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WWJCD? (What Would Joan Crawford Do?)

Seriously. The happenings at my house are hideous. If it weren’t essential that I participate, I would runaway.

The rarely used alarm clock got to showcase its talent with an annoying at 5:30 am buzz. Having been awake for much of the night giving breathing treatments to Asthma Boy, I found it unbelievable that it could be morning so soon. No time to ponder as I needed to dress, get my son dressed and packed for school, get my daughter dressed and find all her paperwork for the doctor, pill the cat (always a joy), scoop his poop, feed him and transfer his lame body to an outside kennel. Sweet Jesus, the husband made me a cup of coffee.

Zip. Out the door and to the surgery center. On time to make the 6:45 am appointment.

In the waiting room Asthma Boy begins a coughing fit that has mothers shielding their infants and giving one another quizzical looks that say, “Why won’t that woman do something to make her son stop coughing?” 

It is decided that Asthma Boy must be taken home for a five-millionth breathing treatment. Of course, Tonsil Girl is called for her long awaited surgery just as two-thirds of her support team abandons her. Tonsil Girl is a tough cookie, though, and never winces as she bids her family farewell and hops onto the rolling surgical bed. Prepared to suck bubblegum air that will take her to the other world, she’s her usual saucy self.
While Tonsil Girl is in surgery, I take advantage of every bit of free time and draft a very compelling and detailed document for work. All about the billing, ya know! Multi-tasking finds me using my laptop in the hospital bathroom—killing three birds with one stone.

Tonsil Girl is wheeled into recovery and demonstrates the very definition of stoicism. She never sheds a tear and maintains complete dignity—until she vomits on herself. The long day has officially begun.

At home Tonsil Girl looks uncharacteristically stricken by fear. A girl who is not afraid of the devil himself lets a bit of apprehension show in her eyes. Not one to be comforted, she vomits again and snuggles down with the broken-legged cat.

Horrible mother that I am, I leave Tonsil Girl (with capable father, housekeeper and shocked little brother) and go to a meeting that drags on for two and a half hours. It feels nice to vary the types of stress in my day. No need to have all motherhood stress—mix it with some work stress and compound it by eating the dozen cookies delivered for someone’s birthday to add some body-image stress. Gotta keep it mixed up!

Back home to nurse Tonsil Girl, Asthma Boy, Broken-Legged Cat, and husband who still need eye-drops and warm compresses for last week’s eye surgery. Ring. “Hello, it’s your mother and my doctor is concerned that nobody is staying with me while I recover from surgery.” Na-uh. It was a lanced boil fergoodnesssakes! Can’t deal with that one.

By 7:00 pm, Asthma Boy is in a full-fledged asthmatic attack. The husband and I have a brief discussion about who will take him to the hospital. Since I took him to the hospital JUST LAST WEEK, it seemed like it would be the husband’s turn, but he reminds me that the eye doctor said he shouldn’t drive at night for a while. (Isn’t “a while” over?)

Zoom. Racing to hospital with gasping boy to find all the parking spots full. Surely, the chaplain will not be visiting tonight.

The full parking lot should have been an indicator that the emergency room would be packed. Packed as in, not a single seat available. Standing, I held Asthma Boy for two hours as he hacked and the nurse monitored his oxygen from time to time. My back is broken. 

This comment intends no racial tone, but is mentioned as a fact. I was one of two Caucasians in a room full of Spanish speaking healthcare seekers who repeatedly answered “no” to the “do you have insurance” question. Of course, while stating they had no insurance, they were able to afford Maclaren strollers, extensive tattoos, gilded sunglasses and brand name jeans belted underneath their ass. Oh, and every motherfucker in the joint had a cell phone upon which they were talking with loud abandon. Wiping Cheeto stained hands on the brand new hospital walls and furnishings and spilling Sprite on the floor, the pack overtly ignored the NO FOOD OR DRINK sign.

(That sounded really judgmental. I am all for helping my fellow human beings, but it makes me mad that clothes, cars and other forms of materialism take priority over necessities, like health care. There is a mammoth class of people who never think twice about budgeting for health care, which is legitimately too expensive, and but many people just assume someone else is going to pay their portion. I’m that someone else, and I resent saving money by buying the $14.99 umbrella stroller for my child while someone else buys the $300 designer stroller and cries poor when it comes to ponying up for insurance. If you can afford cigarettes, tattoos, and Air Force One tennis shoes at $175 a pair, you can afford to contribute something to the health care system. I’d be willing to accept a tennis shoe trade, in fact.)

Shortly after midnight, Asthma Boy is released. In my bed I sleep like a rock until Tonsil Girl wakes up in pain at 3:00 am. Administer medicine and attend Asthma Boy at 4:00 am and again 5:00 am. Tend to Tonsil girl at 6:30 am. Back to Asthma Boy at 7:00 am and finally at 8:00 am when Asthma Boy wants breakfast, I give up the pretense of sleeping.

Back to the morning routine of pilling cat and shooting him with antibiotics. I’m dizzy, but must focus on getting food into Tonsil Girl and staying on top of breathing treatments.

Here is my question: What would Joan Crawford do? Remember the days when a woman could breakdown and check into the hospital for recuperation? Can’t do that anymore a nurse tells me. In the old days, a weary woman could take an uninterrupted rest in a hospital room with the curtains drawn and three meals a day delivered to her bed. Presumably, this type of rest included an infusion of vitamins and sedatives that provided the patient with a much-needed rest.

Today’s answer for the tired mother is a spa, but I’m here to say that a spa is too much work. At a spa, even if you eschew the competitive exercise classes and cleanses, you have to get yourself dressed and walk to a dining room or lug your worn-out body to a massage or facial. 

I yearn for complete bed rest where the food is wheeled over top of me on a rolling bed tray. Even checking into the Four Seasons requires a person to get out of bed when room service knocks, sit upright to eat and put the used tray in the hall. Plus, there are mirrors and nice furnishings at the Four Seasons, which would cause one to take stock and presumably evaluate the weakness of hiding in a hotel.

AND, when you leave the hotel or spa you might experience great guilt from such a luxurious indulgence. As soon as you came home, the chores would resume. However, when a person leaves the hospital the world acknowledges they were “sick” and the expectations for a sick person are very low. Surely the family would tidy-up before you came home and the father would instruct the children, “Mom has been sick. So, let’s keep our voices down and pitch in to help.”

This parenthood gig is so incredibly full-time and there is never a vacation. Vacation means taking care of children out of the home space where all the tools live. Vacation is no vacation. Those mothers of the 1940’s might not have been the most attached parents as they took six-week ship rides to Europe, but I bet their mental health was stable—oh, well, maybe not as they were bossed by their husbands. In the end, I would rather be tired and in control than treated like a pet.

Cheers to a good night’s sleep! For all you mothers of newborns, I feel your pain.

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