Wake up calls take all kinds of forms. They can be subtle, barely noticeable and gradual. They can also be enormous, in the smack you across the face sort of way. And, because I veer towards the, um, intense, my wake-up call involved an ambulance ride. It's taken me awhile to be able to process and write about it, as it was a terrifying event for me and, really unfortunately, also for my kiddos.
It had been a bad month. (Okay - maybe a bad couple of months, but who's counting?) Bad in the I'm barely making it through the day, I hope my kids can't hear me crying in the shower, lose 15 lbs in a crazy short period of time sort of way.
I'd been trying to work, and was gearing up for the end of the day kid pickups when I started to feel some abdominal pain. I ignored it. Listening to your body is a nice thought and all, but when you're a single mama who needs to get the kids from daycare, you need to get the kids from daycare. End of story.
So, I headed out to Girlio's daycare. By the time I got there, it was noticeably worse, but I was still managing. I kept telling myself I just had to make it to get Boy-o and I could lie down with the heating pad and order the kids some pizza so I didn't have to stand up and cook dinner. And the daycare run doesn't do itself. Onward mama march. But by time time I hit Boy-o's school, I was nearly doubled over and having a really hard time walking. I managed, somehow, get him from the classroom to his cubby in the hallway, in a cold sweet, body going numb, roaring in my ears, before leaning against the wall and sinking to the floor, dizzy, and in a boatload of pain.
I had the foresight (?) to realize that I wasn't going to be able to get the kids safely home from daycare at this point and pulled out my phone to call L., hoping she was still close by or at work and could get them. She asked me if I needed an ambulance. I was still "me" enough at this point to recoil in horror at this thought. Making that kind of spectacle of myself is, in so so many ways, my worst nightmare. I'm the kind of person who shrivels inside at the thought of restaurant birthday singers. People will *stare* at me. NO! I don't need an ambulance. Just some help getting the kids home. But two seconds after hanging up the phone, things got worse, my panic grew, my breathing got really laboured, and my hands seized up completely. I could hear Boy-o trying to talk to me, and Girlio running up and down the empty hallway - but everything had turned blurry and hazy and I was too lost inside of my body to be able to respond.
At some point, one of his daycare workers came out. I felt her hand on my knee, it was gentle and so comforting, and heard her telling me that she was calling an ambulance. I was too out of it at the point to feel any residual horror at this plan of action. And then there were more daycare workers, and they were crowded around me, like the freak show I was. Somehow - and this is my one mama-bear-super-hero moment - I managed to point in the general direction of my terrified children and croak out "kids!" And miraculously, my wee ones spent the next I'm-not-sure-how-long, in an office full of toys being entertained by three daycare workers. Phewf! L arrived before the ambulance, was comforting and wonderful, and called my friend to meet me at the hospital. And I, I took my very first ambulance ride. The ambulance dudes arrived, and very sweetly told my panicking self that my hands were seizing up because I wasn't breathing properly. Then they asked me to rate my pain on a scale. I couldn't answer them. But L. told them I gave birth twice, like a trooper, with no epidural or gas. Wisely,at this juncture, they loaded me up on a gurney and carted me off to the ambulance. Where I got my first sweet, sweet taste of morphine. Oh morphine - where have you been all my life?
My dear friend J got to the hospital pretty quickly. Because she is a total goddess. And I hadn't realized how scared I was until I saw her face - and promptly started crying. Ahhhh yes. Nothing like the seeing the face of someone you love to make you realize that you are now safer in the world. My body was shaking so violently, they kept piling blanket after blanket on me (they were deliciously heated) until the blanket pile was close to being bigger than me. (I want a blanket heater for home, now!)
My wait was long. The hospital gown was hideous. Really. Not so fashionable, my friends. The morphine was fantastic. And J kept me laughing as we checked out hot ambulance drivers in between waves of pain. Somewhere in there, the pain began to subside. J says she knew I was feeling better when I started fussing about my 'outfit', the fact that my socks didn't match, and asking if my make-up was a total mess. Always a femme, even in the hospital! They checked me out. They x-rayed every part of me. They told me I was fine, and needed to drink more water. Actually, they told me I was constipated. How about 'dem apples? How's that for a little humility? I thought I was dying. My kids thought I was dying. And the hospital sends me home and tells me to poop. True story.
My own doctor, however, told me that I was likely severely dehydrated and hadn't been eating enough - which caused cramping, and given the stress-load I was carrying, my body had a trauma response to the pain.
WAKE-UP CALL! Yes - I don't like to do things half-assed. And the wake-up call was this. No matter what, I have babies who depend on me. I depend on me. I'm important in their world and I need to be important in mine, whether I want to be or not. And as it turns out, self-care isn't just a hippy-assed catch phrase. Sometimes, a girl like me needs a slap in the face (or a $400 ambulance ride) to remind herself that if she doesn't take care of herself, some bad shit happens. Sigh. I always did veer towards the dramatic.
And sometimes, a face-slappy wake-up call is just what you need to turn things around. The last few months have been an exercise in self-care. I've been chilling out. I've been doing yoga (I know, right?!). I've been eating and drinking, I've been trying to focus on school, I've been trying really hard to nurture myself (which has never been my strong suit) and spending sweet time with people who love me, hopeless flaws and all. And lately, I've been waking up pretty darned content. Lesson learned.
(The horror of being caught in mismatched, inside out socks...)