She was exhausted—and rightfully so. It was the end of the school day, and it had taken a lot out of her.
And while usually, I would make jokes about wondering if there were coalmines at the school, or if she was exhausted from working “the back 40,” I refrained. I watched as she rested her head against the door as the rushing air from my 40 mph drive toward home rushed past her face.
“Gymnastics is today,” I finally said. She drearily opened her eyes and glanced at me without lifting her head. “Do you want to go.”?
In a swift, yet lethargic move, she rose up, wiped her hand across her face and sighed. “I’ll try it,” she replied. Her affirmation lacked enthusiasm.
The red light that caused me to apply the brakes came just as quickly as my epiphany.
I had offered her gymnastics. What the heck was I doing?
Of course, she was tired. Not from the school day, but from the past six days that started with her almost dying.
I know what you’re thinking…and no, I’m not exaggerating. My 9-year-old faced death…literally.
Six days prior, my daughter came home from school with a swollen lip. And while some would’ve speculated that such a thing was due to a dodge ball game gone awry, I knew immediately that it was an allergic reaction to…. something.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to glean details from a nine-year-old about what they got into or what they could have eaten, but trust me, the conversation is fruitless.
No matter, I thought. This wasn’t the first time she’d come home like this. On the other occasions, I would simply give her the trusty pink liquid from the medicine cabinet, tell her to be careful, and everything would be fine.
Only that didn’t work….
Not after the second dose either….
By morning, her lip had grown in size, which prompted a quick trip to the paediatrician.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to extract information from a warrior 9-year-old about how they’re feeling….but trust me, it’s a useless conversation.
By the time we reached the paediatrician, one look in her mouth proved that she was, in fact, not “fine.” Her tongue was (and had been) slowly swelling.
Enter the EpiPen…
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to poke a bull, hopped up on anxiety, in a small space with something sharp…
And in my calm voice, while her screams of terror rang out throughout the office,
…while my amazing husband and the nurse held her in place,
I assured my daughter that me stabbing her was necessary, because once I did…everything would be ok.
Only it wasn’t.
Because the medicine in the barbaric, but necessary instrument didn’t help
Neither did the subsequent steroid shot.
A few hours later after her inability to swallow a sip of water became apparent, we were back in the car…to the ER.
And an IV was put in. And more medicine was administered…but to no avail. Her airway was steadily closing.
And respiratory therapists were calmly brought in, and breathing treatments were administered (on account of the asthma)….but it only stalled the ever-growing problem.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to assure a 9-year-old that they’ll be ok while nurses are inserting a second IV in another arm…but trust me…it’s a job you don’t want.
And an epinephrine infusion was introduced. Something they were trying to get into her quickly to keep her airway open.
“Tell us if your heart feels funny.” The nurse said as he rubbed her head.
“My heart feels funny,” she immediately replied….
I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to watch a 9-year-old’s heartbeat go from 110 to 238, hear alarms ring, and see her look you in the eyes with an ever knowing stare that something is terribly wrong….I gotta tell you….it’s not something I’d recommend.
For those of you still reading…they turned the machines off and started the medicine over, at a much slower rate.
And then the hushed tones started. A tone I use on others when I’m trying to keep them from panicking in panic worthy situations.
And then the letters “ICU” started to get thrown around. A realization that didn’t dawn on me until they wheeled her through the doors and left me behind so they could get her “settled first.”
And all of that…was just the first day.
And she sobbed when they wouldn’t let her eat. Not realizing that it was because her airway hadn’t completely opened up.
And she sobbed when she couldn’t go home the following morning, because when they unplugged the IV that was delivering a steady dose of steroids, the swelling came back.
And she whimpered that night when she just wanted to go to sleep, but the nurses were waking her up for medicines, and temperature checks.
She was finally able to go home the third day.
The first morning at home, she had to take ten pills.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the relief on a 9-year-old’s face when you tell them they don’t have to go to school. It’s simultaneously heartwarming and breaking.
She didn’t go the next day either.
But here she was, her first day back, trying to muster up enough strength at just the idea of going to gymnastics.
Jeeze….what was I doing?
At what point did we as a society perpetuate this idea that we couldn’t be tired? At what point did we as women start wearing “pushing through” as a badge of honor? At what point did watching our mothers die early from this ridiculous practice stop affecting….me?
This little girl was about to go home, put on her gymnastics uniform, and “nevertheless she persisted.”
What the entire…….
“Layna,” I said, still at the light. “I know you’re tired. You have every right to be. You have been through so much in the last few days. You don’t have to do gymnastics today. It’s OK.”
She smiled at me, nodded, mumbled something about trying again next week, and put her head back on the door so the wind could rush over her face.
I don’t want to raise “strong” kids anymore. I want to raise human beings that are allowed to say:
“I can’t right now.”
“I don’t feel good.”
“I don’t want to.”
And I don’t want them to feel like they have to qualify it with an explanation. I want them to just be able to say it and walk away.
I sent a text to my sister and she sent me the most amazing response.
Yeah….that’s the plan.
You know I’m right.