Parenting may provide great joy but it may also provide great challenges, especially when your child suffers with ill health. In this piece I tell of an anxious day for our family, as we seek answers to our daughter’s severe gastrointestinal problem. I decided to share this anecdote about our brave, beautiful daughter to bring to light the experience of families contending with serious and chronic health issues.
The return to the hospital where our younger daughter was born might have been a nostalgic occasion, but instead it’s an anxious one.
We have come here so our daughter, now two years old, can undergo a nuclear medicine study to investigate a chronic gastrointestinal issue – not that a bystander would guess that anything is wrong with her as she runs excitedly down the long corridors in her toddler trademark Elsa dress and glittery shoes.
Our daughter is given a radioactive solution in a Styrofoam cup. As she drinks it up with a straw, I cringe a little although I understand it is harmless and I know, all too well, that this study is justified. Six hours later, when the radiation should have reached her gut, she is wrapped in a soft pink, yellow and blue blanket – the same kind in which she was presented to us the day she arrived in the world, so wide-eyed and sweet. She slides on a platform between the plates of a gamma camera, clutching her beloved teddy and blankie. She looks so small within this huge piece of medical equipment that will chart the radiation’s course through her body. I stroke her hair softly while she peers at the camera around her.
As the machine hums and beeps, my thoughts wander to the morning she was born, cradled in my arms in that exact blanket, in this exact building. I could never have envisaged this journey. I could never have envisaged that she, and we as a family, would go through so much. At times it is hard to reconcile. Mostly I just want to take her discomfort away. While there is a sense of relief that this study will elicit important information – information that may help to solve the riddle of her health problems – there is worry too. It is a step towards a possible diagnosis – a destination I’m not sure I am emotionally ready to reach but know that we owe it to her to go there.
The camera finishes with a long beep. My daughter grins with delight as the plate moves up, the platform slides back and the camera rotates. She says, ‘Mama, can we go home now?’ Yes, we can. She waves goodbye to the technician then runs along the corridors back to the lift, giggling, shoes glittering as she goes. She cannot wait to tell her older sister about the camera at the hospital that spins around. Staff and other patients smile warmly at her evident joy.
And in that moment I remind myself that whatever happens next on our journey as a family she remains our sweet, wide-eyed younger daughter. She’s not worried about the outcome of this test, about the possibility of more invasive tests, or surgery. To her, each day is rather one big adventure, full of wonder and joy – no matter whether she is exploring her local park or hospital corridors. And it is a privilege to share this adventure with her.
That night we snuggle together and read the story she has chosen: Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – a silly yet profound tale of life’s adventures and misadventures, and one of my own favourite children’s books. As I read the rollicking text, trying not to stumble, I smile. My strong, brave Miss 2 years will move mountains, for sure. I hug her tightly and kiss her goodnight.
To any parents on a similar journey with their child, I tip my hat: this stuff isn’t easy, and you, mum or dad, are doing an amazing job. Your child may not grasp their condition, but they do understand that you love them deeply and are doing all you can for them. And while it’s true this particular adventure is so very fatiguing, anxiety-inducing, there are joyous moments too. Hold onto them tightly.
More articles from Ginny:
The Milk Wars
A Big Shift: How Three Women Transformed their Careers during Motherhood
You Know You Have an Inner West Child When …
Cookie Cutter Kids: How can we teach our children to celebrate diversity?
Running in Circles
Allergies: What’s all the fuss about?
The Early Days
Not water – Tears
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Triumph or Trauma
Riding the Merry go Round
Friends, Near or Far
When is Enough, Enough?
My ( Child’s) Kitchen Rules