The Art of Avoidance


I’m still at the hospital with E. It’s been a week. She is back on oxygen intermittently—the hose kind that they call “blow by”. E.’s also choking on mucus multiple times a night, which induces more vomiting. Then the nurses get out the deep suction tools. In short, there’s a whole lot of crying involved.

I’m just so it in, there is no out of it. I have a less intense version of E.’s respiratory illness, so we are just basically one big persistent coughing symphony, cohabitating in this room. Also, I have spent nearly all of my waking hours in the hospital each day. If this was an isolated incident, it would be easier. But, of course, it’s not. Who knows how many more hospital stays we will be in for over the coming months.

A. has been staying with my (amazing) parents this whole time. I got to see his sweet face this morning, and he was smiling. As I drove him to a playdate, we rounded the lake and looked out at the sunlight hitting the water. I asked him if he preferred to be at our house or Nana and Saba’s. Quickly, he replied, “I like both.” He appears to be fairly unfazed by any of this, although shortly after this conversation he mentioned that he does not want us to have another baby. And also that he misses his sister. Noted.

Cedar’s still out playing shows near the vast, enthusiastic Pacific ocean, feeling torn and guilty about being half-way happy. I am, in this moment, decidedly not loving life.

But you know who is having some joyful, life-loving moments, even while feeling so terrible: Ms. E. She’s perfected her subtle dance moves with that big head of hers, just bopping it around, side to side. She moves her head back and forth like there’s a song on that’s irresistible, although usually when she does this there’s no music on whatsoever. She doesn’t care, she’s making the most of it. Whatever it is.

She’s just so beautiful. Her bright face open like a little eaglet; I can’t get over her epic resilience.

In these many hours to fill, when I am not soothing E., I am mastering the world of distraction. I climb in her crib and spoon her. She plays with my hair while we watch more teen movies (her favorite). While she sleeps, I spend an inordinate amount of time online doing nothing. I am too tired for anything else, including resting. When E. wakes up, I sing the Sh’ma, and she smiles.

I’ve had old friends visit (and new friends who feel like old friends) who’ve helped me forget nearly everything except for the absolute moment of now. That’s been the best part of the hospital stay. Our people show up. For that, I am more than grateful. I could go on and on about it.

The things that make this time most tolerable are the things that evoke escapism. Slowly eating a glazed cake donut, talking with visitors about anything but E.’s medical status, looking at old family photos, messaging with Cedar about our favorite vacations. We have been texting like teenagers all week—back and forth and back and forth, about almost everything.

I’ve only very recently realized that I tend to face our situation a little too fully; almost always head on. Yes, of course, it’s good to problem solve and take action and be in touch with yourself and all of that. But in the hospital with a sick child, there’s not much that you can do except give big love and wait it out. In the hospital, avoidance is a bonafide art form.

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