Emotional Complexity at 7 Months

IMG_8653When PT was cancelled this past Tuesday, Hope and I were left with nothing to do. It was already the third of six consecutive days my husband would be at the office, and with all of our friends at work or on vacation or otherwise tied up, the only other appointment on this week’s schedule was my training session at the gym, and that wasn’t until Thursday.

So, we did what any normal mother and baby would do on a wide-open summer day—we went to the hospital. Willingly.

To be fair, I’d been sitting on Hope’s blood work prescription for over a month and had planned on getting it done the next day anyway. The blood work would be for CBC with differential (terrifying), thyroid profile, and lead. I’d spoken with the Valley Hospital Laboratory Services the day before to clear up any concern about the best time of day, phlebotomists on duty, and required paperwork. Or at least I thought I’d cleared it all up.

We pulled up to the valet, and Hope was grinning ear to ear. Where had I taken her on such a quiet summer day? What fun surprise did I have planned for us?

“Do you know about how long you’ll be?” asked the valet attendant.

“We should be pretty quick,” I said foolishly. “We’re just running in for blood work.”

HA.

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Waiting our turn for blood work.

We went to the lab on the first floor, which we had been to a few times when Hope was a newborn, and we were the only patients there. So far, so good! I handed over the prescription, Hope made a great impression on the staff, we signed a few forms, and then we waited. A few minutes later, Hope singing at the top of her lungs, enjoying this mega fun place mommy brought her to, we were called in. The phlebotomist checked both of her arms, talking sweetly to her and praising her for being so perfectly chubby, and told me she wasn’t even going to try for a vein. Instead, she contacted the pediatric ER.

And so we went, Hope enjoying the fluorescent lights above her as we paraded through our familiar postpartum stomping ground. We arrived at a blessedly quiet ER, and a series of nurses all tried their hands at removing blood from my baby girl’s stubborn veins, while I kept her in a tight bear hug. It was here, 4 nurses and 3 stabs later, that Hope blew me away.

My 7-month-old angel knew the difference between pain, frustration, and fear. Pain, which she felt when a nurse was wiggling the needle in and out of her arm, made her scream inconsolably, turn red, and sweat profusely. Frustration, which she experienced when she was restrained and the needle was sitting still in her arm, caused her to yell and grunt; she was uncomfortable, looking at the many unfamiliar faces standing around her, expressing that she didn’t know where things were headed and that she was unimpressed. But it was her fear management that I found the most surprising: she took deep inhales and repeatedly looked back at me, checking in to make sure I knew what was going on. I would tell her that I saw the people and that she wasn’t alone, and she’d turn back around.

Her complex reactions to having her blood drawn so greatly contrasted 2-month-old Hope in ways I could not have anticipated. During that single hour, my tough little baby proved she could tell when things felt right (scared, but mommy was there to reassure her) and when things felt wrong (her independence was suppressed, and the pain and uncertainty of the situation were too much to handle).

Later that day, Hope awoke from her long afternoon nap as if nothing had happened. I was an emotional mess, experiencing flashbacks to when she was in the hospital for surgery, and in awe over the emotional maturity she expressed earlier in the day, but she was ready to move on to bigger and better things: dinner.

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