Sitting in a hospital cubicle as I wait for my child to be assessed in the emergency department this evening, I can’t help but overhear the family in the next bay to us.
The doctor is questioning what has brought them in today.
The little boy, I’d guess at less than a year old, has picked something off the floor and swallowed it.
The doctor is checking him over.
She asks the questions I guess she asks every typical patient. “Is he normally fit and well?” “Any medical problems?” “Were there any problems at birth?” “Was it a normal delivery?”
His Mum answers the questions in the way I wish I could answer.
The little boy is usually fit and healthy, no medical problems and a normal delivery with no issues.
A lump forms in my throat as I feel a pang of jealousy. I’m jealous because I wish that was me. I wish I was that Mum.
No, I don’t wish that my child had swallowed something as I can only imagine the overriding fear that family must be feeling until they get the all clear that their child is okay and can go home.
But I wish that I was sat in hospital knowing what was wrong and knowing that in all likelihood, in the long term my child will probably be okay.
It may sound selfish, sometimes it’s difficult to articulate without sounding like I’m lacking in empathy.
I’m really not.
It’s just that sometimes a mist descends in front of my eyes and I can’t see beyond the pain I’m feeling as a mother of a very complex child.
Then I’m thrown back into reality.
I’m a firm believer that everybody has a right to feel however they feel about whatever situation they find themselves in.
Just because my situation feels huge to me doesn’t take away the worry that the family in the next cubicle must be going through.
I silently give myself a talking to, reminding myself I cannot possibly know how that mother is feeling as she waits to hear if her child will be alright.
Yes, my child has lots of serious issues but the chances of him ever swallowing an object he’s found on the floor are less than likely, given his high tone means he has very little control of his limbs to bring anything to his mouth.
Despite the difficulties I watch my child face on a daily basis, I’ll regularly be on hand to listen to those challenges my friends face with their children, often as they follow up with “but it’s nothing compared to what you’re going through.”
That’s where I usually step in and say “but it is not nothing, because what you’re feeling is very real and very painful to you and just because I’m facing different challenges that may look bigger, it does not mean you don’t have the right to feel angry or sad about the challenges you are facing.”
So as I sit eavesdropping into the story of the family in the next cubicle I try to tell myself I have no idea what they are going through beyond the blue curtain and I need to stop comparing our story to theirs.
But for that moment I find myself angry again.
Not at that family. I’m angry at our situation.
I’m angry that it’s my child who sustained a devastating brain injury at birth that has left him with serious lifelong problems.
I’m angry that we spend so much of our life in hospital and I’m angry that I watch my child suffer horrendously every single day with no cure or magic fixes.
I find myself once again crying and saying to myself “why me? Why my son?”
As I overhear the doctor tell the family she isn’t concerned as the child seems alert, happy and has experienced no significant side effects, therefore will more than likely pass through whatever he has swallowed naturally so they are free to leave, tears fall down my face as I know for us it’s a very different story.
We are about to embark on an inpatient admission that will involve lots of tests, questions, investigations and time away from home.
Even then I will still be taking home a child who will never be truly okay.
Eventually, I find myself stuck in a war with my own mind, feeling guilty for even comparing our situations for the truth is I have no idea what that family behind the blue curtain are going through.
They could be in a living nightmare and this evening could’ve been just a very small drop in a very large ocean.
Three more families come into the cubicle next to us who explain their children have no known previous medical issues.
I listen intently, wondering if there may be a family who are just like us.
As the evening draws on and I listen to all of their stories, one child has had a fall and bumped their head, one is vomiting and subsequently diagnosed with a gastric virus and one is struggling to pass urine, I find those feelings of anger and sadness passing as they are all told they can go home.
I sit with the painful feelings and start to relax and find myself listening and wondering all about these families and what their stories really are.
Because the reality is none of us really know what is truly going on behind the blue curtain.