You know what they say: when life hands you lemonade, you’d better duck the lemons likely hurtling in your direction.
Maybe that’s not what they say, but in the days following V’s birth my subconscious endorsed the principle so firmly that I had repeated visions of either Viv or Ian being taken from me. For the most part I responded reasonably. I stalwartly refrained from asking E to army crawl under windows after the image of a sniper on the neighbor’s roof taking him out flashed before my eyes addled as they were by hormone-tinted glasses. I did, however, declare that Viv should not be carried up and down the slippery, spiral staircase and that Ian should put a temporary hold on jaywalking. Apparently this particular variety of postpartum crazy – being so happy that deep down one decides things can only go downhill – is quite common. Needless to say, none of the imagined threats to Ian and Vivienne materialized.
It was only after I became largely free of hormone swings (I comfortably resumed my tenured appointment in the ranks of the dramatic but basically rational several weeks ago) that my dark interpretation of the “make lemonade” idiom actually came to fruition. Little Miss Viv got four full days de joie during week seven thanks to our chocolate fix, and then the other shoe fell. We got a cold. It doesn’t sound like much, but neither does a rainy day – unless of course you happen to live in a flood plain. What was actually a relatively mild virus hit us like a zit on your wedding day due to a series of unfortunate events.
For starters, the cold didn’t show up all at once, escalate in linear or even unidirectional fashion, or affect Ian. It began with a little congestion and gastrointestinal distress for Viv, followed by some stuffiness for me a few days later; but neither of us had trouble breathing at that point, and both our noses cleared within a day. Viv started coughing a few days later, stopped for a few days, and started again. Her congestion returned, disappeared, and put in a second encore performance. Sometimes she seemed almost happy, though certainly nowhere near as perky as during our half-week-long golden age. In part because my allergies have been known to cause this sort of dance and mostly because during the first week of her cold I only got two to three hours of sleep a night which would have done my brain in even in the absence of the substantial sleep debt I’d earned during Viv’s first seven weeks (and explains why I didn’t stop to realize that newborns don’t have allergies since they lack immune systems – quick, rationalize, rationalize, rationalize the guilt away), I completely missed what seems obvious in retrospect.
I could see that Viv was fairly miserable, which makes sense since babies are what our pediatrician calls “mandatory nose breathers” (because of the way they eat), we don’t have a good way to relieve her stuffiness (the blow vs. sniffle debate obviously falls on uncomprehending ears), and she probably felt as achy and overtired as infected grownups do without the comforting understanding that her symptoms would soon disappear. Yet, unfortunately, because newborns generally can’t localize pain and apparently swallowed snot causes gas, the signs of her distress looked almost identical to the outward effects of her cramping. Since I didn’t realize we had a cold, it didn’t occur to me that a cold would be a big deal, she appeared to be suffering from a return of her gas, and I felt the need to do something proactive, I scoured the internet for ideas and cut the following foods out of my diet (in addition to gluten and chocolate): soy, dairy, nightshades, sugar, legumes, fruit, nuts, broccoli, and eggs. I assumed that chocolate hadn’t been the answer after all and shoveled meal after meal of meat and rice into my mouth, totally demoralized.
It was only after Viv’s writhing and screaming failed to cease despite my spartan diet, Viv developed a fever a full week after this saga began, and a trip to the pediatrician (during which V’s fever temporarily subsided and she gurgled and smiled on the examining table, of course) that I figured out she just plain didn’t feel good and there was nothing more I could do about it. I already despised lack of control prior to motherhood, but feeling utterly powerless when my baby was suffering took the agony to a whole new, heart-wrenching level.
As we finish up week nine, we are on the mend thanks to TLC provided by my mom (yes, she came back, bless her heart) and Jeannette. I am well fed, and Viv flashes more and more smiles each day. I guess they also ought to say, “When life gives you lemons, cross your fingers that you have friends and family to come make you lemonade.”