Friday night we found ourselves in the ER once again…for the third weekend in a row. Anytime Riley spikes a fever or presents with symptoms it’s straight to the ER for labs/cultures/observation…for answers…well not so much answers…that’s simply too much to ask…more like clues. The main question is always the same…is her immune system attacking the virus/infection as it should…or HER…as it should not. It’s a lot of sitting around waiting…it’s familiar…watching her sleep on a gurney is nothing new. It’s a time when I have nothing to do but face what is right in front of me and find peace with the reality that this time…this time might be the time our worlds are turned upside down once again. I am never more present then when I am in a hospital room and with that comes a lot of clarity. It’s a lot of deep breaths…it’s a lot of honest “check-in” time. It’s taking a real look at how I am ACTUALLY doing with all of this…with all I carry. It’s staring at her and seeing all the other kids I work with as well. It’s knowing that of this pediatric illness community we are still one of the lucky ones…that the mother of my days prior palliative shoot would give anything to be sitting where I am as opposed to making funeral arrangements. It’s looking at her and thinking of him. It’s releasing attachment, expectations, fears. It’s sitting with pain, giving it the respect it deserves and being willing to witness it and let it leave. It’s learning to meditate with the interruptions that come with emergency rooms…vitals and doctors and screams of agony from down the hall. It’s begging that as she rests that my mind does too so that when she wakes I am able to be the calm and nurturing mother she so desperately needs. It’s hoping her body doesn’t fail her and my mind doesn’t fail me.

She just slept. As everyone clomped in and out, flicking lights on and off, talking and planning, poking and proding…she just slept. Through all of it. While grateful she was resting and living up to her nickname of “Possum”…I started to worry that she wasn’t ok. And not just that but that I wasn’t either. Shit. “One at a time ladies” my mind basically shouted at me. At that moment a tech walked in to transport us to X-ray…I hopped up from my chair and curled up at the foot of her bed like a dog, burrowing my head into the crook between her knees and belly. As we twisted down the halls she still just slept. Nothing so much as her breath changed or showed any sign of disrupted slumber. Not the bright fluorescent lights flickering overhead, not the alarms and codes, not the franticly hollering old lady, not the giant bumps and floor transitions, not the “awwwwwwww’s” let out by the strangers as we passed by. Nothing. He parked us outside of Radiology in the hall to wait…I just laid there staring at her…so peaceful in a place with nothing peaceful about it. I snuggled in closer…I wanted some of that peace. All that peace I’d been working towards while she rested she had achieved. Share, girl. It worked. After about 15 minutes of waiting and just watching her…I was mesmerized…I wasn’t sure she was ok but I knew then that I was which meant I could handle whatever came next. She didn’t need to be ok…that is not her job…that is mine.

When they came out to bring her in she was startled, she was tired…not interested in waking up and definitely not enthused about having to stand for X-Rays yet again. She started crying…that “not quite awake/screw all of you” cry. The cry turned to wails as I had to take off her necklaces and shirt…by the time it was time to stand in front of the X-Ray machine she was sobbing. A defeated sob. She sounded exactly how I had felt moments before. Just done. My first instinct was to tell her “It’s ok…you’re ok” I stopped myself. Who was I to tell her what I didn’t know. I know when I feel like that the last thing I appreciate hearing is “It’s ok…you’re ok.” It’s not ok…and she might NOT be ok so I’m not going to tell her that…I pulled every ounce of love and calm I’d just absorbed from watching her in the hall and said ”I know kiddo, this sucks…it will be quick and we can get right back in bed…I’m so sorry, I know this is not fun, I love you.” She nodded her head and wrapped her arms around the machine mimicking a bear hug as instructed. I walked to stand behind the partition (because you know…radiation exposure…insert eyeroll here) and watched as she silently wept while doing exactly as asked. She followed instruction again grabbing the bar above her head for the second X-Ray…her whole little body shivering from upset. As promised it was quick, I swooped her into my arms as soon as I could and we crawled right back onto the gurney in the hall to await our ride back. She settled down in my arms almost immediately. She’s so good at bouncing back…or bottling emotions…I’m not sure which. I certainly know which it is for me and it’s the latter…not what I want for her. “Possum?” …”I’m ok Mom.” “Hey baby…sometimes it’s ok to not be ok…okay?” We locked eyes, she let out a breath and then she closed them again…right back to peaceful sleeping.

We were out of there a few hours later, X-Ray was clean…labs showed no signs of her immune system going rouge and her general disposition had improved. These moments have an incredible way of cracking us wide open…it’s raw and painful and I’d be bold face lying to you all if I kept up the “I’ve got this” face all the time. I curled up next to her again that night, taking in every inch of her face, calming myself and taking the advice I’d given to her “It’s ok to not be ok.” Days later I’m close to feeling like myself again, the version of myself that is actually “ok”…this post isn’t to ensue worry from followers, friends or family…it is to share with all the other parents…parents like me…parents who understand every word of what I write as if they were their own that sometimes…it’s ok to not be ok.