Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

Today my daughter presented me with this cup of carefully planted dandelions (the cup was packed with soil) and, holding her bent arms in close to her body with fists clenched tight, she told me that “the flowers are captivated by the dirt.”  Captivated?  Oh! She meant captured, held in place…

I put the cup on the table and swooped down to give her a great big hug and kiss.  “Thank you, sweetheart!  They’re beautiful!”

And, using a surprising new phrase for the third time today, she replied, “No problation, Mummy.”

Oh, would that time could stand still and my daughter stay lovely like this forever!

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In the end, we did go to the emergency room, and a very good thing too.  As I said in the postscript to my last blog post, E2 got me back up again around 3.15am (though I say she “got me up”, I had yet to actually sleep) and, this time, she was having to work very, very hard to breathe.  She was asking for milk, but what she really needed was an immediate breathing treatment, and I carried her straight downstairs to set it up.

The medicine is a strong stimulant — this is what forces the airways open again — and the result is almost always a burst of activity, as if she’s suddenly ingested four cups of strong coffee.  It’s hard to judge her breathing at this point — I have to wait until she’s calmed down a bit to get a true idea of whether the treatment has worked.  She ran around until around 4am, and then slowed and I could begin to see…  and I just wasn’t happy with what I saw.

She was still working to breathe — less than before, for sure, but still visibly working.  And that meant it was probably time to go to the emergency room.  But… I wasn’t sure.   It was 4am, I hadn’t had much sleep for nights on end and no sleep that night at all, I was exhausted…  it was chucking down rain and cold, and dark, and hospital has recently moved to a new location which I don’t know that well…  I thought of my other daughter, fast asleep in her bed upstairs…  I wasn’t sure what to do.   She was working for the breath but…  was it that bad?  Or was it just the usual struggle from having a cold? I couldn’t decide.

I woke M from his deep sleep and made him watch her breathe.  He  wasn’t sure either.  She was so happy and lively in herself, smiling at her daddy, but still… there was that rasping, the belly working with each breath, a slight collapse at the base of the neck…    “Mmmm… ” he weighed it up, “I think she’s ok.  Let’s just wait a bit and see.”

I agreed, relieved to share the burden of the decision.  “But I don’t want to put her in her room.  I want her to sleep here with us.”  It was a sign of his true uneasiness that he agreed immediately — he has always been adamantly against the girls sleeping in our bed.

She didn’t sleep.  She tossed and turned, and sang, and played with her daddy’s ears and his nose, and smacked me gently on the face.  So exhausted was I that I managed to slip into blessed unconsciousness even still, and so grabbed my only sleep of the night — about 30 minutes.  But when I came to again, there was no question — she was not getting better.  I rang the doctor’s office — it was now about 5am.  The nurse on call listened to my description and then said, “You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?”  I did.  “I’ll ring ahead to let them know you’ll be coming…”

Poor E1 sat up with a start start when I rudely flicked on the light, and she blurted out in confusion, “What’s… what’s going on?!?” I told her we were going to hospital and I needed her to get up, use the toilet, and get dressed.  My recognised my tone and followed the orders without complaint.  But when her knickers wouldn’t cooperate, the sleeiness got the better of her and she faltered.  “Mummy, I think I might cry…”  Big eyes, wobbling lip.  I fixed the knickers, gave her a squeeze and a big kiss, and she composed herself again and carried on — so exactly the big girl I needed her to be at that moment.

I rang my mother and asked her to meet us at the hospital, then grabbed a change of clothes and whatever food I could find — breakfast would be corn muffins and leftover pasta with garlic-tomato sauce — and bundled everything and everyone in the car.

I took a wrong turn in the dark and got lost in the city, then found my way again, then took another wrong turn and got lost again.  “Sweetheart, are you ok?” I called out every few seconds, and she’d squeak a small sound in reply.  I barked at E1, “Watch her! Watch her breathe!  Is she breathing?”  This time, the nurse had not suggested an ambulance.  And we’d made the trip every time before in the car so I just hadn’t thought…  Oh, why hadn’t I called an ambulance?!?  I turned left… found it was a road I recognised, worked out the way to the hospital, and gunned it.

She didn’t respond to the first treatment, even after a full hour.  The wheezing continued, the effort with every breath still painfully apparent.  And, more worryingly, even the stimulant no longer perked her up much — she laid on the hospital bed, listless in a little blue gown covered in dinosaurs.  They tried another treatment, with a different medicine and, thankfully, that one.  She began to breathe more easily and her eyes brightened.  We stayed another hour for observation, and then we were released, and left feeling disorientated, surprised to find that it was lunchtime.

The doctor had asked me — no, ordered — to take her for a follow-up the next morning.  He was adamant that he did not want it delayed until after the weekend.  But when we arrived, the pediatrician was running behind, and we sat in the waiting room for over an hour, surrounded by all the other children who also so sick that they couldn’t wait for Monday.  One mother, her arm around a bleary-eyed, coughing girl, told the woman next to her that 300 children had been out that week from her daughter’s school with suspected or confirmed swine flu.  I made E2 put her book down, and slipped into the bathroom to wash her hands.

The doctor’s eyes went immediately to E2’s chest and belly, from the moment she walked in the room.  “She’s working for it now, isn’t she?” she observed before we’d even begun.  “She needs a treatment now.  We could do it here… but, no, that will cost you.  How far are you from home?”  Ten minutes, I told her, and we agreed we could do the treatment the minute we got home.

I like this doctor very much — she is gentle and respectful with my daughters, shows them all the instruments before she uses them, and sings a quiet and soothing  song as she examines them.  More importantly, she genuinely understands that I am generally hesitant to resort to medication, because she is of the same persuasion herself.  So when she suggested at our previous appointment (that is, after the last breathing-trouble run to ER) that perhaps we should consider giving E2 a nebulised steroid treatment — daily steroid, for the next six months — my initial gut instinct to reject the idea was tempered by the knowledge that she wouldn’t be suggesting it if the situation weren’t really that serious.  And yet…  and yet, I couldn’t hide my revulsion.  “Think about it for awhile,” she had said, writing the prescription.  “Pick up the medicine from the pharmacy…  Maybe discuss it with the allergist too.  But the way she goes down so fast…  I think we might need to do something to help her get on top of this, for the future.”   And now the doctor brought the subject up again, suggesting in her gentle manner thatperhaps we should be using that daily steroid treatment — and this time I had to agree with her.  It all gets so critical so quickly with E2…  It’s dangerous to carry on like this.

I asked about swine flu: could the girls be vaccinated, given their egg allergies?  No, but M and I can.  In fact — she pointed her pen at me, concern on her face — we probably should be as soon as possible.  With E2’s history…  She didn’t finish her thought, but I understood.  I have no doubt that if this child contracts swine flu, it will not be the “mild case” that we’re told most people get.  I will be that mother praying fervently, with her forehead resting on the edge of a hospital bed, next to the child fighting for her life.  I need to register the two of us with a doctor — or perhaps ring the allergist — and hope my explanation of the situation is enough to persuade him or her to bend the rules and give the two of us the H1N1 vaccine.

But for now, sat here at the computer and up far too late again, I am just counting my blessings — grateful that we made it to the hospital in time, and that my daughter responded to the treatments at last, and that tonight she is sleeping peacefully upstairs… her little chest rising and falling gently in the dark.   The last few days have been exhausting, draining.   Tackling the next hurdle can wait until tomorrow.

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Some nights the bedtime routine is harder than others.  Tonight, M had hit his wall before we’d even begun — he’d had a particularly difficult day and was sat on the couch looking as though his head was filled with concrete.  Tonight would be a solo gig.

First child: toilet, hands, catch her as she runs off, teeth, catch her again,  PJs, read story, into bed, kiss, shut the door firmly, open the door,  get drink, shut the door firmly, open the door, promise to send Daddy up, shut the door firmly…

Second child: nappy, PJs,  hands, teeth, take her in to kiss her sister, take her down to kiss Daddy, take her up to her room, go to find beloved Pink Lamb, return to find her hiding in the closet, deliver beloved Pink Lamb, Mother May I?, sleeping bag, Vicks under chin, Olbas oil on bedsheet, lie down to feed, convince her to keep feeding and not climb off bed, feed some more, switch sides, convince again, finally give up and lay her down with fingers crossed, distract with Ginger Rabbit, turn on humidifier, slip out… and wait… and wait… nothing, so go downstairs at last.

M was putting on his work clothes.  “But you’re not on call this weekend!”  Nonetheless, the guy who was wasn’t answering his phone — not for the first time — and M was taking his chance to make himself less likely to be laid off.

All quiet again, I sat on the couch and thought about making a cup of tea, and perhaps reading my book, untouched for a week…  Except that all was not quiet — there as a moaning emanating from the first bedroom, breaking the hard-earned silence.  A moan, not a cry, so I ignored it for a while.  And ignored my book, and surfed the web while I waited for it to stop.

It didn’t — just carried on at the same pitch, same volume, in the sure knowledge that annoying persistence wins the day.  Suitably irritated, I went back up, skipping nimbly over the creaky stair: priority number one, as ever, is to not wake the other child.

She wanted her blanket put back on.  And company, of course.  Fighting it would be too loud…  I laid down on the bed, to her utter delight, squishing her a little and pressing my nose against hers.  She smiled broadly and giggled too loudly. “Shhhhhhhh!”  She giggled again, whisper-quiet.

I dropped my head to the pillow and just laid with her for a minute.  What was I missing?  Some useless telly?  A book I haven’t touched in a week?  I looked into her grinning face, inches from mine.  She wanted this.  So did I.

“My legs!  Mummy, you’re squishing my legs!”  I was, a little because the bed is too small for both of us, and a little on purpose — my get-out.  “Mummy! Mummy, get up!  My legs are squished!”  I got up, but kept my nose to hers.

I love you.

“What are you going to do?  Are you going downstairs?”

“I’m going to have some tea, and read my book.”

“And then what?”

I kissed her on the forehead, and on both cheeks, and then walked to the door.  “And then I’ll come and check on you again.”

The promise warmed her, and she smiled broadly and snuggled down into her bed.  And I smiled back, warmed as well…  and shut the door firmly.

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Four days after E2 finally recovered from her ordeal of having two teaspoons of lentils move through her system (and I recovered from my ordeal of not sleeping for three nights on end), and just as I was beginning to feel human again, my mother handed me a small bag of wonderfulness.  She’d picked it up for herself from Trader Joe’s but decided I needed a treat…  It was a bag of mini stroopwafels — those decadent little discs of caramelly deliciousness which I love so much, imported straight from the Netherlands.  My mouth began watering even as I took them from her hand and I heard bells ringing from the sheer excitement of it.


At least, I thought the bells were ringing out of sheer excitement.  If I’d stopped for a moment, I would have thought about why I hadn’t allowed myself any stroopwafels since I’d found them at Trader Joe’s months and months ago.  If I’d been thinking, I would have checked the ingredients.  If I’d stopped for just one moment, I would have asked myself why those bells were actually tolling, not ringing.

But I didn’t think.  I was tired and strung out and so I ripped into the bag and popped one of those beautiful, buttery, caramelly little circles of pure love into my mouth.  And I melted as it melted.  Oh, I do love them!

I had another later that evening with my tea…  and then (oh!) another.  Just as good.  Even better, in fact, curled up on the couch with my feet tucked underneath me and a steaming cuppa tea in my other hand.  I had time to savour them…  Oh, I do love them!


The pain came quickly — within an hour.  I had failed in my diligence and there was a price to be paid.  I went back through my day — what had I eaten?!? — and then realised who the culprit probably was and dashed up the stairs to check the packet.  There is was…  of course! Those bells!  There was a reason I’d always bypassed the stroopwafels before…  They contain soy and even though I’d only had three and they are tiny, that didn’t get me off the hook.  Stupid girl!

I turned to go downstairs and sit on the couch, to shiver until the pain left me, when my eye caught something else on the ingredient list that made one last bell suddenly clang loudly, but…  no…  no…  it’s way down on the list…  and I’ve only eaten three of them…  and they’re tiny, only an inch across…  and my body will surely filter it out before it gets to my milk… That’s what a mother’s body does, isn’t it?  Steps in and filters the world to protect the baby even when the mother fails to…


When I got her up the next morning, she’d done a poo that was so strange it startled me.  It was as big as I’ve ever seen her little body do and was the colour and consistency of liquidised seaweed — so dark green it was almost black.  How odd!, I thought.  And that evening, when her father change her nappy and it was still that  same strange colour, I marveled at it alongside him, but still didn’t put two and two together.  And when the skin on her chin flared up with redness and when she had a miserably fitful night’s sleep and had me up five times to comfort her, I only cursed our bad luck and still never twigged what was really going on.

It wasn’t until the next day, when the dark green poos turned acidic and began coming in rapid-fire succession that I finally — finally — realised what was happening inside her.  My body had not managed to filter out the ingredient that had set that one lone bell to clanging.  And even though it was buried way down in the ingredient list, that wasn’t protection enough.  I’d only had three little stroopwafels, but it was enough…  Enough for at least one egg protein to pass through my stomach, through my gut, and up into my milk which I’d then lovingly fed to her.  And now her body was reacting with a wild vengeance that was putting her through hell, exhausting me, and turning the skin on her bum red-raw.


That night was awful.  She couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t get comfortable.  She threw herself about in my arms in a exact replay of her lentil-ordeal less than a week before.  From midnight to 2am, she screamed and cried and flailed about, as I held her in helpless despair.  And from 2am to 4am, her body began a violent campaign to rid itself of this intruder, and she sat miserable and wide-eyed as poo after poo exploded out of a body she couldn’t control, leaving her bottom was so raw that it was bleeding, and had her screaming pitifully through every nappy change.

By 4.30am, it was all over and we both fell into an exhausted sleep.  The next morning, she and I were like zombies — it had been our second bout in a week with this allergy-imposed misery and it had knocked the stuffing out of both of us.  But she was on the mend, thank goodness — the poos returned to normal colour almost immediately, though the nappy rash took days to subside and left her screaming in heartbreaking pain every time she wee’d or pooed and whenever I changed her.

And I have, once again, learnt a lesson.  And perhaps for the final time…?  How many times do I have to get it wrong before I realise there is no leaway?  There is no room for manouevre.  There is no forgiveness, there are no second chances.  There is only this crazy, unnecessary, wild and violent reaction that she must endure — poor, innocent she.  And guilt and guilt and guilt and no sleep for me.

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The other week, my mother came round to babysit E1 while I took E2 to a doctor’s appointment.  It was a strangely warm day and so what did my mum do the whole three hours that we were gone?  She played in the garden with her granddaughter.  They gathered pine cones and seedpods for the bird feeder.  They played on the swings.  They marched around the garden and discussed the flowers and the trees and the sky and — from what I can gather — the whole of Life as it appears to a three-year-old…

I would never have done that.  I am not that kind of mother.  I am all about thinking ahead, keeping things safe, preparing for the worst while I go about teaching my daughters their independence and letting them show me what they want to learn.  My mother’s take is, in so many ways, completely different from mine.  She is all about being in the moment, experiencing every joy of parenthood (and grandparenthood), taking away pain, and leaping in to provide everything her charges might possibly need.  She is always there, always available, and always doing everything she can think of to make life better for the people she loves.

And according to Janet Penley’s excellent book MotherStyles, that is a perfectly in line with both of our Myers-Briggs Personality types.  As an INTP mother, my natural priorities are to foster independence and autonomy in my daughters, and it comes naturally to me to stay hands-off so my girls can learn through their own experiences.  My mother is an ESFP — expressive, attentive, and focused on practical help and especially on fun.  Even if all this Myers-Briggs mumbo-jumbo means nothing to you, it takes only a glance at our letters to see that my mum and I have very few of them in common.  Except for that ‘P‘, we are polar opposites.

Growing up, I found that very difficult — oppressive, even — though I didn’t realise it at the time.  Being a strong T (thinker), I don’t tend to be much ruled by my feelings — in fact, I don’t tend to delve into them much at all (with the anomalous exception of this blog) — and as an I (introvert), I’m not very comfortable sharing them even when I do.  But as an E (extrovert) and a strong F (feeler), my mother pushed me all my life to share my feelings freely with her  (and everything else too) — she has never understood why I feel so uncomfortable doing what comes so naturally to her.  For many years — and especially after I began to develop more of my true self as an independent adult — she told me that I was wrong…  that I was prickly…  cold-hearted… even that I was a bad daughter for not being the way she had expected me to be.  I was an enigma to her — and she to me — and the rest is our sorry history.

And as a grandmother, she has certainly done her fair share of things crazy-making.  As sad as it is to say — and I hate that it’s the case — being so near to her has been one of the things I have struggled with the most about moving back to the US.  And I have no doubt that she is slowly coming to the conclusion that she doesn’t actually like me much as a person — though I know that will never change the fact that she loves me completely as a daughter.

But when I got home that day from the doctor’s office and asked what they’d been up to while we’d been out, I was floored.  I would never have had the patience — or, let’s be honest, the interest — to have spent that much time exploring the garden with my daughter.  I would have done one quick turn before retiring to the porch-swing with a copy of the Economist, content for her to explore on her own and then to bring her millions of questions back to me as I rocked comfortably back and forth. But my mother never left her to herself, never tired — in a full three hours — of walking by her side and seeing the world through a three-year-old’s eyes.  She was, as per her ESFP-type, the “totally there” mother — the stereotype in the best of all possible ways.

And though I don’t understand my mother and she doesn’t understand me, and though we struggle so awkwardly — so miserably — to get along, and though as mother and daughter we often simply don’t work at all, the real truth is that we complete each other in my daughters’ eyes.  Together, we give them almost everything they need — both independence and total availability, calm rationality and expressive emotion, the foresight that keeps them safe and the ability to share in their joy of the moment.  Without my mother to fill in my gaps, my own mothering would be incomplete.  She does things that I simply can’t.  She walks around the garden with them for hours.  She helps them to feel every moment.  She swoops in when they need attention.  She is always, always there for my daughters.

She is everything that I will never be.  That’s the kind of mother my mother is.

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I was rushing things as I tried to get E2 to cooperate with being put down for her nap.  My mother had come round for a couple of hours to keep the girls busy so I could make a start on the taxes, and I’d lost track of time and now they were late going down for their naps.  My mother was the other room, wrestling E1 into her bed, and I was sitting on the big bed next to E2’s cot trying to contort her wriggling legs — still clad in her sister’s far-too-big trousers that she had insisted on wearing for the last half an hour — into her sleeping bag.

When she was all zipped in, she lept up and began jumping on the bed, her hyperactivity clearly indicating overtiredness — or so I hoped.  I laid back on the bed and adjusted my top, waiting for her to realise that milk was on offer and so to flop herself down beside me (and probably, as she so often does, crack me in the jaw with her skull).  But she took no notice and carried on jumping manically, her little eyes wild with the excitement of it.

“Come on!  Milk!”

Bounce, bounce, bounce. No!

“Come on… Come and have your milk.”  I was trying to sound as enticing as I could.  It used to be that lying on a bed and sounding enticing meant something else altogether, but those days are long gone — now it’s always about milk and naps.  But today there was  no interest.  “Come on… Don’t you want some of Mummy’s milk?”

“No!  Roger!” she yelled, and carried on bouncing.

Roger?  Who the heck was Roger?  I was torn between laughter and exasperation.  “Come and lie down and have you milk!” I commanded.

Bounce bounce bounce.  “No!  No milk!  Roger!”

I looked up at her, both laughing and dumbfounded.  I’ve heard a lot of nonsense in the past few years, but this was new to me.  She saw that I wasn’t getting it, stopped bouncing at last, and put her face down close to mine.

“No milk.  Water!”  Ah…!  Water, not Roger.  Ok.  I thought for a moment about walking all the way downstairs and drawing her a glass of water…  That’d be another 10 minutes…  I decided against it.

“Well,” I said, undoing the bra-clasp, “maybe Mummy’s got water.”  She looked at me, dubious but intrigued.  “Do you think Mummy has made water for you?”  It did the trick — she was lying down now, wiggling herself into position.  I waited for her to discover my deception, delatch, and complain…  but she didn’t.  Milk is sweet and warm, and good enough.  She snuggled in and began feeding in earnest — and I relaxed, curled round her and breathed in her wonderful scent.  My daughter smells wonderful, especially when she is content and tucked in close.

She was asleep in seven minutes.

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At 1am, I was alone with E2 and a nurse on the darkened hospital isolation ward, watching my daughter strain to draw breath and answering all the same questions that I had answered four hours earlier in the Emergency Room.  I appreciated the nurse’s thoroughness and I felt safer for being in a place where I knew we’d get the best help, but I was feeling exhausted, alone, and so frightened.  When she asked me to strip E2 down in order to weigh her, I took off her shoes, top, and trousers, but left her onesie and nappy on — it was a bit chilly, and my baby was sick — but, when she saw this, she corrected me, “No no, I need you to strip her right down.  We need to know exactly how much she weighs so when they weigh her tomorrow, they will know precisely if she’s lost any weight.”  And with that one comment, I realised just how serious the situation was — if they were worried about how much weight she might lose in one night, then there was little room for error.  I took off the rest of her clothes and placed my daughter naked, gasping — her neck and chest and stomach collapsing grossly inward with every slow breath — onto the scale.  It read 10.89kg.  Two years ago to the day, just moments after she’d been born, the midwife had placed her on an identical set of scales, and she had weighed 4.22kg.  Two years…  two years… and she’s barely doubled her birth weight, something most babies do at four or five months.

When the nurse handed E2 back to me, I picked up one of the nappies from the pile the hospital provided and realised immediately that it was far too big: the legholes gaped around E2’s skinny legs with an inch to spare on either side.  They were size 6 — perfectly right for a girl her age — and I asked the nurse if we could have 3s instead.  E2 wears 3s and she has for the last twelve months.  In a year, she has never gone up in nappy size.  Any mother will tell you that’s not right.

Later, when two doctors came in, I had to repeat the whole story again — how she’d had a runny nose for two days, how today it had taken a turn for the worse and she’d developed a fever and become miserable and listless.  When her breathing became laboured — so difficult and wheezy that I could hear her struggling for breath even from the next room — we’d rung the doctor, who’d told us to go straight to the emergency room and specified that she’d wanted us to go the specialist children’s hospital in the center of the city.  My heart had sank at that.  Seeing how bad E2 was that morning, I had canceled our planned birthday lunch and my mother had come round for an improvised mini-party at the house instead.  As the day wore on, the birthday girl wanted nothing more than to rest her head against my chest and try to breathe.  We spent much of the day on the couch, watching the heavy snowfall cover the road, and the cars as they each slid sideways down the hill.  It was turning out to be a good day to stay home and I quietly gave thanks that we had no reason to have to brave those roads ourselves — until the doctor ordered us to ER, through the snow and mess, and at rush hour.

The first doctor left — so soft spoken and heavily accented that I’d struggled to understand a single word she’d said — and the second doctor pulled a chair up.  He smiled warmly — no one had done that yet, and it surprised me to realise how much I needed that smile.  “My name is Tom.  Let me explain what we’re going to do…”  He was a few years younger than me and nice looking…  I stopped listening to him and started thinking about how he could be so good-humoured and kind and… well, awake at 2am.  I found myself thinking that he must be the kind of person who meets life head on.  That’s the kind of person who gets themselves through medical school, isn’t it?  Someone with enthusiasm and energy and a positive outlook on life?  I wondered what my life would be like if I’d ended up with someone like that, someone driven and positive and enthusiastic.  A few weeks ago, M had told me that he thought the innate positivity of  the US had been rubbing off on him and that he reckoned his own positivity had increased probably 40% since moving here — and I was gobsmacked at this declaration.  Where? When?  …At work? Yes, he agreed, probably at work…  Must be, because at home, I see no change.  He allows all his exhaustion, fears, insecurities, and negativity to come to the surface unhampered.  I know it’s better that he show his positive side at work, even if that means his reserves are empty when he gets home, because that’s where our bread is buttered, but it’s hard to live with someone who spends the rest of his life just waiting for the day to end.

When I stopped myself and tuned back into what the doctor was saying, he was explaining that she had an ordinary virus, but that it was dangerous because she is so small, and so the inflammation in her chest was threatening to close her airways.  They wanted to do another breathing treatment — nebulised epinephrine, her third treatment since we’d arrived — because her breathing was so strained that they were afraid her breathing muscles would fatigue.  “Fatigue?” I repeated, knowing what it meant but wanting to be wrong.

He paused, and then saw that I needed it said more plainly.  “Yes…  her muscles might… stop.”

I asked what would happen in that case and he said they’d have to insert a tube into her lung to keep her going.  At least, that’s what I think he said.   I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was so tired, so mentally exhausted, and my mind had ceased working when he’d said there was a chance her breathing might stop.  I don’t know what he said to me, or what I said to him.

It was a strange night — she spent half of it flailing wildly in my arms, arching her back and screaming blue murder.  I held her to me forcibly and she finally, finally succumbed to exhaustion and fell asleep in my arms.  I adjusted myself into as comfortable a position as I could in the chair and watched her breathing — still laboured, but still breathing.  I mused to myself that we’d been in hospital this same night two years previously and then realised with a start that we’d been in ER exactly one year and a day ago as well… and decided I didn’t much like this trend.  But eventually, my thoughts faded and sleep over came me, at long last.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse woke me to say they’d felt so bad to see me sleeping upright that they’d found me a reclining chair.  I lifted myself out of my seat,  gently…  gently…  and let them swap the chairs about.  Someone took a mis-step, the chair came down with a bang…  and she was awake, screaming and crying wildly for another full hour.  Finally, at 4.30am, I calmed her enough to sleep again, and laid beside her.  She woke again three times before 7am, but it was sleep, of a sort.

The doctors came around to see her again in the morning: the Indian one I couldn’t understand, a specialist of some sort, and a team of eight medical students.  Her breathing was better and they were pleased, but the specialist was not fully convinced, and ordered chest x-rays.  Mid-afternoon, they came back clear, and we were ok’d for discharge.  Her breathing was still strained, but nothing like it had been, and her fever was gone and she had returned to her lively self again.  With strict instructions to watch her closely and return immediately if she worsened at all — and a deep sense of gratitude that the worst was over and she was going to be alright — we headed for home.

The house looked much as we’d left it the day before, birthday presents lying where they’d been left.  The girls were both out of sorts after all the upheaval — alternating between playing and disoriented crying.  My mother tried to soothe E1 while I went to make us all a cup of tea.  …I didn’t see the snowglobe on the edge of the fireplace.  My mother had brought it as a “little something” for E1 amid all the birthday fuss over her sister and, when she opened it, I had winced inwardly.  A glass snowglobe does not seem to me like an appropriate toy for a three year old, but my mother doesn’t think of these things, and I am not permitted to express such criticism without it creating a problem, so I bit my tongue and planned to secret it away (with the other two equally inappropriate snowglobes) at the first opportunity.

But in our rush to leave for ER, it had been left right there on the corner of the fireplace.  And as my mother soothed a confused and crying E1, and I stood sleep-deprived and dazed by the kettle in the kitchen… little, wheezing, curious E2 had spotted it and picked it up to look, and promptly dropped it at her feet, where it broke into a hundred shards of glass that sprayed in an arc ten feet across the room.  I ran in in an instant and lifted my barefoot daughter up and away from the glass, and told my mother to do the same with E1 — no, lift her out, don’t walk her out.  And then, I took a deep breath, and  got down on the floor and began to clean up the mess.

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