This week for Finish the Sentence Friday, I was tasked with writing about 10 things most people don’t know about me. Since I have made it a habit to write about my life on the internet, there isn’t a whole lot about me that I want people to know that I haven’t already written about… I could, of course, write about that hidden tattoo or the embarrassing things I’ve done that still wake me up at night or share that post I wrote (and never published) about what makes special needs moms so darn sexy.
But I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I am going to write about a few things I do all day…These are things that seem like secrets—not because they should be, but because it often feels like they are invisible to most people.
Yes, in many ways, there is more awareness than ever of parents like me—we can be a bit loud when it comes to protecting our children’s healthcare or the accessible bathroom. We totally tell stories on social media about those pitying statements of “I don’t know how you do it” and other awkward interactions. And it is possible that we might start fights with parents who complain about their kids’ immunizations on Facebook. And we have been known throw down with a doctor in the hospital and then blog about it later…I mean, for example…that could happen. Sometime.
But, often, I think what remains unclear to people are the daily minutia of dealing with chronic life-threatening medical challenges. These details are essential pieces of building up and maintaining the well-being, health, and safety of individuals like my daughter. However, they just don’t click as well as stories about twitter trolls, mama bear tongue lashings in school parking lots, or inspirational inchstones.
At the same time, these minutiae are what are the real answers behind the question that, frankly, I ask myself all the time when it is suddenly 7pm and I seem to have accomplished zero things: What do you do with yourself all day?
1. I take my time
A lot of what I do all day is familiar daily parenting stuff that just takes a thousand times longer. Consider school drop off. I can’t stop and idle, waving while my child escorts herself into the building. I park—in one of the accessible spots, occasionally after having to shoo an eye-rolling “ugh, I mean, I’m just waiting here” mom out of it—unload, pausing to push a quick 60ml of food through the feeding tube, and walk her in. Then I spend no less than ten minutes in the classroom, filling them in on her night, reading the temperature of the room, talking to her classmates, and looking over her schedule for the day.
2. But, also? I never stop moving
Just like that quick top-off of food I give Esmé in the school parking lot, my day is run on clean 15 minute increments. Once I drop Ez off, I have about two hours before I have to head back for her. This is a well-oiled routine. I talk to my mom, typically, for a few minutes, order my coffee, catch up on foundation stuff, write, then gym. Then it’s time for pick up. Notice I don’t mention a shower…because it doesn’t fit in the allotted time. So, I pick up my kid gym-stinky. If you think that’s gross—I do too. But, hey, I’m trying to live forever over here.
3. I lift
Obviously, I’m lifting Esmé all day. I lift the heavy bags of stuff she travels with. I also lift her chair. In and out of the back of the van, up over steps and curbs with her in it. This is my secret for the butter-churning Hulk-shirt busting powerhouse arms I sport.
4. I nap so hard
By which I mean, at the prescribed time of day, I lay very still and try not to breathe funny whilst my daughter uses me as a human beanbag for the four-hour naps that have taken hold since she got sick in January. If I’m very good she might allow me to sip tea and text or binge watch Younger…so long as I don’t think very hard or do anything time-sensitive or have the audacity to drift off myself. And before anyone says anything about spoiling her with letting her nap on me…I invite you over to help during the thing that happens if she’s left alone to nap. Spoiler alert: it ends with her blue and possibly seizing.
5. I make phone calls
The list of phone calls I need to make is astonishing. Second only in shock factor to the wait times in order to speak to someone at the insurance company, the DME, the eternal nutrition supplier. I have spent years of my life on hold and being hot potatoed from one department to another (only to be “accidently” disconnected). Of course there is an upside to this call frequency. At my daughter’s neurologists office, where I have to call every two weeks for a prescription refill, they know my daughter’s date of birth and my call back number by heart. Or the pediatrician’s office, I get a call back in under 15 minutes, without fail.
6. I rant advocate
Oh, my goodness. Do I ever rant…But here’s the thing, I know the Medicaid/healthcare/insurance systems inside and out. I have been stuck in that unspeakable insurance agony—the one where you find yourself the middleman in a nonsense storm—so many times that I cannot help but say the angry words. Like recently when I figured out that a certain enteral supply company (Hi, CVS/Coram!) was happily upcharging their clients 300% for a particular vitamin supplement via a “private pay program.” I rant for stress release, certainly, but also because I can’t help but hope to make it easier for the next person who enters whatever ring of purgatory I have found myself in.
7. I listen
New parents of fragile children, expectant friends, parents of typically-developing children with health/behavioral hiccups call. I talk with caregivers with g-tube troubles and friends heading into IEPs. I hear from friends of friends overwhelmed with diagnoses or lack thereof, and from parents contemplating end-of-life decisions for their children. And I struggle to find helpful words…to advise, to try to somehow pass some kindness, clarity, or peace along–as so many other mothers have done for me. And, so often, I feel like I fail.
8. And I bite my tongue
Much as it doesn’t seem like it. I do. There’s a ridge forming on that tongue as proof that there is a lot more I’d like to say. But that’s all I will say about that.
9. I forget I am a Mommy
In any given day I do so much for Esmé, in service of her, in honor of her, that there are times I feel like I have to remember that I am not her case worker, her secretary, her nurse, her therapist, her doctor, her teacher, her insurance adjuster. I watch other loved ones interact with her without the weight of all of that—and I sometimes feel jealous of the ease. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m a Mommy…and that it is my job to keep my daughter safe and healthy, yes, but also it is my job to just be with her. I forget that she needs that—and that I do too.
10. I cry
Like a lot. In fact, I may have a tear-stained face at the moment, as I am writing this. I spend so much time feeling as though I am about to go under the water…and unable to see anything but water in every direction…that sometimes that’s all I can think to do.
These are the things you didn’t know I did all day.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. I love participating in Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF) with Finding Ninee and Sporadically Yours. Each week on FTSF we receive a sentence to finish.
Join the Facebook Group to start linking up with all of us! You never know what will happen… The first week I linked up I wrote something that I didn’t even know I needed to write. It felt so raw and close to the bone that I wasn’t certain I wanted to share it. But I did it anyway…and I am so happy I did.