Okay, where do I begin?
It’s been about 50 days so far. Yes of course I’m still counting. And it has been nothing short of an endless roller coaster ride for me. A huge part of it is because I haven’t had time to process my own thoughts and feelings since we hit the ground running in trying to get the girls adjusted. I am still at it, no doubt. In fact I wonder who’s having a harder time, me or them?
Sam seems fairly well-adjusted already despite our daily conversations of how she misses Elie and her other friends and teachers in Chapel Hill. She still says she is sad we moved away, and can’t wait to visit again in two years (where she got that timeline, I’m not quite sure), but she is also happy being around her cousins and new friends. I had a parent-teacher conference with Sam’s teacher last week at her new school and she tells me how well Sam has transitioned into the class. Sam has even made a group of close friends already that she shares food with and spends most of her mornings with as well. But then again, that has always been Sam’s personality. She’ll hang back and be wary at first, but it won’t take too long for her to warm up and dive into her new environment.
As for Jamie – she’s a different story. Unlike her sister, she’s more cautious and timid about new and big changes. In fact for the first 27 days (again I was counting), I felt like all I could hear was her crying, screeching and shrieking. For as long as her body wasn’t touching mine, it was a meltdown. You can imagine being stuck in traffic for at least 30 minutes having to listen to that the whole time. I really thought I was going cuckoo.
That was partly why I agreed to the pre-school that would take her everyday. I wasn’t ready for my little baby to go to school every morning and I felt so torn about the decision for a while. But then I noticed that after a week in school, the crying and the shrieking stopped. I suppose it did help put her into some sort of routine; and being with other kids and other adults who cared about her (not just being stuck to me) made her realize that it was okay to be away from me in this new and strange environment.
So I had thought we were all making progress and things were moving forward — until last Friday when I had to rush Jamie to the hospital. She had a bad cough, had thrown up and then as she was falling asleep, she started shaking uncontrollably in my arms. It was quite scary. As it turned out, the sudden fever spike and labored breathing (lack of O2) were the initial signs of Aspiration Pneumonia. I had images of months before when Sam had to be rushed because she turned blue in front of my face and I just kept thinking to myself: WHY does this happen to my children when we’re in Manila?! WHY.
Jamie had to be confined over the weekend, and I had to witness my 18-month old baby get chest x-rays, an IV drip (for fluids and antibiotics), a suppository, and a skin graft test. That was NOT FUN. I also had to withhold giving her breastmilk for over 12 hours as a safety precaution. You know how they say when you’re a mom you put on a brave face for your child? It’s so hard to do when you’re dying inside to just scoop them up and make it all go away.
Of course at a certain point anyone Jamie would see in scrubs would make her cry and cling to me like a leech. I hardly got any sleep because Jamie wanted to sleep on me (as her Pedia said, she looked like a baby chimp slung over my shoulder), and anything else would wake her up. In the end the doctors and nurses classified her as a “good patient”: she hardly complained, cried only for brief periods, and verbally thanked them all after each check or procedure. We got sent home with instructions to nebulize and to give her antibiotics for a week – not an easy feat considering she is a master at spitting up unwanted viands. But of course, that is the burden that falls on the mother, and no one else.
I’ve been watching her like a hawk for a week, praying she does not stop breathing in front of me, and I think now that the meds are all done I can relax a little. The problem is, I feel we’re back at square one where she is yet again very attached to me, and all the work we’ve built up to the last 40+ days have vanished. She’s gone back to school and the teachers say that once I leave she’s all smiles, but she is still very clingy otherwise.
The hospital trip affected Sam too — I spent two nights away from home and that has also made her a bit more needy. It’s like she’s not as trusting as she used to be. She goes to sleep at night on top of my body as if she wants to make sure I’m there, and she follows me around the house — even inside the bathroom. Of course as the weather and pollution in this country would have it, now Sam is down with a runny nose and an ear infection, and for the first time ever she wakes up at night crying because her ear hurts (again I say: WHY does this happen in Manila. WHY?!).
My children’s medical problems have not yet come to a close, and I wonder how much more of this we’ll have to go through before they acclimatize completely. Will we have to keep running back to the doctors (here where medicine is privatized and costs a fortune)? I am thankful that we live near a hospital but at the same time I don’t want to have to visit it so often. That’s one part of it – if I knew what to expect then maybe I could prepare myself better or deal with it better (and it doesn’t help to expect the worst when it comes to your kids’ health!).
The other part of me is screaming for more trees, less pollution, better water, no dengue-carrying mosquitoes; how do we make that happen in this country? I want my kids to grow in an environment that will not cause health problems, but I honestly don’t know where to begin. And until such time when I find the answer (or the small parts of it, if at all), maybe I should just brace myself for this medical roller coaster ride to continue on it’s peaks and troughs. I know we’ll survive it and come out stronger beings (physically and emotionally), but to have to go through it is not a walk in the park. It’s not something I wish any other mother would have to endure, especially if you’re like me – who never did like roller coasters much…