Drew loves watching the Veggie Tales Jonah movie, and I love it because it tells the biblical account in a fun way for kids and adults alike. For instance, Jonah’s camel wears a tiny monacle, which just kills me. And instead of rampant sodomy, the Ninevites are guilty of slapping of one another randomly with fish. God is so angry with all the fish-slapping, he sends his servant Jonah on a British camel to preach repentance. And you know God means business when he sends asparagus.
As heinous as fish-slapping is, I sure wish someone was standing around this weekend with a fish to slap my face, because I needed it multiple times.
This weekend was our first ER visit.
It was naptime. All was quiet. I had actually closed my eyes and was pondering the meaning of life and if Bruno Mars is, in fact, a pansy as my husband claims, when all of a sudden THUD! SHRIEK! MOMMAAAAAAAA!
There was blood. First thing I saw. On the collar, dripping from the chin. A bit on his toe. In the corner by the window: a small puddle, like someone had spilled some finger paint. Where was it coming from?
Fatty tissue. Pulled apart. Blood, oozing silently, like the blood itself was unconscious.
Must apply pressure, where’s the phone. I just got this shirt, is there blood on it. Call Drew’s doctor, call the ER, no, just GO to the ER call Gordon first what about his TEETH. Teeth OK. Blanket, he won’t put down his blanket, won’t let me touch it, look at it.
Gordon dropped us off at the entrance. At this point Drew was whimpering, clinging to his bloody blue blanket. Then there was someone blowing bubbles. Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. A lady with a thick black ponytail and trendy glasses asking me to write his name on the sheet. His name. How? D…r…e…no, legal name…A…N…D…
They are taking his blood pressure, a strap around his leg. Browning blood under his fingernails. The bubble lady has stickers now, big square Bob the Builders. Drew puts one on his chest.
She was asking me things: allergies? Last time he ate? Had any medication today? YES. The pink stuff, no, that’s Madeline, NO medication today. Ate at noon, wait, twelve-thirty, at the mall…
MOMMAAA! He keeps crying, just won’t stop crying, and I’m crying but I can’t cry! Somebody please slap me, slap me with a fish! Hard.
They walked us out of triage, down a corridor of unfamiliar equipment and people (who ARE all these people?), and everyone seemed to stop and take us in: Drew with his hot-pink bandage wrapped from the top of his head down around his chin, blood spattered down the front of him, his blood-mottled blanket in one hand, dragging on the floor, and in his other hand a roll of stickers, a lollipop and a clear vile of bubbles. His brown eyes burned through the tears, looking to settle on something familiar and forgettable, but they never could.
We waited in what looked like a mini surgery suite.
The doctor, a mid-thirties woman with blonde hair and kind hazel eyes, examined him. “We’ll have to suture it; I don’t think the glue will be enough,” she said. (I would like to officially register the word “suture” in my Hall of Infamous Words because it sounds so needle-y and diabolical.)
Apparently there’s a person at the hospital called a “suture tech” whose only job all day is to stitch people up. At Cook Children’s, this man’s name was Richard.
Richard advised using a drug to “relax him a little bit,” so he wouldn’t be able to resist as much and would not be able to remember the trauma. After about 15 minutes, Drew’s eyelids were half-shut, he had a frightening grin on his face, and he was saying hi to everyone who entered the room. He grabbed the doctor’s hand and studied it like he had never seen anything so fascinating before.
The time had come.
Grimly, Richard entered the suite. A fit younger man followed behind him and a youngish woman followed last. She was the “child life specialist” whose job it was to lessen the trauma for children by explaining about their “owies” and providing Thomas The Tank Engine on her iPhone.
The other man, the orderly, stood Drew up as best he could, slipped a pillowcase around his arms and shoulder blades and began wrapping his entire body in a tight swaddle with elephant-sized ace bandages. Drew complied, his head pitching forward and back. When his chin was brought up, the lights turned bright, and Richard came into view over head — upside down — Drew began whimpering, “Would yike to go home now…would yike to go home now…”
Then, the iodine, all over, swathing his chin in wet brownness. Then the shots, four or five, circling the laceration. Screaming, Drew screaming. Richard pursing his lips, his mustache twitching like a chinchilla, in concentration.
This is where I would have liked to have blacked out. But I didn’t. My face was right next to Drew’s; I was faintly aware of the Thomas soundtrack playing behind me, along with Gordon’s voice. But all I heard were Drew’s cries. Even though his eyes were fixed on mine, he was screaming my name like we were separated by an impossible chasm.
At one point I thought I should sing. “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”
“BIBLE!” Drew shrieked. Like the Bible was a king cobra.
Then, I noticed warmth on my face. Not sweat, but new and different tears. Mine. I felt a hand on my back — the child life specialist comforting the mommy too.
(What she really should have done is hit me in the face with a big blue marlin.)
After what seemed like a lifetime of enduring Richard and his hoola-hooping mustache, it was finished. Drew sat in the bed sucking on a rainbow popsicle, still woozy from the drug.
I became aware that “Toy Story 3” was playing on a TV in the upper corner of the room, and we watched silently as the dust settled. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this movie, but it is quite possibly the most touching tear-jerker ever, especially at the end when the teenage Andy gives his childhood toys away — Buzz, Woody, and the gang. It is, among other things, a coming-of-age tale; one I felt I had lived in my own way that day as a mommy, putting the last lingering illusions of motherhood in the giveaway box along with Drew’s ruined shirt. I realized that was the first day I had really ever seen Drew’s blood before. He hadn’t even had a skinned knee. And it was such regular blood, so spillable, so real and so finite.
It was all just too much.
Gordon patted my head as the tears really started coming. Drew didn’t know mommy was crying, I hope, but I was only too painfully aware of my own helpless estate, my own powerlessness, my own complete and surprising vulnerability.
Maybe the most dangerous thing about motherhood isn’t the risk you take loving someone so much.
Maybe it’s that no one will have the good sense to whack you in the face when you need it.
With a fish.
At regular intervals.
And then one more time for good measure.