Saturday, February 18, 2012

You SHOULD read this. (Or not...whatevs.)

I am officially swearing off the word "should." I had an interesting conversation with your Aunt Anna last week about this dangerous and crappy word, and she agreed 100% that there is basically no context in which this word ought to be used. It's not kind. It's not safe. It's a shitty, awful word.

My first really negative encounters with the Should-beast were in the earliest stages of pregnancy. People were telling me that I should not tell anyone I was pregnant until a certain amount of time had passed. Okay, fine; that's not entirely unreasonable. Once it was clear that you were here to stay, I rapidly lost track of all the other shoulds. According to a wide range of sources, I SHOULD have...

  • ...eaten a really specific diet, excluding a wide range of supposedly dangerous items. The only foods I didn't eat the whole time I was pregnant were deli meat, raw fish (except those two times I caved and ate a few pieces of tuna sushi), and an excess of caffeine (I cut back to one or maybe two cups of coffee a day, which was hardly a change). That's it.
  • ...journaled or written down EVERY SINGLE THING I FELT OR EXPERIENCED the entire time I was pregnant. Uh...I kept a blog AND consistently kept up with writing lesson, activities, professional resources, and teaching materials. 'Nuff said.
  • a bajillion books, ideally every single book written on the topic of pregnancy or childbirth. Okay, I did kind of overcompensate here by refusing to read ANYTHING after the first few books I read contained too many scare-tactic-ey rants about things that would kill me, you, or both of us, but I don't regret it. Now I'm taking carefully-solicited recommendations and researching books that will actually be helpful and positive.
  • ...bonded with every mother I know in a "Red Tent"-esque drum circle of feminine revelry, up to and including requesting and sharing every gory, grisly, and goopy detail of pregnancy with every single one of them. I'm not even responding to this.
There was more. I should have gone easier on myself, I should have eaten more leafy greens, I should have stopped working sooner, I should have gone with your Dad on a "babymoon" (which we would have afforded HOW?), I should have gone to more prenatal education classes...and you know what? I ultimately had a healthy, safe pregnancy, an insanely easy birth, and am suffering in no way from any of the choices I made. I SHOULD have ignored all the shoulds. 

Now that I have a baby in a tricky medical situation - however much it is resolving - the shoulds have escalated to a level that I can barely comprehend. Hudson: any time something in your life gets complicated and unpleasant, be discerning about who you listen to. Hell, be discerning about who you even let talk to you. Some of the people who have offered help and advice have been delightful; they've been warm, supportive, sensitive, and extremely kind not to push their opinions or ideas. Some people have even been so kind as to tell me that they are happy to wait until I ask for their opinions or ideas to hear to open their mouths. Other people suggest that I should make certain choices, but politely nod their heads or hum a little to themselves discontentedly if I don't follow their suggestion. The worst people just flat-out tell me I should act a certain way, then do their damndest to convince me to do so if I don't immediately agree. Here's a fun example.

Last week, your doctors recommended adding formula to the breast milk you were already eating as a way to get you more calories. You weren't putting on weight, and were having what I will delicately call unpleasant poos; my gut reaction was that you were lactose intolerant. I told everyone who would listen about how uncomfortable you were, how gross your poops were, and how suspicious I was of milk-based formula...and I was more or less brushed off. One nurse even had the gall to tell me "that's normal baby behavior."'re not a normal baby. Our frustrations increased, and we kept having days added to your hospital stay as you failed to gain weight. Doctors kept promising "you'll be home tomorrow!" when there was no chance of our cardiologists letting you go without a consistent trend of weight gain. Then you ended up back in the PICU after a hideous allergic I suspected...and now we're set back another few days reteaching you how to eat and dealing with nurses who aren't willing to give you all the time you need to finish eating as much as you need to. Your Dad and I are furious.

Of course, nothing was helped by the handful of people who have proceeded to tell me that I should have been a "stronger advocate for your needs" and should have been more aggressive about my allergy theory and then forced your doctors to let you eat something rather than take 24 hours off eating. You know what? No matter how loudly I spoke up, no one would have made any changes to your diet until they had concrete proof that what we were trying actually wasn't working. As much as it was agonizing, I know that your food-free day was a necessary evil. Would these should-sayers have expected me to opt out of your surgery because it was going to cause you pain? Should I have declined the IV they put you on to keep you hydrated? What about the blood draws that helped confirm that no, there is nothing systemically wrong with you except for an allergy?

Being told that I should have done something different - implying that the choices I made were patently wrong - is unbearably insulting, especially since I was ultimately complying with a medical plan that is not only placing your needs above everything else, but which we really couldn't have affected anyhow. The only thing I should have done in this situation - and others, which I have been told I should have handled differently - is ask good questions to be sure that our doctors were being clear and open with us. (FYI: your Dad and I both did that, so we've done our should-ly duty.)

I've hit my boiling point. The word "should" is officially banned. Anyone who wants to tell us something that they would like to see us do is welcome to make a suggestion, but the next person who tells me something that I should do is going to be politely greeted with the following:

"The only thing I SHOULD do is take the best possible care of my son. You SHOULD expect nothing else."

We're back up on the pediatric floor today (in the largest room we've had yet, with a kind of cool view of the old hospital building - which means that we've now had a view out of every side of the hospital), you're eating like a champ, and everyone is expecting us to be home soon. Oh, I'm going to use it one last time: we SHOULD be.

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