgled and cooed like all babies should. My heart swelled for them and I actually thanked God they will never have to go through what we go through on a daily basis. Even though I am horribly envious, I am now able to look outside myself and be genuinely happy for them for the very first time.

I have looked back at my survival over the last year and have determined that, for me, survival has been comprised of a few essential components. Firstly, I stick to a predictable daily routine, which provides me comfort in its monotony and predictability. I avoid situations that trigger unmanageable depression, such as baby showers, while I let myself attend others that have a more unclear outcome. If there is a negative result, I can always alter my game plan later, at least until I am ready to try again. I now take better care of myself, which includes getting fit and occasionally indulging in good wine or getting my toes/hair done. I can see now that my personal relationships are suffering greatly, but I hope that I will learn to better care for them with time. I honestly don't know how to remedy that at the moment. Right now I am still busy learning to heal but see that next on the horizon.

All I can do it attack this one gentle whack at a time.

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Blogger Aspen said...

Outings with other children are and like you said, will always be a hard pill to swallow. For me however, baby showers aren't has hard as birthday parties. You were a brave soul this weekend. Especially taking on that task alone. I know deep down in my heart, I wouldn't have survived. I would have scooped Daven up and run out of the house to the car as fast as I could. I admire you for going and surviving. Happy Monday!

9:31 AM  
Blogger camille said...

Hi Nance, I was wondering about you this past week as your blog hadn't been updated. I'm glad you are now feeling better. The germs are definitely a down side to daycare, but the up sides are clean grout and a break for you! How I love clean grout.
Anyway, thanks so much for your honesty. I completely know how you feel. I also cringe at the thought of birthday parties where the kids' PT, OT, speech skills come so naturally. That stabs me like a knife everytime. Like Aspen said, I also admire you for going.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Our Journey..... said...

I've been worried about you with your blog not being updated. I hope you are feeling better. I love your honestly - you describe how I have felt so many times. I keep telling myself it will get better, but so far it has not. And, like you, my relationships have suffered drastically. For now, I just focus on getting myself back together. It took a lot of strength to attend that party by yourself. By the way, I love the pic!!!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

Seeing your child next to "normal" children never gets easier. I love my group of friends but it always pains me, too, to see Clare with the rest of the kids.

I am glad you gave Erik a chance with the pinata. I sometimes think that Clare won't know the difference, but then I think why not (or usually Shawn says to give her a try). And Clare usually does get it. Teaches me not to underestimate my child.

It's a long road ahead of us. I've read over some of your earlier posts and I think you've already made it down the road quite a bit. (I hope I don't sound condescending - I am just so proud of you for what you have overcome and what you bravely are still facing.) I am in awe of you that you know your limits, yet still are courageous enough to test those limits sometimes.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I'm glad you're feeling better... like how you got up for the martinis though! ;)

Ditto Teresa... and for me its the birthday parties too that sometimes hit me. I suppose at every age there will be something different. One thing I learned from Dr Mervis was to not underesimate Brady ... and he surprises me all the time on what he can do. It's hard not to compare him to his brother who excels at EVERYTHING, even doing something once. This is going to be very interesting...

Missed you :) and your little towheaded angel :)

7:08 PM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I like the rest of the bunch..have hard times at Birthday's too. Any time there are kids close to the same age...I get a little panic attack...that usually gets worse as the minutes go by. Yesterday we went to the pool...another hard place to go. Abi hung out with the 2 year olds while the ones her age ran all over playing tag. Abi didn't quite get the "tag" game.
Good for you that you were able to go and stay! I am proud of you. I am glad that you are feeling better. I can see sickness in my starts next week and I usually end up sick by the second week.


6:40 AM  
Blogger ~Deb said...

Well, first of all, I want that Curious George pinata for one of my shindigs! Sounds like fun! :P

I'm glad it wasn't anything serious --regarding your fatigue. It's weird how a cold develops when the fatigue takes on this weird stage- where you can't even move- yet you have no symptoms of a "cold".

I just came by to see what you were up to. This photo of Erik is precious!

Stop letting him use your straw! My OCD alarm is going off here. GERMS !!!! But..........the germ makers are so cute, aren't they?

1:27 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

i took the kids out by myself this morning and after finding myself surrounded with 'typical' 3 1/2 yr olds i felt quite out of place and Jaiden was quite out of control. I promptly left again. I admire your bravery.
Im sorry to hear you were ill, i hate colds :( I thought smthing was up a whole week without a post!
Take care

7:24 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

Take one step or one whack whatever it takes, but move forward. Taking care of you is the first step as you've given your all and then some since Erik was born. Soon there will be more of a balance and the other neglected relationship(s) will resume, but slowly I'm sure. Remember they're rooting for you and Erik!

10:47 PM  

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