When it rains, it pours.
This phrase has crossed my lips or my mind more often in my 14 months as a parent than during the entirety of my pre-kid life. I last thought this at around 11:30 pm on the day after Christmas as I sat in the waiting area of the Miami Children’s Hospital ER. Around me, parents cradled limp kids wrapped in blankets, seemingly much too large to be held. An older baby vomited with gusto onto the floor, and his parents moved a few seats over to avoid cleaning it up. A large family gestured with their arms as they explained their toddler’s head injury to the receptionist. There were hacking coughs like I had never heard before from adults and kids alike. I felt silly sitting there with my bubbly, chatty almost-toddler, who was pointing at the lit Christmas tree and motioning to be put down. This was not where I had pictured myself during our biannual visit to the Florida side of the family. Why were we there? Because I had to make a call.
You all know what I’m talking about, because you’ve all had to make “the call” too – it’s the time when you have to put on your big kid pants and make a hard decision, right then. No time to ask a friend or research on the internet, practically no time to even search your own memory bank or really think. This is something that has surprised me a bit about parenthood: the frequency with which there is a choice to be made and I’m pacing like a lost hiker in the middle of my living room going, “What do you think? What should we do? I have no idea what to do,” while my husband just stares at me, equally oblivious.
The story of how we ended up at the ER is more complicated than I’ll get into fully, but we found ourselves 1300 miles from home with a cranky, coughing, refusing-to-sleep, yet fever-free baby and with just days left until a switch in health insurance. The prospect of spending multiple hours at the hospital late at night to find out my kid was fine wasn’t at all appealing, but I didn’t want to have regrets, so we went. After 1.5 hours in the awful waiting room and another 6 hours in a freezing cold exam room (complete with a horrifying Married with Children marathon that we couldn’t change or turn off), we found out that our daughter does, in fact, have a mild ear infection. I’m relieved that we brought her in, but I actually feel pretty guilty that I voted against taking her in the first place. (Can you believe that? I spent 7.5 hours in the ER, got my kid the medical treatment she needed, and I feel guilty.)
This whole situation kind of summed up what much of parenting has been for me in a nutshell: a series of important decisions, questionably made by caring, clueless, and exceptionally sleepy people. Despite our best efforts, we are all destined to make the wrong call on occasion. The trouble with parental decision making is that hindsight is 20/20, and as moms, we don’t tend to be very forgiving of ourselves when we get it wrong. “Wrong.” This time, I got lucky. My flip-of-the-coin decision was the “right” one. Next time, maybe not so much. Such is parenthood.