Friday, February 16, 2007

Mommy madness

I've been AWOL around here lately, but I do have an excuse note from the doctor. Actually, it's not from my doctor, it's from the surgeons who recently took care of one of my kids. The kid is doing great now--you know a kid is feeling like himself when he starts fighting with his sister again--and finally, I am, too.

Before this surgery, we tried to be pretty calm and matter-of-fact about it to our kid. By this, I mean my husband ordered me not to cry in front of him, because I was a nervous wreck. All the logical truths in the world did not erase the fact that it was my baby who was going into the OR. Every newspaper in the world seemed to be filled with stories of surgery gone wrong, complications and malpractice and death. Little kids, big kids, kids whose cute pictures were in the paper: "this child left a coma...brain damaged...DEAD... by incompetent doctors." Even though I knew, and fully believed, that my son had an excellent surgeon (one of the top specialists in his field), that the surgery would be done at an excellent children's hospital (one of the best in the country), that the odds of anything remotely bad happening were very, very small, and that this treatment was the right decision for our child...I was still a nervous wreck.

Before they operate, the hospital gave me the consent forms to sign, all those papers that are legally obligated to inform you of the risks, however small, of paralysis, brain damage, blindness, seizures, and DEATH from the anesthesia. For myself, I read the paper and sign it. For my child, I wanted to cross it all out and write instead, 'hurt him and I will kill you all.' Just so everyone knew where we really stood.

There's something fundamentally irrational about being a mother. I'm not even talking about the original supposition of bearing children, which is that the mother has to endure fifteen hours of labor while the father talks football with the obstetrician. I'm over that (really, honey, I am. No, really. It was VITALLY important that we handicap the Superbowl while I was screaming in agony). There's a sort of madness that overtakes a woman when she holds that tiny little creature next to her heart for the first time, and if the madness ever lifts...I haven't hit that point yet. It's not a question of biology; my father was adopted, and my grandmother had the same madness. It's definitely something else, more like the way hard drugs permanently change your brain. Once you get a hit of that maternal feeling, you can't go back. You're not quite sane anymore. Let something or someone threaten your child, and that person or thing is toast, no matter what. Not for nothing did Kipling write:

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Go, she-bear.


Sally MacKenzie said...

Go, she-bear! Go, Caroline!

Do you suppose if we didn't worry so much, our husbands would do so? I sort of doubt it, though I have found my husband worrying more these days, especially when one of the boys wants to take the car out in the bad weather. Of course, I suspect husband is really worrying about the car....

Kristina Cook said...

Amazing how motherhood changes us, isn't it?!

Though I must confess, I'm still chuckling over your husband talking football during labor.

Caroline Linden said...

Kristina, you wouldn't have laughed if it had happened to you! The baby was born only a few days before the Superbowl, and you could tell the doctor was much more interested in that. My husband apologized later, so he was forgiven.

The REALLY obnoxious part was, when I went back to that doctor a couple of years later when I was pregnant with my second child, the doctor did not recognize me. He came in, shook my hand, introduced himself, welcomed me to his office. OK, fine, he has lots of patients. Then my husband came in, and the doctor's face lit up. "Hey, how are you? I remember you!"


Kristina Cook said...

OMG!!! Well, the moral of the story is...*always* have a female OB-GYN!