My little W was stung by an asp a few weeks ago. He picked it up while we were walking M into school. Initially he dropped it, held out his chubby little fingers, and said “yuck!” (his favorite word). I was praying that maybe we had escaped a disaster since in that moment he seemed to be doing just fine. For those of you fortunate enough to avoid an asp sting, you cannot imagine how painful they are. For me, it ranks right up there with childbirth. Not even kidding. They are horrifically painful, and the searing pain can last up to an hour. My M has also been stung, so I have become quite the unofficial expert. After putting the asp back on the ground, W continued bopping along as we took M into school. Ten minutes later, however, it was a completely different story.
We washed his hands off in M’s classroom, and her sweet teachers gave us an ice pack for the car ride home. By the time I got W buckled into his car seat, he was so upset. As I pulled out of the parking lot, he escalated into full out screaming, crying, and wailing from pain. He kept calling my name, and I kept telling him we would be home soon trying to distract him with stories and songs. He was hysterical. When we got home he was too upset to allow me to do anything to treat the sting (using tape to pull out the hairs, applying ice, or submerging it in cold water FYI…). He was clawing at me, climbing up me, and screaming in pain. He was absolutely beside himself and so was I. An hour had passed by this point, and I really started to worry. When parents worry, especially when they see their child suffering and can’t alleviate the pain, things really start to fly off the handle.
I looked down at W’s hand and noticed it was starting to swell. In my right mind, I would have called on my medical experiences from working in child life to know that swelling at the site was probably normal and that he did not have any of the more concerning signs such as swelling around the mouth or difficulty breathing. I was in my “mommy mind,” however, and rational thoughts were no longer a part of the situation. I called my husband and told him I thought W was having an allergic reaction and to come home and get us, that I shouldn’t drive him alone. Fortunately, he works 10 minutes from our home, but in that time W’s screaming got even worse and I got desperate for help. I threw him in the car and left. I texted my husband at a red light and told him to meet us at the doctor’s office. He was home by that point (oops), and he was understandably very confused. We were seen by a triage nurse at the doctor’s office, but by then the sting had finally subsided and W was well…….fine. My husband arrived, and W was thrilled to see him! He lunged for him, pointed to the fish tank, and began making fish faces. The look on my husband’s face was one of utter confusion, disbelief, and relief. I pretty much ripped him out of his desk chair, and now here he was looking at the fish with our very normally acting son. The nurse gave me some literature about asp stings and sent us on our way.
I found myself apologizing to the nurse and to my husband. I felt guilty for disrupting everyone’s day when if I had waited 10 more minutes, things would have subsided on their own. I was so desperate though. I couldn’t listen to my child scream in pain anymore. I needed someone who knew more than me to help him, and I needed support to get him through that moment. I was surprised by those feelings of guilt and even a little bit of shame. In my other “jobs,” if I needed advice or support, all I had to do was ask. I unabashedly called the tecnology director for help with a SmartBoard lesson or walked across the hall to solicit advice for delivering a difficult message during a parent teacher conference. Guilt and shame were never a part of those conversations. So why now?
My best guess is that as moms we feel like we need to do it all and we need to do it well all the time. Sometimes in this job asking for help or calling in the troops can feel like a negative reflection on our mothering abilities, like we can’t “handle it” and that’s like motherhood jail. Instead of viewing myself as the mom who had done everything she could to help her child, I saw a mom who had overreacted and inconvenienced others because of it. I sat in that place for awhile, and then I decided to listen to the advice I so often give other mothers: “You are doing the best you can with what you have and where you are.” Looking back on that moment, I know I was doing my best and instead of second guessing my actions, I realized that as a mother I needed to give myself some grace. This truly is the hardest job in the world, and my best, your best, our best is and always will be enough.
Find the joy~