Adulting. You’ve undoubtedly seen the memes or heard people talk about how they don’t want to “adult” today. If, like my husband, you’ve never heard the word before (at least in that context), it means the practice of behaving like a responsible adult.
I remember the exact day, time and circumstances of the first time I felt like an adult.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t when I went away to university.
Nor was it when I got my first job or even when I got married. And although I probably started to feel a bit more “adultish” after the birth of my first daughter, it wasn’t then, either.
It was on the 30th of September 2011 at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
I was working from home when the nanny came into my office, carrying my six-month-old daughter and said “Miss Z is acting funny. What should I do?”
I remember very clearly taking Z from her and noticing how she seemed to be very stiff and rigid and her breathing was rapid, shallow and strangely rhythmic.
I had no idea what was wrong with her.
I had no idea what to do. The only other adult at home was the nanny, and she was waiting for me to tell her what to do.
I was the adult. I had to decide.
“I think we need to call an ambulance,” I said.
I had never had to call an ambulance in my life. As far as I knew, you only called an ambulance when someone had a heart attack or was hit by a car. But calling one because your baby was acting funny? Would the paramedics tell me off for over-reacting? Would the 000 operator even agree to send an ambulance?
I became the adult.
I made the decision and called an ambulance. The paramedics did not tell me off - probably because they were too busy saving Z’s life. The funny behaviour turned out to be a status seizure that took over an hour and several powerful drugs to stop.
During the hour or more that it took the paramedics and then the Emergency Room doctors to end the seizure, Z stopped breathing twice. She had to be incubated and spent nearly a week in intensive care.
In many ways Miss Z’s story, and my story as her mother, started on that day.
She had been a difficult baby and there were missed milestones, test referrals and concerns that came before that horrible day, but it was September 30th, when my husband and I stood in the Resus area of the Emergency Department and watched 18 doctors and nurses working on Miss Z that the seriousness of the situation and the frightening possibility of what lay ahead became clear.
And it was from that day onward that we have had to make difficult, grown-up decisions about our daughter on a regular basis.
Miss Z makes me “adult”.
From that day onward, I’ve always needed to be ready to take difficult decisions – Will this surgery improve her quality of life? Is she sick? Should I call an ambulance?
And caring for Z is a constant job. It includes everything from basic care, like changing her nappy, dressing her and trimming her fingernails, to drawing up and administering her medication to coordinating her multiple medical and therapy appointments each month.
I’m often up in the middle of the night, helping her to breathe by suctioning her and repositioning her because she can’t roll over in bed by herself.
I watch for seizures and give her emergency medication if a seizure runs too long. I take her temperature and monitor her SATS levels and respiration rate when she is unwell.
Caring for Z requires constant adulting.
However, one thing I’ve learned while I’ve been adulting is that it doesn’t mean my life is without joy. Miss Z, and her sister are constant sources of happiness and laughter and just plain goofiness in my life.
And watching the two girls together is my greatest source for joy.
And it doesn’t mean I have to behave like an adult all the time – as Miss Z and her sister will tell you. When I’m with the girls I sing, and dance and make up songs about “poonamis” (those massive dirty nappies that swamp everything like a tsunami).
I got my nose pierced for my birthday, because I fancied it. As Z’s sister heads into the pre-teen years, I am increasingly amused the ways I (usually inadvertently) manage to embarrass her.
Being an adult also means learning my limits and asking for and accepting help.
It means taking time for myself so that I can live to “adult” another day. Being a responsible adult means knowing that I need to stay strong and healthy to make those hard decisions. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m learning that being an adult doesn’t mean doing everything by myself.
Adulting. It can be hard and it can bring joy, but most of all, it doesn’t need to be done alone.