Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pretty sentences

Friday before last the Cub ended up spending a night at Children's. See? Not that hard to type. In the end wasn't even that hard to deal with. Not even anything to worry about. A blip, really. But for some reason I couldn't bring myself to post about it. In fact, as is glaringly obvious from the absence of you know, posts, I couldn't bring myself to post about anything.

We were only in the hospital for 25 hours, gone from home for 28 or so. And yet nearly nine times as much time has passed since we got home before I was able to start this post. (Yes, I calculated that. Cause I am geek, which I do believe I have confessed to before.)

I think I know why. While it ended up not being scary, it didn't start out that way. It started out with me on a Friday morning standing over Cub's crib thinking I must be too sleep-deprived to see straight because what I was seeing wasn't computing. I was seeing the area above the Cub's upper lip, that little triangle of flesh that points to the nose, go blue. So I picked him up, and watched the color return. I carried him to our bedroom, and then proceeded to watch him for a bit. He did that a bunch more times, and I decided that what I had in front of me was a certifiable sick day.

Our pediatrician was out of town, which I knew sort of by accident. But that meant I was prepared when I called his number and got forwarded to a covering physician. Who told me she would see us at 10:45. Sometime in the course of the morning there was a time when he was oh so sleepy, and he was going blue again, and for a split second there I thought he looked like he was slipping, checking out. I blew on his face, and rocked him, and patted his back and his chest, and it was over, probably in under two seconds altogether-- breathing regularly and all pink, though still sleepy.

So here's the part where I have to admit that there was an extra reason I was so freaked out. See, they heard a faint murmur while the Cub was in NICU. But based on his oxygen saturation, and a couple other tests, they concluded that he was not in any danger or need of additional tests. They thought the sound would most likely go away as he grew. But the murmur was still there at our two months appointment, and so our pediatrician referred us to Children's to a big shot cardiologist. The appointment with Dr.Heart? It was scheduled for the Monday after the weekend in question. So wheeee.... I am sure you can follow my mind down the particular rabbit hole it went upon seeing blue, yes?

So long story short, we saw the covering doc, who said she didn't hear anything respiratory, tried to get us seen by the cardiologists right then, was told no dice and to go to Children's ER. We did, told them the whole story, they listened, to us, then to the Cub, then said bronchiolitis. Bronchio-what now? Inflammation of the bronchioles, tiny air passages in the lungs, usually caused by a viral infection. They thought RSV, but later tests said no, so likely a sneaky cold virus that got where it wasn't supposed to go. Of course, if I haven't bored you to tears yet, and you were following along, you might wonder how come that pediatrician said she didn't hear anything respiratory. If you do, you wouldn't be alone-- in fact JD is still sputtering mad about that part. I am just baffled, but whatever. Moving right along.

Children's is efficient, and so on top of things. The Cub got his tests, which all confirmed the diagnosis, and the little bit of treatment there is to give for this thing. They heard some wheezing, so if he keeps doing that we will have to at some point talk about the A word, asthma. He was obviously sick, but also incredibly amused. All the new people, with their smiles and their shiny name tags that swing when they bend over him-- priceless, I tell you. He charmed them with smiles and with his newly-acquired skill-- getting his fingers where they need to go so that he can suck on them. He did drop his oxygen saturation once, but he recovered on his own. They kept us overnight mostly as a precaution, because he had pneumonia as a newborn. Insult to the lungs and all.

We had a mostly quiet night, with a couple of drops in oxygen saturation, but he always recovered on his own. In the meantime I learned that it is not uncommon for babies to go blue around the mouth, and that the one to really worry about is blue lips and/or tissues in the mouth. In the morning the doctors listened to the Cub, declared him sounding better than the day before, and therefore clear to go home. Which we did, happily.

Of course between then and the cardiology appointment, I was still in my tightly wound "what was that?" mode. The appointment, first thing Monday morning, went great. Dr.Heart still hears the murmur, though it was hard to hear, what with the freight train in his chest cavity that is bronchiolitis in retreat. The doctor thinks there are a couple of possibilities, one more likely in his mind than the rest. In any case nothing needs to be done for now. We need to come back in three months for a follow up which should hopefully give a clearer picture. But even the worst possible diagnosis given his current condition likely means nothing needs to be done until he is at least four years old. Thus, I am now pretty relaxed about his heart.

See? In the end, not scary at all. So why couldn't I make myself write about it? It's not like I haven't been online in the interim. I have been reading and commenting like a woman possessed, trying to catch up on everyone. I have made a nice thorough dent in what was a scarily big number of posts in my reader. But I haven't written. Why?

I think I figured it out.

Last week on Glow Tash published her interview with Elizabeth McCracken about her memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. It's a great interview. More like a conversation, actually. Reading it is like listening to two smart, thoughtful women talk. The subject just happens to be dead babies and how we talk about them.

So somewhere in the interview Elizabeth says that writing pretty sentences is a form of therapy for her. And I thought "heh, me too." And read on. But then, days later, as I was trying to figure out why I fell so silent on my own blog, it occurred to me that maybe, somehow, having decided to write about the stay at Children's, I was now stumbling over my need to write of it in pretty sentences. Now I am almost sure that was it.

What I am not so sure about is why do I try for those pretty sentences. It's not just a dead baby thing for me, but it is an especially dead baby thing. Why do I dote on these sentences more than other sentences? It's not, I think, to pretty the subject matter up. I don't think dead baby mamas in general and I in particular try to make our stories more palatable with language. In fact we often search for words and sentences to express just how raw and overwhelming this bereavement thing is.

So it may be, I am thinking, that we (I, really-- I can only speak for myself) seek to make them more captivating, if that's the word. To make our stories, our voices, our children matter. Wild theory, that. Don't even know how much I believe it myself.

The other explanation I came up with sounds perhaps a bit more grounded. Writing is unhurried, if we are willing to give it the time and space it needs. Writing, unlike talking, gives us a chance to see whether we actually said what we meant to say, and to adjust if we didn't, tinker with it until it's a perfect way to express this one particular thought. And that's, I think, why it works-- finding a way to express a thought occasionally allows us an opportunity to let go of all the thinking and struggling we did with this particular subject. Writing, then, is like graduation for thoughts and emotions.

And yet, neither of these really explains why, as the days wore on, I still wasn't writing about the Cub's adventures at Children's. This I think is a whole separate beast. This is me twisting myself into a pretzel to make it sound all along like it was just a virus. It wasn't like that in real time. In real time it was scary for a while. I think I found yet another fucked up thing about my new dead baby normal-- I react to possible issues like the sky is falling because, once, it did. But when it turns out to have been less scary, I downplay it, with pretty sentences, and humor, and deflection because it wasn't, you know, the sky. Falling.

So how do you write? Why do you write?


luna said...

first I'm so glad the cub is ok. how scary that must have been.

I think we all write for different reasons and at different points in our experience. I love hearing about other people's processes -- like your writing as graduation for your thoughts.

sometimes I write to process my experience as I'm feeling it, which tends to be more raw. other times I write as reflection back, in which case I may be more inclined to tinker.

Wabi said...

Oh, oh, oh. Just ... oh. I'm glad the Cub is doing better, but just wish I could show up at your door and leave you a big bottle of wine and a nice dinner. Because while Cub is at an age where he just rolls with it and moves on to the next thing, such episodes have a way of sticking to a mom like cactus needles.

I've written some about Little A's health issues over the past year, but like you, I often leave things out, or delay writing until I come up with a more positive arc of the story. While I am probably also struggling with that "pretty words" thing, for me there is another aspect to it too. The thing that got me through all my pregancy terror, grief, and woe a few years back was the idea that my kids would be safer out in the world than they were in my screwy womb. That was the rule I clung to, the finish line I dragged towards when the going was so tough.

To now admit to myself that delivery was a false finish line ... that the peril doesn't disappear once the kid is on the outside? Well, that is utterly crazy making. I cannot figure out how to peacefully exist with that reality. So mostly I try to ignore it, and that means anything I write about Little A not being 100 percent healthy is very long on little details and short on the big picture issues. Because in this one area of life, I don't WANT the big picture!

Amelie said...

Glad to hear that the Cub is fine. Why and how I write -- food for thought, thank you.

Catherine said...

So glad the little guy is ok. I can relate a little bit...Sam was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disorder at a very young age. Every time he gets a cold, the wheezing starts. But I remember that fear when he couldn't breathe...and that was before any dead baby experience.

I tend to write as I talk. Verbal diarrhea, if you will. It just comes out...with very little filtering or revising. It doesn't make mine the prettiest blog to read, but I'm ok with that.

kate said...

It took me a while to write about T's hospitalization & surgery last summer....a whole month i think. And it took me writing the story in detail to let go of it and re-normalize. So i guess that is the answer to your question too...writing is cathartic for me. When i am depressed, though, i don't write. Not anything substantive, anyway.

I am very glad he is doing better. 'Scary' doesn't really cover it, huh?

Mrs. Spit said...

Yes. Yes. Fears and thoughts and racing hearts, we know these. We know lightening strikes. And if it can strike once, why not twice.

Hugs Julia. But more than that, you are doing great. Which you know, but everyone can use a reminder.

Beruriah said...

Well, I don't write right now. My Baby Man has been experiencing an endless stream of illness this fall-ear infection, pneumonia, ear infection, ear infection, bronchiolitis. That's about all I can say/think right now.

But I wanted to chime in and express my thanks that the Cub is ok. Seriously, it sounds like you were amazingly calm and collected throughout the whole. Or is that just the wording? Take care.

c. said...

I am very glad to hear Cub is okay, Julia. The whole experience sounds scary, more so if you know the sky could fall at any time.

I quite like your explanation for why we write quite well. Initially, it was a way for me to make C real. I guess I have come to learn that he is only real to those who care enough to read my blog, and alas, that isn't everybody.

I do believe writing allows me to put my emotions to words, and very specific words. It's important for me that I convey exactly what I feel...and I'm not exactly sure why that is. Maybe it's just because I have the time to pay attention to my writing, time that was supposed to be spent on my son.

Interesting post...

Lori said...

I know that I absolutely started writing my blog as a way to make Molly and Joseph more real- to the world, to myself... I also needed a place to say all of the things I just couldn't say to anyone else.

So, for me, maybe that is the difference. I would have no trouble relating verbally a scary incident at the hospital with one of my living children (so long as it turned out okay) to anyone and everyone. Re-living my time at the hospital with Molly and Joseph. I can barely talk about that with even my closest friends. So, I write.

I am so very thankful Cub is okay. I am also thankful he has such an attentive mama. I read stories like this and wonder to myself, "Would I have noticed that??" I hope I would. I'm glad you did.

janis said...

((hugs)) for the scare. I don't know how you stay so calm and collected. That WAS a scare!

You know I don't write. Mostly I vomit. Literally throw up all over the internet. For me, it's a form of release. If I can make pretty sentences, it's an incentive. Writing for me is mostly catharthic though.
Thanks for your comment on my blog, it was so sweet to hear from you again. xoxo

loribeth said...

(((hugs))) So glad the little Cub is OK!

Really interesting observations! I agree that I write, in part, "to make our stories, our voices, our children matter." I also write as a form of catharsis -- it feels soooo good to vent my feelings on paper/screen from time to time. And I write as a way of remembering, of capturing thoughts & memories & emotions. As Lori said, it's difficult to talk about these things, even with family & friends, unless they have experienced something similar themselves. It's easier sometimes to write it all out. And if someone out there in cyberspace likes or relates to what I've written on my blog, all the better. : )

It ain't always pretty (or as pretty as I'd like it to be, lol). I read some bloggers & am just in awe of their ability to use words so well. (You, for example!) I do try to pick the right words to express how I'm feeling or thinking, & to construct a cohesive narrative. I think by trying to make sense on paper/screen, so that others can understand what I'm trying to say, I'm processing my own thoughts & feelings on the matter, if that makes sense?

Snickollet said...

I'm so glad the Cub is OK. Even if, in retrospect, it was not all that harrowing, I'm sure at the time it was very draining for all of you.

I love the questions you ask in this post. You've really got me thinking. Thank you.

Heather said...

So glad he's feeling better. Zack had that at 10 weeks and it was pretty scarry.

I write however it comes out. Sometimes pretty, sometimes clumbsy sounding but it helps me to process my experiences so I just keep doing it.

serenity said...

I'm so glad that the Cub is ok. How scary it must have been in real time.

And you really have me thinking now about how and why I blog. Thank you for making me think.

Tash said...

Well, here's the thing: I write when I have something to say, and I've kinda made it clear in my head that my blog is a space to talk about my grief. Obviously lately what I have to say gets spaced out over a week or so, which I think is part recovery, and part my life is so effin' busy now (which, is also part of recovery in a way).

But I'm wondering if you didn't write about it (spitballin' here) for a while, or feel uncomfortable, because that is what this blog is for you? A place more for you and A and your grief and on, and that when you discuss M and Cub it's in relation to A? And you were wondering what the relation was to A here.

On the one hand, none. Different kids, different circumstances, and cub, knock wood, is home sleeping soundly with a smile on his wee face right now. On the other, there's the fear, the anxious mother freak out, the sad familiarity with the seriousness and the medical and on.

It's pretty writing, yes, but it's all a tangled web of relation.

Oh, and phew.

Magpie said...

I'm glad your babe is okay, and I have no idea why I write. It's an outlet, a scrapbook, a place to scribble.

Aurelia said...

I'm so glad the Cub is better, and I know what you mean about how difficult it is to write about some of the things that are the hardest. There are so so many things I still can't write about.

You know, it doesn't have to be pretty for me. I'll read whatever you write.

Bon said...

i write mostly about things i don't talk so well about. and yet sickness and sadness things that are NOT grief are hard for me, especially in narrative, b/c i feel like compared to the silent chapter of deadbaby any shit that i struggle with now is kind of...petty. or might be dismissed that way, or seen as me somehow dishonouring what went before by freaking out over this tiny little speck that is the now. plus it makes me feel morose, like i have license for so much drama/sorrow, but beyond that i'm just wallowing.

lately, all i've got is wallowing, hence the sporadic posting.

Anonymous said...

you're seriously nuts, and I mean that with love ha ha ha. not like you were busy or tired or anything since August...

I'm glad he is okay, whew, its never ending, the worries...

i write to get it out, let it go, get another point of view and see it in black and white really. check if I am as nuts as I think I am :) that help?