So I recently had an Awful Evening in Parenting. It was more awful because I have no husband, co-parent, or partner to help me deal with this kind of crap. Literally, crap. You’ll see.
I should back up. (Ha! “Back up” is a funny double entendre that totally applies here. You’ll see.)
It was a late Friday night, into Saturday morning. My son, G, woke up screaming. He had localized abdominal pain on one side. I couldn’t even touch his tummy without provoking screams.
I asked G several times, point blank, if this was something we needed to go to he emergency room for. We have never gone before, and I am not one of those moms who runs off to the ER for no good reason. G ensured me that he was in real pain. He had already pooped earlier. This was something else.
So I woke my daughter up, because of course she had to come with us. Like a trooper, she just threw a few books and stuffed animals into her pillow-case and tossed it over her shoulder. She was ready. I was ready too, in that I had at least changed into some actual clothes (not pajamas) and brought a book of my own. I thought I actually had this whole ER in the Middle of the Night With My Kids Thing down.
Once we got checked in, however, the Judginess began. The doctor who was palpatating my son’s abdomen looked at me and Shennie pointedly and asked, “Who else lives with you? Inside the home?” Because someone might live in my back yard, but it is crucial to know who else lives inside of my house. Which would be no one. Which is what I told the doctor. “No one else.” Apologetically. Because of course someone else is supposed to be there. I am clearly at fault for bringing one child in to the ER when there is no other parent around to watch the other kid. We are all showing up to the ER in one hot mess, which is what I can tell he thought of of us. I got the side-eye. I could read his mind and he was saying, “of course…it figures.”
I understand how intake works. I am not an idiot. You ask questions to get information about who you are dealing with. Information is useful. But there is no good way for me to inform the intake people that the reason there is no husband, second parent, or human being at home, is because about 18 months ago that very person was discharged, from an Acute Care Floor in this very building, into Hospice Care, from which he died 20 days later.
To the nurses and doctors and administrators, I might never have had a husband at all. I am just another single mother, with no dad on record, dragging her wild-haired children into the emergency room after hours, probably because of acute bad parenting and bad life choices.
Let me say right now that I know of so many great moms who did it all without a dad in sight, for so many reasons that they never anticipated. I grew up with friends whose dads had suffered breakdowns, or who weren’t allowed to see them, or who had run off with their secretaries. The kids, and their moms, were left navigating a judgey, fatherless world. A world in which the ER intake person would say, “I see you have a ‘Michael’ listed as your emergency contact. Is that still good?” And you would have to say, “no, no it isn’t” and she would say, “no new number?” and you would say “nope, definitely not,” while your daughter is dropping gravel from the parking lot down your pants. And the intake person would look at you and make a quick decision about who you are. Because right now you are the kind of mom who has two kids but no dad around. And of course that is never who you thought you would end up to be.
One X-Ray, one sonogram, and three hours later, we learned that Griffin’s problem was actually some kind of poop blockage in this intestine. Nothing life-threatening or emergency. So I definitely felt stupid because of that. And I’m pretty sure that the intake people were checking the box that said “Fuck-up-single-mom whose kid can’t poop and who drags everyone into the ER on a Friday night because she probably doesn’t have primary care doctor for her kids because she sucks as a parent.”
Yes, I presented with an 11 year old patient and an 8 year old sibling who was just tagging along for fun. No, I have one else living with me and no emergency contact. He is actually dead but I really don’t think I need to have a convo with you about this, even though I can still feel some judginess rolling down off of your chart… Or maybe this is all in my head. Maybe this is me, judging me. Looking at myself from the outside and wondering how this person ever became me.
Good lord. I can only imagine how crappy this would feel if I were 20 years younger (which I totally could be and still have kids this age). Ot truly poor. Or not white. Jesus, those women are probaly treated like crap by professinals all the time, and I can only begin to realize how shitty that feels now that it is happening to me on a much smaller scale.
I am doing the best I can to take care of these two little human beings all by my fucking self. Where is dad? None of your goddamed business. No side-eye. No judgment. Especially not from me. No sad “fuck-up” checked boxes on your forms.
In fact, single mom should get gold stars on those forms, shouldn’t we? No matter why it is that we are single. Because we are still the ones left caring for our kids and doing the best we can with what life has dished out for us.
Hell yes. We should get gold stars, all of us…