Benjamin and I are trying to establish a new ritual of taking a walk every day as a family. We live near a walking and cycling trail that leads through the dunes to the beach. The idea is we go every day right after I get done with work. There is currently juuuust enough sunlight left for this to happen if we walk about 3km. I recently purchased a second child-carrying device, so I wear Bear on my back and Pax on my front, trying to guarantee that I will never get osteoporosis.
|Still more comfortable than being pregnant.|
This is a fledgling habit, in that we've only done it a couple of times. I feel protective of this tiny baby habit, I want to foster it, help it take root. I feel like this will be a very positive thing for our family - getting some exercise, getting outside, having a routine. Though right after shooing the last patient out the door I really very rarely want to dart home, change my clothes, and go for a brisk walk. Going home and collapsing on the couch with an adult beverage sounds more appealing, but I am committed to this plan. As the plan's main cheerleader I have to counter a lot of whining from ranks - "It's too cold," "I'm hungry," "It's raining," and other ridiculous objections.
So on Tuesday when Benjamin started with the, "my stomach isn't feeling so hot," I was having none of it. "Put on your shoes," I growled at him. And he did.
|Attempting to just 'walk it off.'|
We got out to the trail and he helped me strap the kids on. We had walked less than 500m when he started grimacing and twisting around, hand on his belly. "I think I need to go use the restroom," he said, "You keep walking, I'll pick you up."
So the kids and I continued on and he headed back to the car, but walking without Benjamin to talk to or keep pace with seriously eroded my enjoyment of the situation. In the new child-carrying device I have for Bear, Bear's mouth is positioned approximately four centimeters from my ear.
"Mom, can I have a snack when we get home?"
"Mom, can I watch Paw Patrol when I get home?"
"Mom, do you remember when we got a cupcake at that store? Can I have a cupcake now? Can I have a cupcake for dinner?"
"Mom, Waitangi at school has a Thomas backpack."
"Mom, is Maryland close to New Zealand?"
"Mom, Skye from PawPatrol has a helicopter."
"Mom, I want to go back now. Can we go back now? Is our walk done yet?"
We did not make it 3km. We went down to the beach and I let Bear run around a bit, hoping to run off some of the energy flowing out of his mouth in the form of a continuous verbal onslaught. It was unsuccessful.
|"This is my dune-running game!"|
"Mom, it's too windy."
"Mom, are we there yet?"
"Mom, can I have a cupcake for dinner?"
"Mom, Pax is touching me."
When we got back to the trail head, Benjamin was waiting in the car, still looking a bit uncomfortable. We got everyone loaded and then unloaded. I busied myself getting some dinner together for the kids (spoiler alert: it was not cupcakes). Benjamin disappeared into the bathroom, where I assumed he would take care of whatever unfortunate gastrointestinal situation he had going on. Later I realised I had not seen him in a while. I checked my phone and found that I had a text from him, "Why aren't you helping me?"
I was confused because my husband is the only family member that I usually don't have to assist with pooping.
So anyway, I went to the bathroom. When my obstetrics patients look the way Benjamin did, I generally ask the nurse to assemble the delivery table, so that we have the gauze and suction bulb and umbilical cord clamp at the ready because we will be needing those things soon.
While I was standing there wondering why my home first aid kit lacks both injectable drugs and portable CT scanners, Benjamin motioned that he was going to vomit. So I provided him a readily accessible vessel, the baby's bathtub.
I was proud of myself for keeping my sympathetic vomiting reflex under control, but apparently more was expected of me. I am, after all, a doctor. So shouldn't I be fixing this situation?
I hate being my family's doctor. Like, if my in laws need their blood pressure medication refilled, fine. But when it comes to diagnosing my family I am often awash in self-doubt. So I sort of stared at my husband as he writhed around on the bed. Appendicitis? Gall stones? Small bowel obstruction? Gastric ulcer? Gastric adenocarcinoma? Pheochromocytoma? (It has to be a pheochromocytoma some time, right?) Eventually I snapped out of it and loaded Benjamin into the car.
I took him to the town's tiny hospital and dumped him unceremoniously at the feet of the ward nurse, Debi. When she asked what to do I said, "Whatever you do for people who aren't my patient." Then I went to bring in the kids from the car.
|The beneficiary of his wife's compassionate medical expertise.|
Debi called an ambulance. And I took the kids home and put them to bed. I tried to get some rest myself, but I couldn't fall asleep. So I got up and cleaned the vomit out of the baby tub. And then I got a bit carried away and cleaned the rest of the bathroom and folded two loads of laundry and did a bunch of dishes.
Benjamin made contact around 2am to say that he was feeling much better and he was being discharged without having taken a trip through the hospital's famous CT scanner but with a fistful of pain medication. I woke the children and put them in the car. I drove through the dark to the hospital, I retrieved my husband from the hospital entrance, and I took him to that fine 24-hour drive-through dining establishment, McDonalds. Bear got pancakes because, "they serve breakfast all day, now, Mom."
One of the reasons Benjamin wanted to come to New Zealand was to establish some independence for our little family. At home in Maryland, we enjoyed the support of a wide network of family and friends. Finding middle of the night emergency childcare so that I could go pick up my kidney-stone riddled husband from the emergency room would have been no problem. In fact we often partook of free childcare for totally frivolous things like "date night." To Benjamin this somehow represented unacceptable dependency. I have always maintained that I have absolutely no problem taking the grandparents up on their desire to spend quality time with their grandchildren. But I must admit, driving through the dark with the kids in the car, I did have a small sense of pride, like, this is tough but we can do it.