Monday, August 9, 2010

Motherhood on the Sidelines

Over the past four weeks I've been mothering from the sidelines. That's right, officially benched from my duties as cook, maid, dishwasher, taxi driver, party planner, babysitter, diaper changer, bottle washer, and, yes, even nursemaid (pretty much the whole of motherhood, eh?) It all began with one fateful trip to the doctors that ended up with a three hour tour of the ER and subsequently stranded me at the hospital. Just sit right back and you'll read the tale, a tale of that fateful trip. (Cue music)

We arrived at the doctor's office for one of my regular appointments, with 2 out of 3 kids in tow. My 12 year old son headed inside to check in while I hurried to get the diaper bag and baby loaded up in the stroller. I made a mental note of the uneven terrain as I headed to get the baby out of the car and last second, thankfully, decided to keep her in the car seat rather than take the time to pull her out. Grabbing the car seat, I turned and in one motion shut the van door, took a step and down we both went . . . baby and all!

That split second seemed to pass in slow motion as I was aware of that darned right ankle of mine giving way under me as I caught the edge of the rut I had even made a mental note to tread carefully over. I attempted to recover my balance to no avail. Perhaps the 18 pound one year old in the infant car seat I was desperately trying to keep off the ground may have thrown me off kilter a bit?! Aiming to keep her from landing upside down, I managed to set her on the ground on her side as I collapsed in the grass unable to right her or myself. By God's grace the baby was only startled, not a scratch on her and I still shudder at the dozens of "what if's" that filled me with fear. A couple happened to emerge from the doctors office just in time to see my 10 pointer and were able to alert the staff and console the baby 'til her brother returned, wondering why I was laying in the grass playing with his sister.

The doctor checked me out and had an ambulance called. He suspected that my left arm was fractured and my right ankle was dislocated (which was quite obvious to any onlooker without a medical degree - not a pretty sight! Ouch! ) While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, we attempted to contact somebody to come collect the kids. Hubby . . . no answer, my parents . . . no answer . . . yikes! Either one would have been an hour away at the time anyway, so looking through my cell phone I thought of a couple people who lived nearby. My son picked the family in church with 2 sons he could play with (smart cookie!) so we called them and fortunately they were home and able to pick up the kids a.s.a.p.. The staff had been the ones using my cell phone to try to contact a ride as well as my "next of kin" (the phrase my Mom wished they hadn't used when they finally got through to her.) I found out later, that due to HIPAA, they wouldn't tell our friend what happened to me, only that he needed to come pick up my kids (even though I gave them my phone, asking them to call and let him know - ah, government bureaucracy at its finest!)

Before I knew it, our friend had arrived to take the kids. By this time, the baby was contentedly playing with the paper cover on the exam table. She had pretty much calmed down minutes after the accident and didn't seem to mind the attention from all the women in the office. With a few instructions and a quick good-bye, the kids were whisked off to spend the rest of the day having fun with friends while I was left alone attempting to breath through the pain (a frequent occurrence over the next several days.)

As the adrenaline coursing through my veins subsided, the pain levels increased dramatically and the wait for the ambulance seemed to stretch on endlessly. Eventually, I was taken to the hospital to go through a bunch of x-rays and, after about 3 hours in the ER, they finally gave me some pain medication and sedation so they could put my ankle back in place. Soon after, they determined that in addition to dislocating my right ankle, I had indeed broken my left wrist as well as my left foot! So, having never broken a bone in my life, I had somehow won a two-fer with a bonus limb thrown in for good measure. 24 hours later I had been through wrist surgery and was looking forward to a cast on three limbs for the next 4-8 weeks plus a 10 day stay in rehab.

Initially, the tears came quite easily and mostly over all the things I would be missing during the rest of the summer: baby's first birthday bash, trips to the shore, the pool, the gym, showers, kid's activities, emceeing Vacation Bible School, leading our Jr. High Girl's Retreat, preparing a study guide for Ladies' Bible Study, back to school shopping, but above all taking care of baby. With every thought of the baby I would cry harder and harder, realizing that I'd be missing out on so many everyday moments, as well as some big milestones: teaching her to walk, eat certain foods and drink from her sippy cup, giving her baths, changing diapers (well, only slightly), getting her dressed, carrying her upstairs to tuck her in bed, and especially, nursing.

The baby and I were still nursing up to the day of the accident, which happened to be the day before she turned 11 months old. My goal with each baby had been to nurse one year. I had gone 9 months with my first and 4 months with my second, so this was my most successful nurser of all and yet, I was devastated. This was not how I imagined ending our nursing - abruptly - with no gradual weaning or that one last nuzzle that you know is your last (especially when, at 41, you know it's your last baby, so weaning is the official close of a door that will not be opened again . . . sniff . . . sniff. . . .)

As if the realization of the end of our nursing days were not enough insult added to my injuries, I spent the first night away from my baby, ever, in the hospital listening to a disturbed person screaming someone's name all night from across the hall. In keeping with Murphy's Law, the name she was yelling just happened to be my baby's name, Clara! I mean, c'mon, what about Sue or Sarah? I could've slept through that, but no, 'course not. I can laugh at it now, but at the time it was just heartbreaking for me.

After the surgery, I was moved to the rehab floor where I lived for the rest of the 10 days. With the pain subsiding a bit everyday, lots of visitors and calls, physical and occupational therapy sessions, chats with my teenage daughter who was away on a mission trip, plus the daily family visits, my spirits were pretty good while I was stranded. In fact, I became pretty used to being a walking (well, more like hobbling) punch line. Most people just can't help but shake their heads and laugh when they get a glimpse of me. I certainly felt like I was stuck in a Leslie Nielson movie!

Everyday of my hospital stay my wonderful husband would faithfully visit and bring the little one along for my daily baby fix. As they would stroll into my room she would light up at the sight of me, raise her hand and excitedly yelp "Hi!". She always enjoyed crawling back and forth on the hospital bed and trying to play with the call button (amazingly she never rang the nurse!) I tried to cuddle with her, but trying to contain a wriggly baby with one arm ain't easy when all she wants to do is crawl. She did, however, enjoy sitting between my legs and drumming or scratching the casts! When it was time to leave I would receive my customary flying kisses from my little angel and she would give me a big smile, a shy little wave and an airy, "bye!" How adorable is that?! No screaming upon arrival after realizing she's been away from Mommy nor tears when leaving me again at the end of the visit. Overall, I was pleased that she adjusted well without me and did not resent my absence during our visits, although at times a few sobs would have made me feel a wee bit missed! Of course, any separation anxiety on her part would have made the whole ordeal much worse for me and would have made life at home with a screaming baby miserable for everyone else. So, I am counting my blessings to have such a well adjusted, social, confident and secure baby.

Finally, after 10 days in the hospital I was able to go home. The two leg casts confined me to the first floor, so our dining room was turned into my bedroom with the hospital bed replacing our table. My homecoming was bittersweet. On the one hand it was nice to be amid the chaos of my family again. The hustle and bustle of everyone talking, joking, pitching in, helping me and taking care of baby. What a joy to watch my son and daughter teach their baby sister how to crawl up the stairs, walk her round and round the house as she learns to toddle, feeding her bottles, entertaining her with their antics and delighting in hearing her say "Hi!" every time the phone rings.

On the other hand, with a 14, 12 and nearly 1 year old you can imagine the constant activity: laughing, crying, piano playing, whining, drama, teasing, bickering, playing, baby talk and picture taking that occurs on a daily basis. Add to it, Mom Mom, who is thrust back into "chief maid and bottle washer mode", (as she likes to tell ya); Dad, who is attempting to juggle my doctor's visits with his job; and me, Mommy, who is stuck in the bed or recliner watching everyone else take care of it all while I'm faced with an ever growing to do list in the clutter that surrounds me. Can you spell s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l?

Despite the fact that it was hard to be replaced at first, I've been able to do more each day to feel a little more like Mommy again. Domestically: helping to fold laundry, putting dishes away, loading dishwasher a bit, keeping track of family activities and appointments. Baby wise: feeding baby, reading to her, singing with her and keeping an eye on her in the play yard. After two days at home, I became quite distraught over the fact that we had been forced to stop nursing the day of the accident and I longed to cuddle her at least one more time. To my surprise I discovered that I still had milk, (after 12 days hiatus!), so I decided to see if baby would be interested at all. At least this way I felt I could have an official farewell to nursing.

At first baby only seemed interested in playing, but eventually nursed a bit that first time back at the breast. I was just elated to finally hold her in my arms without her wriggling away to reach for a toy or crane to see what her siblings were watching on TV. Rather we enjoyed the moment, cuddling, nuzzling, smiling, kissing her little toes and fingers. Since then we've attempted to nurse a bit at night. Unfortunately, she really is done. Most nights she sucks for about five seconds and that's it. Perhaps once or twice we had another tender time nursing before bed and I'm so glad we had those opportunities to wean a bit more gradually providing some precious moments to hide in my heart. Thank you Lord for providing that mini maternal miracle for me!

Wednesday my two left casts come off, so I look forward to being able to hold baby without an uncomfortable, cumbersome cast in the way by her birthday on Friday the 13th. Even though we postponed the big birthday bash until I'm cast free next month, we intend on celebrating her birthday down the shore - an event I thought would elude me for a few more weeks. The casts come off at the lower end of the estimated time table, which will enable me to do some of those summery things I thought I would miss.

God certainly has been gracious through this whole trial. Thankfully, Clara was protected, my dominant right hand was spared, the hospital was only minutes from home, Hubby was able to work from home when needed, Mom Mom (as well as others) were able to help because it happened during the summer, super siblings capable of helping baby sister, time for me to catch up on my reading and devotional, a loving husband who too often seems to have to deal with the my "worse" while I am blessed by his "better", and an amazing church family providing meals, childcare, rides and visitors.

Sometimes being benched is humbling and depressing, but sitting on the sidelines allowed me to see the many blessings God has bestowed upon me. I can honestly say with the Psalmist that I have seen the goodness of the Lord! (Ps.27:13-14)


  1. Hi there, I am amazed that you are still calm and able to deal with family and daily duties. I can't imagine how difficult it is for you as I recently fell and only broke my ankle,had surgery and just got my hard cast yesterday which I am not handling well at all. I have 2 girls 6,4 and a 2 month old boy whom I am nursing but took time to get into the swing of things after he was on formula after my fall and through surgery but thats another story. So how do you deal with everything without getting frustrated and overwhelmed? I cry myself to sleep at night! I can't really go out much,not reall braving the train here in NYC with a cast and crutches,ugh. If you have time to email me that would be amazing, I want to see how you are feeling and hopefully not in too much pain,Amy.

  2. Oh Denise, this story is wild! We have been praying for you daily. I really wish I could have come to visit you, but working full time and having activities almost every night I feel like I'm often trying to remain sane. You were such a blessing to me when I was having a hard time with nursing. Thank you! It's wonderful to read how God blessed you in the midst of this hard time. I can only imagine how difficult "sidelining" is! I got a taste of it with my c-section recovery.

    We're looking forward to seeing you at church again soon!

  3. Amy, I will be getting an email out to you as soon as I can. But just in case it ends up in your spam folder, feel free to email me at The OT should be arriving shortly, so I'm not sure I'll be able to respond as I had hoped til later this evening. I'll be praying for you:) Do you have any help? I can't imagine having such little ones in addition to the baby. Hopefully, your 6 and 4 year olds can at least help you carry things and assist you to some degree. Enjoy watching them despite the circumstances, and with your arms enjoy some extra cuddle time reading or singing with them:) I'll be in touch.

    BTW the below is the full verse I quoted at the end of my post. A good friend gave it to me when I had another health ordeal a few years back (Yeah, I'm a pro at unusual health issues - not something to be proud of:) Anyhow, I wrote the verse on my cast to help me through, so I figured I'd share it with you:

    Psalm 27: 13-14 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.