I think, “Maybe tonight will be a good night.”
I think, “Maybe tonight no one will wake up crying, and no one will have an upset stomach, and the baby will stay asleep, and we can all get some rest.”
I think, “I can’t remember the last time we all slept through the night.”
Having a baby means interrupted sleep patterns, of course, but this is something more. Lately, anyway, it seems like there are always nightmares, always sore throats, always problems. Among all of us.
My 4-year-old has been complaining of an upset stomach for a while now. For a couple of months. There are no other symptoms—nothing unusual going in or coming out, no fevers. We’re thinking it’s anxiety—causing the discomfort in her and thereby prompting it in me. She’d prefer to live on Trader Joe’s O’s and boxed mac and cheese, but, of course, we feed her more foods and healthier foods, which she picks at. I think she’s hungry a lot, too.
Late Thanksgiving night—or early the next morning, at 4:30, actually—I woke up feeling terrible. Like, hunch over the toilet terrible. The kids all woke up fine—aside from the usual complaints—at 6. We puttered around with my parents, then drove to my wife’s parents’ house for a second Thanksgiving dinner with her siblings and such. I was feeling fine by the afternoon, and my 4-year-old actually ate food. Plus, we loaded her up with buttered rolls—heavy on the butter—thinking it would fill her up.
She admitted that her stomach didn’t hurt as much. “That’s because you’re putting food in it,” I said, popping a few more pomegranate seeds into her mouth, since she decided she likes those, too.
The kids went to bed with no issues. No health issues, anyway. The adults actually all watched a movie together: Safety Not Guaranteed, which could be my life motto. Then, while walking past the room where the girls were sleeping, I heard an odd sound. My wife and I thought it was the family dog hacking, but it turned out to be my 4-year-old in her sleep. She woke up, sobbing, with this braying cough unlike anything I’ve yet heard out of any of my children.
I’ll admit that I looked at my wife and said, “I can’t take this anymore.” I meant the sicknesses. The late-night questions with no answers: Why is she making that noise? Why won’t she tell us what hurts when we ask? Why does it seem like someone in our family is always suffering from some ailment or another? What should we do now?
My wife sat with our barking daughter in a steamy bathroom while I started writing this post. Writing helps me organize my brain. Words are a way of taking some of the chaos of the world and containing it, constraining it, making it do what I want. When I put a word down, it stays where I put it. It means what I want it to mean. Let there be light, and all. Words have power. In the beginning was the word …
The two of them eventually came out, and my girl asked—in a raspy voice, her breathing clear but ragged—if she could watch the Burninator, so I put on a string of Homestar shorts and the two of us fell asleep, her on a couch, me on the floor below her.
When I talked to her—bright-eyed, clear-chested, smiling her—about everything this morning, she said she had had no trouble breathing in, but breathing out last night was hard. It made a weird sound. Her throat hurt last night; it’s fine now. For the first time in weeks upon weeks, when I ask her how her tummy’s doing, she says good.
I’ll probably revisit this post during an upcoming Worry Wednesday, but for now I’m thankful that the sun came up, and my kids are now running around, playing, helping with chores, beautiful.