"I'm not that
mom," I promised, looking into the emergency room doctor's eyes as I clung to
my limp child. "I'm not a hypochondriac. This is the first time I have ever
brought her to the ER. I swear she's not just tired. Something's wrong."
I was pleading
at this point, but there really wasn't any reason to be. He knew something was wrong. He agreed with
me. In fact, from the moment we walked into the ER, we had been treated as
though this was a true emergency — rushed into a room and greeted by a doctor
So why did I feel
so desperate to justify this visit? Why did I feel the need to repeat those
same words at least three more times during our visit?
"I'm not that
I wish I knew
the answer. In retrospect, I wish I had been able to handle that visit with
enough confidence in my mommy gut that I didn't feel the need to convince
everyone around me that I wasn't crazy.
But as it
turns out, I didn't have that confidence, which is probably why even though I
knew within five minutes of attempting to wake my daughter that morning that
something was wrong, it still took me an hour and a half before I finally made
the call to take her to the emergency room.
I was terrified of being brushed off as an over-reactive mom in the midst of a situation I was sure required some sort of urgent attention.
You see, she
didn't have a fever. She wasn't throwing up or exhibiting any signs of pain or distress.
But maybe that was part of the problem — she wasn't exhibiting much of anything
at all. My normally rambunctious child had slept for over 14 hours before I
finally attempted to wake her, and then she struggled to keep her eyes open for
more than a few seconds at a time. I had never seen her like this before. Even
when she had been sick in the past, running up to a 104-degree temperature, she
had never been so lethargic. I couldn't get her to talk, to respond to anything
I was doing, to eat or drink – I couldn't get her to do more than cuddle
against me, her eyes fluttering open for brief periods of time, but never
really focusing at all. The poor kid couldn't even sit up on her own without
Yet still, it
took me an hour and a half to declare this an emergency.
I hate myself
for that. I'm angry that the fear of being a hypochondriac mom overrode the gut
feeling I had from very early on that something was truly wrong with my baby.
Helicopter moms have become so stigmatized in our world today that no one wants
to be associated with that. There has even been a growing group of "bad
mommies" who seem so intent on distancing themselves from helicopter moms that they veer off in the other direction — sharing with pride the many moments
during a day when they allow their children to run amuck unsupervised while
they chug their wine and high five each other for being so uninvolved.
record, I don't particularly want to fall into that camp either.
But usually, I
pride myself on being the kind of mom who knows when to intervene and when to
step back and allow my daughter to navigate her own world. It is important to
me to be the mom who understands when to react and when to observe. In this
moment though, I had no idea what the right answer was. And I was terrified of
being brushed off as an over-reactive mom in the midst of a situation I was
sure required some sort of urgent attention.
And so I
clarified, again and again, that I was not that mom — to a doctor who seemed to
need no such clarification in order to believe me.
My only hope is that when and if that day comes, I'm willing to trust my gut a little more than I was this time around.
In the end, it
turned out that my little girl had likely ingested something. A pill, the kind
of thing that would have knocked her out. Probably a painkiller, based solely
on the fact that she gave no reaction at all to getting a catheter at the
hospital, which for most people is a fairly painful event. Within about 12
hours though, she was back to her normal self. It was a long day of coming very
slowly out of her haze, but by the time whatever it was had cleared her system, she was acting as though nothing had happened at all.
At some point in the
previous evening my child, who I try so hard to be a good mom to, managed to
get her hands on a pill of some kind and ingest it. And the next morning, we
wound up in the ER with me somehow hyper-concerned about being viewed as the
kind of mom who overreacts.
I'm proud of
exactly none of that.
talking to friends, I came to realize that I'm also not alone in that fear. We
all want to be supermoms. We want to be the ones who can remain cool under
pressure and who can decipher an emergency from a wait-and-see event. The
difference for a lot of moms is that they at least have a partner there to
help them make those decisions. For me, there is no one else in the world that
knows my girl as well as I do, no one waiting in the wings to help me ascertain
how serious a situation may be when she simply isn't acting like herself.
So in this instant,
our first emergency situation, I had to rely entirely on my own gut when making
that decision. Unfortunately, I just wasn't as confident in my gut in that
moment as I should have been.
girl is just fine. Fully recovered from her day of pill popping. For my part, I
would prefer we never have to experience anything like that again — the sinking
feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I knew something was truly wrong
but I had no idea what. Still, it is inevitable that another emergency will at
some point present itself. That's part of parenting, right?
My only hope
is that when and if that day comes, I'm willing to trust my gut a little more
than I was this time around, willing to make the decisions that I know are
right in the moment — without allowing myself to be overrun by the fear of being