“It’s 151,” he said, his voice tense and perplexed. “What does that mean?”
I could barely hear him. I felt like I was falling down a black hole. My vision was clouding in at the edges. I couldn’t take a full breath. The bedroom was dimly lit and quiet. A large bed occupied most of the real estate, but there was a small white crib by the window and a large overstuffed white glider in the corner of the room. It would have seemed so peaceful, a mother and baby rocking quietly in the corner of a hushed room, but the reality was much harsher, a bit like the color on the walls, a yellowish beige that was a poor choice for a small room with so little natural light. A color that, finally, on the Fourth of July weekend, I painted over in a fit of insanity, stepping over piles of laundry and screaming children with old gelato containers filled with cool white paint, painting one corner, one wall, one coat at a time, while Jim looked on, smiling bemusedly, knowing to say nothing, not even to offer to help. There is no stopping me once I fixate on something. He knew that going in.
That night, though, the walls were still that yellowish beige. I felt on the verge of tears, or vomit, or probably both, the weight of my sweet babe at my breast the only thing keeping me tethered to the earth.
One hundred and fifty one. I had already convinced myself that she had it. She had used the bathroom six times that afternoon. She was hungry constantly. I was envisioning the drive to the hospital, the terror on her face when it was time for the first of a lifetime of shots. It was over. My life, as I knew it, was over.
It was late. The girls were in bed. Jim and I had been talking in hushed whispers about our concerns, until we couldn’t bear it any longer. He crept into their room and pricked her finger while she slept without waking her, a skill we had become very adept at over the past 3 months, but instead of the bottom bunk where our sweet P slept, he reached into the top, to test O, our five year old. I was sitting in the glider, nursing a three month old Q and wondering how I could leave. Leave all of it, all of them.
Being P’s pancreas had been hard and will continue to be, but with O, my willful, challenging, brilliant, sensitive six year old, it would be impossible. We already struggled to understand each other, and starting tomorrow, I imagined the six shots a day, not to mention the obsessive carb counting and blood checks, and at least a decade of being in constant struggle over what she put in her body and when, followed by a lifetime of worry and loss of control. I couldn’t do it. It was more than I could bear.
“Kate,” he called to me. “Kate, what does that mean?”
“Nothing. It means nothing. It’s high, but not high enough to diagnose. We’ll check her fasting level in the morning. Set an alarm, so we can do it before she wakes up.” I paused. “Jim,” I said finally, “I want to run away.”
“I know,” he said softly.
He came over and gently kissed my forehead before he headed out to walk the dog. “I’ll be right back,” he whispered.
There were no carseats in the black station wagon. I could finish nursing the baby to sleep, and leave the powdered formula they gave us at the hospital on the kitchen counter. He had never taken a bottle before, but he would get hungry and figure it out. I could drive. I could go north. I could go south. I could follow the coast until I felt like stopping. Jim is the better parent anyway, more patient, more empathetic, more nurturing. I’m not really cut out for this. I’m hard and demanding. I sometimes miss the subtleties that accompany normal human emotion. I could just drive into the night, roll down the windows and crank the radio, drive until I felt like coming back, if I felt like coming back. Just walk into the night, find my flip flops by the back door, and never look back, at least, until looking back felt safe again.
An insistent buzzing from my phone snapped me out of my anxiety-induced musings. P was going low. I replied quickly to a concerned text from Jim, “I’m on it.”
I checked her monitor, 67 and going down. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I eased the baby off my breast and down into the crib. He had been asleep for a while. My holding him was more for my comfort than his.
My eyes burn in the harsh light of the kitchen, as I measure an exact half cup of milk and pour it into a cup with a straw. Back in the dark of the girls’ room, I feel my way to the lower bunk. I prop her up on my arm, her body floppy and her breath sweet. I put the straw to her lips and she drinks, almost still completely asleep, a random cup of milk in the night is her new normal. It requires no explanation. It is certainly better than the random needle in the middle of the night that awakens her all too often. She finishes, smiles softly and cuddles into the crook of my arm and settles back into a deep sleep. O rustles in her bed above us, mumbling something about the Mariana Trench.
P begins to snore softly. I breathe her in. This is my life and I am home.
This story is the sixth installment of a series entitled “New Normal” from Kate Felton’s blog, Not Sure How Today Ends. Read the previous installments of Kate’s New Normal series: