Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Full Hands, Full Heart

Today began yesterday. Some days I have to start the day before or I'll never fit in everything that needs to be done in 24 hours. Yesterday I made sure to catch up on laundry and cleaning, and to cook an extra big dinner, because I knew there wouldn't be time or energy for any of that today. In the evening I re-stocked two diaper bags, packed Naomi's medical binder, a picnic lunch, and a few other essentials, and set up the juice cups and breakfast bowls for the morning. What was this major undertaking that would happen tomorrow? A routine doctor's appointment. But, being a 90 minute drive away with five small children, that pretty much equals the preparation and energy required to climb Mount Everest.

Soon after having Naomi I learned that a small child can cause myriad unforeseen delays, and in order to be on time anywhere I should plan a little extra time into my schedule, just in case. Now, with five small children the number of possible combinations of unforeseeable delays has increased exponentially, so I've learned to plan way, way, way more time into my schedule because, well, something strange will happen, it just will, and it will probably bring friends with it.

The appointment was scheduled for 11:00am. My alarm went off 7:00am and the race began. The alarm, of course, woke Elijah so there went the first thirty minutes of my morning to nursing, diaper changing, and resettling the baby. Then dressing, combing, and feeding everyone. Then nursing Elijah again, and, of course, he had a bowel movement that erupted up the back of his diaper and all over his outfit. So, I called out orders, "OK, everyone put your shoes on! Naomi, help Toby with his coat, please! Has everyone gone potty?..." while I scrubbed neon-yellow poop from Elijah's onesie and re-dressed him. After being stripped bare, Elijah was mad as a hornet when I strapped him in his car seat, and he made sure everyone in the van knew it for the first 20 minutes of our drive. But we left on time, which means that we left the house at 9:00am for a drive that only takes 1 1/2 hours. That left half an hour to unload the passengers and luggage at the hospital, take everyone potty, and nurse Elijah a little before the 11:00 appointment. Step one of my journey complete.

When Elijah was born I had wanted to arrange the kids' seats in the van so that Naomi was beside him to help calm him, but with our combination of seat belts and car seats only Emma could sit beside Elijah. She tried as hard as she could to console him as he screamed this morning, shoving the pacifier in his mouth and belting out "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" over his screams. I hated to discourage her so, when I could bear it no longer, I said, "Wow, thanks, Emma. You are such a good big sister, let's listen and see if he calms down now." We listened then, and within a few minutes he did calm down.

That's always such a magical time--all five kids are strapped down; all is calm, all is quiet. For the next hour I felt almost like a real person again. I could listen to the radio, enjoy the scenery, and ponder things deeper than how to zip up a coat and scrub poop at the same time. I don't even care much what's on the radio: Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, or some new punk Christian band--if you're over the age of seven, have an intelligent sounding vocabulary, and demand nothing from me, you're music to my ears.

We arrived at the hospital a little early, 10:20am. Elijah woke up as soon as the van stopped moving and picked up his protest right where he had left it, somewhere in the middle of "waaaaaaahhhhhhh!" I shoved the diaper bags and the cooler in the double stroller with Toby and Elijah, had the girls hang on to the sides of the stroller, locked the van, and away we went. Elijah screamed through the parking garage, the elevator, the sky walk, and the halls as I called out, "OK, Naomi run ahead and press that handicap-sign button to open the doors! Hannah, run ahead of her and press the up button on the elevator. No, the UP button! OK, Emma, can you press the number two in the elevator? No TWO! OK, let me help you. Naomi, open the bathroom door now. Wider! Honey, I have a double stroller here, you're going to have to open it all the way. Everybody in now! Pick a stall and go potty. Naomi, can you help Toby while I change Elijah?" One lady walked into the bathroom, saw my crew, and turned around and walked right back out!

Amazingly, we made it to the appointment right at 11:00am. Awesome. Unfortunately, we spent the next 40 minutes in an 8' x 6' room waiting for the doctor. When all the books had been read, all my patience had been spent, and Elijah was ready to nurse again, the doctor arrived. We yelled over Elijah's cries as we discussed Naomi's last urine collection. There was still the same amount of protein in her urine, so the doctor wanted to switch her medication and increase the dose, then re-check her urine in 4 weeks. He wrote the prescription,  listened to Naomi's chest, pressed on her belly, and was done. With four hours and forty minutes of preparation behind me, our five-minute appointment was over. Now there only lay ahead of me lunch, one bathroom break, a 90 minute car trip, and a stop at the pharmacy before I was home. Piece of cake.

I drew a lot of attention as I wore Elijah in the baby carrier and doled out lunch to my kids in the hospital atrium. Over and over strangers stopped to comment, "Wow, you sure have your hands full!" and one kind man even said, "You're doing a good job there, though." The lady eating at the next table called over, "That reminds me of me. I had five kids too--all teenagers now. I sure miss those days!" Ah, yes, the rose colored glasses of retrospect. I'm sure I'll miss these years too, fifteen year from now. Then all the way to the bathroom, in the bathroom, and all the way back stranger after stranger said, "You sure have your hands full!" just as if they were the first person to ever make that observation. I just smiled and quipped, "yes I do, but my heart is full too."

Just the time I was starting to get a little annoyed Hannah made my day by remarking loudly, "Why does every person in this hospital keep saying that to us?!"

I laughed and replied, "I guess it's because it's true."

I had my hands full all the way to the parking garage, but then I had another blissful hour of silence and deep pondering on the drive home, and in that hour, when my head cleared and my hands stopped, my heart really was full.

Tomorrow there's a snowstorm rolling in and Emma needs to see her eye doctor--a 45 minute drive away. Leftovers tonight, then resting up for round two tomorrow.

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