Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Baby, It's You

David is back to work full-time now and I am still a bit shell-shocked by the whole idea. We really start to lose it around 5:00 p.m. when she starts rolling around and "em-eming" purely for recreation. (Just now she grabbed my arm and licked it, then leaned over and bit my pant leg, and then screamed at the top of her lungs. That's a pretty typical non-linear performance.)

It's only been a few days but I feel like I am getting to know her a bit better, and vice-versa. While she is thrilled when Daddy gets home, she doesn't

Okay. It's taken me a week to get back to this entry. Every time I'm about to report something, the scenery changes. Right now it's Saturday and thundering and all three of us are snug inside, one of us sound asleep after nearly two hours. When I put her down at 10:30 she protested, but without conviction. The truth is she's rather blotto these days due to Benadryl around the clock. (We finally learned that we have to double the dosage for a baby of her size.)

It's not that we're trying to sedate her for general purposes, but rather that she's had a pretty stressful week. Monday and Tuesday, frighteningly, are no longer in my memory bank, but Wednesday we had a long day of equal parts trauma and fun, beginning with yet another visit to Dr. Dern, this time for three of her vaccines. She didn't like the exam or the shots, obviously, but she cheered up quickly when we got to Gail's house (Hi Gail!) Gail is a faithful reader of the blog and my long-time writing student at UCSD, and she graciously invited the whole workshop over for lunch to meet Jarrah and have a playdate. Well, may I say with some understatement that Gail does good playdate! With confidence born of frequent frolics with her grandkids, Gail offered us toddler nirvana, including yummy snacks in an exciting and different booster seat, a playroom filled with dozens of toys and an enticing empty box, a backyard swing that actually plays music when it's swung, and last but not least, the delectable Fergus, an adorable white terrier who Jarrah found as funny as a classic episode of "Seinfeld." Gail herself proved to be the best toy, as she supervised Jarrah's introduction to stairs with a series of satisfying tushy-bumping descents. You would never know that the young one had been cruelly jabbed and deprived of her nap to boot, from the gusto with which she played, and I think she was a little peeved when I took her away! She also had fun meeting meeting Don, Jo Anne and Eleanor, who have been a wonderful support to me throughout the journey to Jarrah. Hi guys! Thanks for everything!

As if that wasn't enough excitement, we had some more fun at UTC with Mary and Joy that afternoon, where we snacked and shopped and pounded on the kiddie software at the Apple store. We finally packed it in around 4:30 and Jarrah snoozed on the way home, clutching her cell phone, and I felt a little gripping around my heart when I peeked at her in the rear view mirror. Lately I've been feeling mushier about her, and she about me. She grins toothily when she sees me, salutes both arms to be picked up, and looks to me for comfort at the doctor's office. Although she is a very busy girl and wears me out, I was starting to feel more confidence, more of a sense of connection and belonging with this fascinating little baby. At the same time, in the past week I have sometimes felt on the verge of tears when I look at her, knowing that she is so open and trusting and will only become more so, and that as much I might come to love her, I will let her down. I am a human being and I will do stupid things, and I will hurt her, physically and emotionally, as hard as I might struggle to avoid it. I can't be exactly what she needs. I am going to blow it, and I can only hope and hope and hope that I don't blow it too badly. And, on the flip side, she will hurt me, too. Mary always jokes that they won't call when they go to college--well, I'm sure that's true. Lord knows I never called. But she will hurt me sooner than that. The deeper I get into this whole business, the more room in my heart for hurt. It's hard to give in to that, and even harder to accept that I can't resist.

But readers, let's shelve that maudlin and existential topic for now and return to our week of trauma. On Thursday morning, I walked out of the bedroom to find Jarrah in David's lap at the computer, pounding away at her Australian alphabet game, but when she turned towards me I was shocked. "She has a rash on her cheeks!" I blurted, and David said "I noticed that." By the time he was off to work, it looked worse, her face swelling and purplish, with a terrain of low foothills. Late in the morning, I changed her diaper and discovered angry red swatches of rash on her sides, belly and back. I started to panic. I e-mailed the Fortune Cookies, who encouraged me to call the doctor. I spoke to the nurse twice, and in between I did a lot of pacing. The rash was creeping down Jarrah's arms, onto her hands. Her ears were lumpy. She was fretful and restless, attempting to scratch at her cheeks and belly. I honestly did not know what to do. I rubbed her all over with Aquaphor, which seemed to help briefly, and gave her Benadryl, which did not. Mary said she would come over and bring us some oatmeal bath, bless her heart. Then the nurse called me back and said to come on in. I called Mary and she said she and Joy would meet me there. I rushed Jarrah into her car seat, where she stared moonily out the window, her eyes tiny slits in her puffy, purple face. It was breaking my heart. She didn't even do the Chicken Dance to bad '80s songs as she is wont to do. That, combined with the fact that she barely touched her lunch, worried me the most. To paraphase Algernon Moncrieff, this is not a girl who eats lunch in a frivolous manner.

Readers, we were in the doctor's office for two hours. Dr. Dern was not in that afternoon, and we saw a resident and then another doctor afterwards, maybe because the resident had no idea? Anyway, I ended up not liking him. For one thing, we waited forever, and then he had only been in the room 2 minutes before he left again for a long time. Jarrah was just in a diaper the whole time, because the nurse had asked me to strip her when we first came in. She and Joy were restless and snackish, and between the two of them, the room started to look pretty bad. Mary did her best to amuse them (what would I do without her?) while I stared into the middle distance in a haze, freakishly drained, feeling I had lost even the facility to form a coherent sentence. I wanted to cry, but felt I didn't have the time or the energy. I was already finding this parenting thing so hard, and then the kids don't even remain in their unretouched state! How insane is that? And I could see my future, and it was filled with days like this one, sitting in white rooms, waiting for doctors and worrying, maybe (horrors) even without Mary.

The doctors went in and out, in and out, and I tried to concentrate, but Jarrah was clingy and crying, and mostly I just wanted to hold her close and kiss her and repeat "It's going to be okay." But for a while there I didn't even know that. Nobody was sure what we were looking at. Was it a virus? An allergy? And to what? The vaccines? Pineapple, her new favorite food? We probably won't ever know for sure.

The snow cap on the day came near the end. The young resident, a smarmy and good-looking fellow who (double horrors) is probably much younger than I and kept saying "How's he doing?" in regard to Jarrah, kept staring at her appraisingly. I thought maybe he was trying to figure out the rash but then he said something unrelated. "The Chinese sure do love those cribs." "What do you mean?" I asked. "Well, the flat head and the distended belly. It's from lying in a crib all day." It took a few seconds to sink in that he was talking about my child. Apparently he saw her as some kind of damaged goods I happened to pick up on my trip, along with some really good deals on DVDs. I tried to imagine him making this statement to a mother about her birth child, and couldn't--it would be unthinkable; the mother would take it personally. But evidently it should not have been personal for me, since Jarrah was adopted. I'm supposed to have some sort of practical distance from which I might reply, "Yeah, her head's kinda flat. Weird, huh?" Driving home that evening, I peered at her in the rear view mirror again, and again felt a bit of pain. But it was different now. Before I had known I couldn't protect her from myself. Now I knew I wouldn't be able to protect her in general. The world is sometimes cold and mean to a chunky little monkey who is itchy and tired for reasons she can't understand. It's mean to all of us, and it will be mean to her in its own way.

Friday we were back at the office bright and early, and I was less than secretly grateful for the previously scheduled TB check. "You're here again?" the receptionist asked incredulously, and I said "Yep. We live here now." A big shout-out to Aaryn and Ruby, who came along to keep us company. Aaryn was such a mensch about it; she didn't prevaricate; when I answered the phone she said "Do you want me to come to the doctor's with you?" Her directness helped me say yes. They were awesome. Aaryn even brought treats to distract Jarrah from being poked at yet again. This time, Dr. Dern did the poking, and she was awesome, as always. Although the rash was even worse that day, she said she felt certain it was allergic and would go away soon. Jarrah was even itchier on Friday because she kept raking her little nails over her inflamed limbs and tummy, causing scabs. But I believed Dr. Dern, and that made all the difference. And you know what? She was right. When we woke up this morning, Jarrah was looking a little better. You can see her rash in some of the pics, but now it's crusting over (sorry, that is disgusting.) She has her appetite back, and was very cheerful today. And people still flirt with her in stores because her adorable-ness shines through her scabby little face. The girl can't help herself, and people respond to that.

It was such a relief when David came home on Friday. He arrived early so I could go to NIA and dance my troubles away. I was like a maniac (wait, maybe not a maniac; no one was dousing me with buckets of water or anything) and got good and sweaty. Then David gave Jarrah a bath and, bless his heart, watched her while I went out for some girlie time with Lisa, Martha and Mary.

So, I made it through my first week alone with Jarrah. Just barely, but I did. I want to say that next week has got to be lighter on the medical emergencies, but who knows? Guess what the talented one did this evening, ladies and gentlemen? She got up and walked AWAY from us for the first time. Picked herself up off the floor and wobbled across the room towards a chair. And then she did it again going out the door of her room. That's some big toddler milestone, from what I understand, when a stander and cruiser suddenly has an inner "click" that tells them they can do this without anyone watching and cheering them on. When they can do it for themselves, just because they want to.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sam & David & Jarrah,

Boy, what a week, what a week!
You all had the worst and the best of it!

As for the medical stuff, a friend of mine once said about her VERY active and accident-prone son, that she needed a charge card for the emergency room-- :)& sometimes it seems that way! Good thing that kids are AMAZINGLY resilient. Not sure about the parents.

Despite being an overly-protective parent, I did manage to learn along the way that the best way to protect your kids from the
pain of life is to help them learn the methods to deal with it.

As for failing your child, some wise soul once said that first your child loves you, then they judge you, and finally, if you're lucky, they forgive you. Guess we owe them as much.

And learning to stand on her own and getting up and walking away from you -- what a metaphor for good parenting -- CONGRATULATIONS,

It was wonderful meeting Jarrah and seeing you again, Sam! Despite your worries, I can see from the way you are with Jarrah, that you're a wonderful parent! I's been my experience that most
moms work their butts off physically and emotionally. Bless David for being the type of father who can come home from work and have the love, energy and skills to take over for awhile.

Best, Gail

Kim said...

Lots to say about the letting your kids down thing, but speaking of kids, mine are starting to get fussy, so just this for now: Asians have flatter heads with a tendecy toward smaller head circumferences than Caucasians. Don't let the doctor freak you out about J's head! My close friend's sister adopted a baby from Russia and one physician said something about it and sent her into a tizzy. She consulted a doc who specializes in international adoption who said that her head is just naturally more flat--no problems! -Kim

Anonymous said...

What a week! I had no idea of the significance, Sam! Good for you and a big pat on the back for a great job done.

I am happy to read our little miss is on her way to good health. It hurt my heart to hear of her rash, never mind the fucktardish comment from the medico.

I had a blast Friday night. I think you should be my date from now on.