Is there anything worse than bringing your baby to a hospital? Well, yes... not bringing your baby home again would, obviously, be worse. But even if the child in question is in nearly perfect health and there's no question that you'll all walk back out again in an hour or two, there's something about the act of carrying a little person through those doors that really brings home how fragile we all are.
Eli had an appointment with a specialist today at The Hospital for Sick Children, a pre-op visit for a congenital defect that will be repaired sometime in the next six months. I won't be discussing the medical details or even naming the specific condition because while I'm not particularly worried about disclosing certain aspects of our lives online, this, I feel, would be too personal, too much of my son to share. I will say that it's nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things - a very minor issue with no current presentation, but with a small risk that it could cause future (non-life-threatening) complications. But it's something that we all feel would be better to deal with early on.
We left a little later than planned but still had enough time to make it there, had it been a normal day. But, of course, there were blackouts downtown and rain, rain, rain and that slowed the major highways to a mind-boggling crawl (WHY ARE YOU DRIVING FIFTY KM/HR, OMG GET OFF THE 404) and we were stuck in it while the minutes ticked away... and I got progressively more panicked.
I hate being late. Let me say that again - I HATE being late. I live in fear of some imaginary penalty system that I expect to be implemented the moment my tardiness is discovered. Pete sat comfortably behind the wheel, telling me to relax, that it would be fine and besides, there nothing we could do, but all the while I was picturing a nurse swiping the baby's health card, her cheerful expression melting away as she realized just how irresponsible we are.
"Oh," she would say as her face contorted into a judgmental frown, "His appointment was at 10:30? That's going to be A Problem."
And from there... I don't really know what I thought would happen. Would we be publicly reprimanded, lectured on the importance of anticipating delays and leaving ample time for Important Appointments? Would they take our inability to plan for such a simple thing as rush-hour traffic as an indicator that we're not who we pretend to be... that we're actually little more than emotionally-stunted children masquerading as adults and parents? They couldn't actually take away his appointment, right? Deny him service because his parents are morons who forgot that the DVP is essentially a parking lot at 9am?
And of course, none of that happened. They were perfectly nice and really, we were only fifteen minutes late. Which to Pete is actually close enough to on time but I was nervous right up until the nurse handed us his bracelet and directed us to the waiting room. She did not lecture or even look disapproving.
They did make us wait FOREVER, though, while Eli got increasingly bored and every other kid went ahead of us. Which, yes, we totally deserved but it still sucked. Especially when I realized that I'd somehow packed a diaper bag with only one diaper and two wipes. Mother of the Year, I am not.
Anyway, the visit was quick once it actually started and on our way out, we read through the pamphlets and guides that outlined what we should expect for the future. Pete lost feeling in his legs, which is his de facto response to medical jargon. I'm expecting him to be a complete mess on the day of the surgery. I will probably be, too, though, so who can fault him.
On the way out, we passed dozens of kids, some who appeared healthy, others with obvious ongoing issues - wheelchairs, scaring, IVs. Outside, as we drove down the block with our son safe and sleeping in his carseat, we passed a father pushing a little boy in a stroller. I couldn't tell you the kid's age - was his small size because he's young or because he's sick? - but I'd guess four. His face was pale and he had a naso-gastric tube. His dad was talking to him enthusiastically about who knows what, and the boy was listening, a half-smile on his face as they plodded along, headless of the gloomy day. They both looked like they were enjoying the brief respite from rain, the fall air, the chance to just be together.
I don't know what that family is dealing with. I have no idea, can't even conceive of what it must be like to have a critically ill child. But I do know that Sick Kids is there, to help, to heal, to support. I'm incredibly grateful that I can bring Eli there, hand over a card issued to him at birth and get access to the best possible care.
I don't know what it's like to really need the doctors and nurses at a hospital like that, not the way that boy does. I hope we never do. But after today, I realize how much better it feels knowing they're there, just in case.
(I'm not including this as a way of putting pressure on anyone but I felt it was important to provide a link in case someone out there is wondering about donating to Sick Kids. Every penny counts.)