The gap between “Mummy, my tummy is sore” and “Sign this consent form or your child will be dead in 48 hours” is a chasm no mother wants to cross. Standing helplessly watching your firstborn hooked up to monitors and tubes wile screaming in agony is enough to shatter any illusion that mothers are soft, sweet, gentle beings. Mothers are hewn from granite and cold steel runs in our veins. If someone had told me I had to kill a man to save my son’s life, I would not have hesitated. In fact, I don’t know a single mother who would. We’re strange that way.
Friday was the type of day a parent dreads. Small girl aged 5 with the flu. Small boy aged 7 with an eye appointment. Small boy aged 9 screaming. Two parents. One car. When Small boy aged 7 hesitantly mentioned his tooth was sore, mother began to weep hysterically. There is only so much.
After the eye thing, which is another story entirely, I rushed into work with the hoard in tow. My boss, a man, bless him, looked at me in that bemused fashion men have when dealing with distraught mothers. He couldn’t seem to fathom how I couldn’t muster up a fathom of interest in his impending deadlines and South Africa’s bid for the Square Kilometer Array.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Small boy aged 9 was diagnosed with an abscess on his appendix and a horrific secondary infection spreading through his stomach cavity.
“But how,” I squeaked, “could this have happened in a day?”
The answer was succinctly, that it didn’t.
My son stoically had been living through the pain for over a month without telling anyone.
If he hadn’t been at death’s door I would have shaken him silly. I’m all for real men and yes I do take the piss out of Man Flu, but this was serious. He is also the child that broke his arm and waited a week before mentioning it. It’s enough to make a mother scream.
The operation, which was scheduled to last fifteen minutes, went on for an hour and a half. To distract ourselves, we sat in the ward making Monty Python jokes. Sometimes that’s all that is guaranteed to make you laugh, and we needed it.
Parenting is no easy ride. It’s an adventure, filled with pitfalls and stupendous highs as well as terrifying battles against enemies with no faces.
There is nothing average about Small boy aged 9, and I don’t mean that in a strictly complimentary fashion. There are times when average would be perfect. The operation took so long because not only was the infection appalling, but his appendix is in the wrong place.
As a result Small boy aged 9 has tiny little cuts all across his stomach. I’ve promised him that when he is sixteen I’ll take him to get a tiny pair of scissors tattooed on the dotted line. It didn’t even rate a smile. His father wanted to tattoo I LOVE MUM on his bald head as a baby that would reveal itself as his hairline receded in middle age.
Aside from all the little incisions was a horrible drainage bag to get out the gloop that had collected in his stomach cavity. Not a pretty site.
The staff at the hospital were incredibly gentle with him and put up with a lot of tension from us. When you are feeling so helpless, you tend to take it out on those who can actually do the things you can’t.
While we were taking shifts to sit with our son and chatting aimlessly with the nurses, we discovered that most parents do not stay with their kids, especially over weekends.
They have a revolting number of returnees from parents who use their Discovery medical aid to check their kids in while they go to the casino. Kids who return with hands broken by hammers, poisoned with bleach and a number of other hideous things.
Sitting there watching my child fight to heal, I couldn’t, I still can’t fathom how a parent could treat a child that way. The hospital does report suspicious activity like this, but with little or no hard proof, there is not much they can do. I wanted to weep for these children.
Being finally able to gather up my son and carry him home brought on the most incredible wave of relief – a tsunami of shuddering release. My son is home. He is sore, he is scared but he is home. He also is characteristically appalled by my need to constantly smother him with kisses and attention. Such is life.