On Monday, we took Jackson to the pediatrician for his one-month appointment. This was the third time we’d taken him there, all for well visits—once at a few days old, once at almost 2 weeks old, and then Monday. We are taking him back to the same doctor Hudson had. We always loved the office and both doctors there and really never considered going anywhere else this time around.
But it is still hard. I went to see one of the doctors in the office back in March, under the guise that I had questions that I wanted to ask about Jackson, sort of like a prenatal visit. This was true, but I really wanted to go just so that I would be alone during the first time back in that office since that fateful morning when we took Hudson in after a frightening early morning fever. I didn’t want the first time to be with Jackson in my arms. Because I knew it would be bad, and I was right. I cried practically the entire time, from the minute I stepped into the waiting room and off and on through the entire meeting with the doctor, which lasted about 45 minutes. But I was glad to have gotten that first visit out of the way.
I managed fairly well for the first two visits with Jackson. This time, not so much. Maybe it’s because we had to wait longer in the waiting room to be seen (usually we get put into an exam room right away). Maybe it’s because the waiting room was totally empty. Maybe it’s because we were put into the same exam room where we were the last time with Hudson, with its little blue dinosaur coin collector. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard a little baby crying, hard. Probably getting some shots. But as I sat there, all I could think about was that Monday morning last May, how after I cried in the exam room when the doctor said we should go home and keep giving Hudson Tylenol, after I insisted that they do some more tests, Hudson didn’t even flinch when they put a catheter in her to check her urine for a UTI or bladder infection. She should have cried. She should have screamed. But she was limp. She was my child—I knew her better than anyone else—I should have known that something really terrible was wrong and that we should have been at the hospital and not the doctor’s office. How did I not know?
And when we left this past Monday morning, we had to pass by the long frosted glass windows that separate the lab area from the office building’s corridor. And again, all I could think about was how Hudson didn’t even flinch when they stuck her to draw her blood. Why didn’t I march right back upstairs right then and get them to send us to the hospital? Or better yet, why didn’t I just go on to the hospital myself? It was just across the parking lot from where we were. How did I not know?
And whenever we park on the second level there, I can only remember leaving the office last May 10, after waiting forever to get her blood drawn and a chest x-ray. I remember almost exactly where we were parked. I remember opening the van door and putting her into her car seat and saying to Ed, “I bet somebody is going to go right to sleep,” all the while laboring under the impression that Hudson’s lethargy, her limpness, was just pure exhaustion from fighting a fever and being up several times for the past two nights. How did I not know?
And I’ll probably never stand at the checkout window there again without remembering telling Hudson to say bye-bye to the nurses when we left that day. She obliged, looking miserable as she did, waving listlessly and saying, “Bye-bye.” Little did I know that those would be the last words I’d hear her say, with the exception of her telling me “No” whenever I asked her if she would drink something later that day.
It is still hard. It will probably never not be hard on some level. It remains so difficult to let go of the idea that if we’d just caught it sooner, she would be alive today—my brain still wants so desperately to create a new ending. I suppose it is possible that one of the reasons I wanted to go back there with Jackson is because I take some bizarre comfort in the fact that even the doctors had no idea how very sick Hudson was, like we all share some blame for not taking more immediate action first thing that morning, so I don’t have to carry it all myself. But it doesn’t change the fact that she was MY child—if anyone should have known that something was terribly wrong with her, it was me.
As you can see, I still wrestle with this nasty monster. It is much quieter than before. It doesn’t beat its steady beat inside my head all day every day anymore. But it is stealthy. All it takes is the right trigger, like hearing that little baby cry at the pediatrician’s office, and I am locked in a grudge match with it again. I don’t know that I’ll ever be fully rid of it.
All I can do is hope that it will continue to grow weaker with each passing day.