Keep Calm and Carry On

That phrase was actually from a propaganda poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II. It’s now on one of my coffee mugs and my most recent mantra.

Motherhood has many layers. When my son was born, I discovered things about myself that I never knew, while another part of me disappeared forever. I became a protector, provider, nurturer. I was no longer driven by selfishness.

When we moved to New York, another layer peeled away. I was reborn yet again as a protector, provider and nurturer. Only this time we were all learning together how to function and survive in a completely different world. Without familiar faces or common resources. Void of the protective layer that family provides. I became a warrior, clad in steel faced armor barreling my way through the hectic streets of Manhattan with my two babies. Denying my fear that I couldn’t raise my family in this chaos.

This last weekend stripped away my armor. My fear was blinding and I was completely alone with my babies in a situation that no one could have predicted. Another layer fell away.

After a weekend of vacations in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, my husband left at 4:30 in the morning on a flight to California so that he could attend his sister’s high school gradation. By 9:30am I was sprinting with the double stroller along the East River, past the windy, deafening helicopter pad, under the FDR Highway straight to the NYU Emergency Room. Bubba was in a full blown coughing wheeze, his belly retracting enough to reveal his tiny rib cage. The three of us spent the next 4 hours in the ER while the doctors tried three different nebulizer treatments and one round of steroids before he was breathing well enough to go home.

The nurses kept Birdie entertained. Love them.

I was scared but still feeling strong. It was only 6 weeks ago that we were in the ER for a similar situation, though the wheezing wasn’t nearly as bad. I could get us through this time without our family around, as long as the kids were OK.
We stopped at the pharmacy on the way home and then tried to sleep a little. Z was starting to cough too, and I was out of food from being gone for the previous 4 days. No way to get to the grocery store, I ordered some pizza to be delivered.

The next day, Z’s cough got worse and the three of us were pretty irritable. I didn’t sleep a wink the night previously, Bubba was in my bed and I laid awake listening to his short, quick breaths, ready to grab the breathing machine should he start to struggle.
We headed to the pediatrician later that afternoon for a follow up visit for Bubba, and a well baby check up for Z. After a quick check, the doc pronounces that he is breathing fine. No diagnoses, no answers. I have very little trust (stemming from another very scary episode)in that practice, so I knew that I needed to visit his allergist in the Upper East Side. Z received three shots and left the office.
Knowing that, again, I had no food in the apartment, I decided to take the kids to a restaurant where we could sit comfortably with the massive stroller outside. Until it promptly started pouring rain.
Running home again, I started to crumble. So many things were wrong with the last two days that I was questioning all of my judgments and decisions. I held it together, for the most part, until after the kids were sleeping soundly in their own beds.

The next morning we headed to the allergist in a cab. Z had started a fever of 101, and here we were in a taxi cab heading into the heart of the city. Bubba still wheezing, both of them still very agitated. Fortunately the allergist is WONDERFUL. She diagnosed Bubba with Reactive Airway Disease, and sent us home with 4 more prescriptions. We finally had some answers, and with bloodwork done we should get more next week. Except now, without having the nebulizer with us, Bubba’s wheezing was getting worse. The following hour was one of the more excruciating times of my entire life. Sitting in dead stopped, cross town traffic with one wheezing child and another coughing, screaming, ill toddler in my lap. I felt completely trapped, alone and scared to the point where I was starting to shake. Too many possibilities, what if’s. We did make it home fine, but mentally I was very, very weak.

That night was a stream of craziness. I nearly burnt down our apartment while heating up a rotisserie chicken in the oven and trying to do laundry 8 stories below. I actually put the chicken in the oven IN THE PLASTIC TRAY. Needless to say, the plastic-y carcass is still sitting in my oven. There’s some sort of sick symbolism there somewhere.

We all woke up early the next morning. My mother’s plane landed at 6:30am at JFK.

We’ve never been so happy to see her, and we are all in recovery mode now.


Another layer floats away, and I am starting to regain my mental strength and confidence. I can do this, I can function by myself in this city with my children. I can tell you this though; Even though I was raised by a single mother, I have a new, enormous respect for single parents.

And I cannot wait for my husband to get home.

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1 Comment

  • Wow. This post is really touching. You are really, really strong and you inspire me to carry on, come what may.

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