Last Friday I went with Hubby to pick up Baby from the family daycare. This is a pleasant errand that I normally don’t get home in time to do. But that day, I watched Hubby carry her down the sidewalk and to the car, and as he settled her into her car seat next to me, she saw me and her face broke into a smile. She made a happy noise, and she started clapping. I hadn’t seen Baby in a little over a week, because I was in the hospital with a sickle cell crisis. The sight of her reacting like that made my eyes and nose sting with tears, and I cried a little as I helped buckle her into her car seat. It seemed like she missed me, and that possibility made me feel really sad and a little guilty. By getting sick and then staying away from her all that time, had I messed up and neglected my job as a mother?
When we got home, Baby seemed anxious to jump on me, hug and snuggle up a bit, which I was game to do, as well. But I had just gotten out of the hospital and was still sore from several procedures. So at one point when she threw her 18-month-old energy at me, I winced in pain and gently pulled her back a little. She stopped and looked at me, almost like she recognized that something was up. I wonder how much Baby realizes about my condition and what effect it will have on her life. During the evening, I thought Baby looked at me differently more than once, like when I was slow in picking her up, half-heartedly chasing her up the stairs (which would normally have her squealing in delight) or not bounding down the stairs, which she also loves to see. Maybe she was just taking in the sight of me at home again. I hope she was not wondering why I wasn’t operating at full throttle. Obviously, she doesn’t understand how sickle cell works, but so far she knows that on two occasions I have left her for a few days, and when I came back, I didn’t lift, swing or toss her around like I am used to doing. This time, however, I did manage to play with her a bit, and go through the whole bedtime routine, from bath through story time and the final kiss goodnight. Hubby had to gently lower her into her crib, because I just didn’t have the strength to do that.
Even if Baby doesn’t have those questions now, I know that I will have more crises and one day she’s going to ask me about my health. One night, she might ask Hubby why I’m screaming (in pain) and where he is taking me. One day she might wonder why I didn’t come home from work, or why I’m delayed getting home from a trip out of town. We will have to talk about my disease one day, and when we do, I’ll tell her everything that I can, except for the part where I thank God that she escaped my fate. If she’s as sharp then as I think she is now, it’s something that will be quietly understood between us.