I don’t have to look far to know that I’m a lucky mom. On top of my kids being funny and happy and literally the light of my life, they are relatively healthy. Sure, we’ve had our bouts with asthma attacks and the year Sweet Pea couldn’t keep any food down, but as scary as those times were, they were nothing compared to what some of our friends and family deal with on a daily basis. Taken as a whole, we are lucky.
I was reminded of this the other day, when we took KJ to Children’s Memorial for a routine appointment with a specialist. For very different, but thankfully both very minor, reasons, both of my children see specialists at Children’s Memorial. Prior to my first visit there with KJ in 2008, I thought that Children’s was only a place for super scary sick kids. You know, the kind of sick that no one wants to even think about. But, when KJ had a relatively minor problem that we wanted a second opinion on, our pediatrician sent us there. So we went. At our first appointment, I was so worried that KJ was going to need surgery (he didn’t) that I don’t remember even seeing anyone else at the hospital. But I remember our second appointment clearly. Our second appointment involved a trip to the main hospital in Lincoln Park. And while I’m sure they treat kids with minor or potential problems like KJ’s all the time, they also treat kids with super scary problems too. And we saw some of them.
I’ve never been more grateful for my children’s health than I was that day. When you are expecting a baby, you are expecting a healthy baby. Or at least I was. I never really thought about all the things that could be wrong. Oh sure, I did the test for Downs and I prayed for a healthy baby, but I just assumed my baby would be born healthy. And he was. I never really thought my baby could be so sick that I’d spend weeks or months in a hospital like some of these parents did. I never thought about my baby needing heart surgery. Or being born with one lung. And yet, I know parents for whom this is a reality. Their every day life.
And I felt guilty. Yes, I’m grateful for my kids’ health. But being at Children’s with a relatively healthy kid brought out tons and tons of guilt. Guilt that my child was healthy. Guilt for always having assumed that my child would be healthy. Guilt for being right (so far, knock on wood). But most of all, I felt guilt for taking up the doctor’s time that could have been spent on some other kid who, very likely, was more "sick" than mine.
When we took KJ for his third (and –yay! – final) appointment with his specialist last week, all of that guilt returned. As Husband checked KJ in for his routine check-up, the woman next to him checked her daughter in for a blood transfusion. Then, as we waited for our appointment, our particular doctor was called away for an emergency. When he returned, the doctor apologized for his delay, saying he had an emergency arise that was going to take up “a lot” of his time that night, but then dismissed it, saying we weren’t there to talk about his problems, we were there to talk about ours. But we didn’t really have a problem. Not compared to the kid that doctor was going to spend “a lot” of time working on later that night. Not compared to the girl in the waiting room. As it turned out, not really at all. Yes, KJ remains a candidate for elective surgery, but the key word is elective: he doesn’t have to have it. And we’re electing not to.
To say I'm grateful my children are healthy is a huge understatement. Thanks to daycare, we get to deal with the "regular" childhood illnesses almost all winter long. But things like hospital stays and breathing treatments are still relatively rare. And that's not something every parent can say. It shouldn't take a trip to Children's to realize this, but too often I take my children's health for granted. No longer. I know I'm a lucky mom, and I'm going to be grateful for that. And pray for those parents out there who are dealing with the unimaginable.