I am finding that many of life's discoveries happen twice. First, the new experience itself happens. Second, when you relate this discovery to people, you find out that yes, that's what happens in those circumstances. It happened to them, and to everyone else before them. And although you didn't know it was coming, now it has happened to you.
We spent last Saturday night at the Emergency Room of Holy Cross Hospital. Oh, everyone's fine. Hell, we were all fine at the time. The baby had been fed, put down, and about forty minutes later started screaming his head off. The "I'm in pain" scream. And he wouldn't stop for love or nipple. He screamed around the nipple, in fact, which was a pretty bad sign.
Well, this hadn't happened before. He didn't appear discolored, other than the beet-redness his face gets while screaming. Poking at his hands, feet, and stomach produced no extra screaming. So we called the pediatrician, who told us to go to the emergency room. He might, she said, have an ear infection.
Now, my theory was that he was suffering from a food allergy. We had cooked a nice shrimp and scallop curry for dinner, and my wife had not eaten scallops since the kid was born. But better safe than sorry, right? So off to the emergency room we went.
Car trips reliably put the kid right to sleep. This was, surprisingly, no exception. So by the time we reached the hospital he was sacked out. However, his breathing was still that of an unhappy baby, all sleep-sniffly and sad, and, hey, we were at the hospital. So we checked in.
That was shortly before ten pm.
We were seen by a doctor, who found nothing wrong with the by-then tired but otherwise calm kid, at about one-thirty. Probably a food allergy, he surmised.
Needless to say, my wife and I found sitting around an otherwise empty emergency room waiting room for over three hours somewhat annoying. Oh, the many times we said "well, he seems fine, we could go home", and didn't. The bitter tears I wept for not having simply driven off once the baby had fallen asleep. But once bureaucracy has its leaden talons in you, it sucks out all initiative, so we sat around hour upon hour while nothing happened, waiting.
Sunday, the baby was happy all day.
Anyway. On Monday, I spoke of this to my various friends and co-workers. And every last one of them nodded knowingly and sympathetically and told me of the many hours they themselves had spent at the emergency room with their children, waiting.
Now, I hadn't suspected that I was the only one who had ever rushed to an emergency room and wound up cooling his heels for no reason. But neither had I realized that everyone did that. That the Emergency Room Wait was just part of parenting. They told me about the diapering, and the sleeplessness - I knew all that was coming. But the Emergency Room Wait was new and unexpected, as was the fact that everyone does it.
I didn't have a child because I love children. I'm far too much of a misanthrope for that. I had a child because doing so is part of life. You are a child, you are a young person, you are a parent. It was the next step. Part of the design. Thirty-some odd years ago I woke up on this ride, belted in; this was just the next curve. The next set of new things, new pain and joy and discovery. The next big hole poked into the wallet.
Well, it was a discovery weekend. And although it sucked - both the baby screaming in pain part and the interminable waiting part - it was also new. Well, to me. Not to the entire rest of the world, as I discovered.
But it's my life and it was new to me, dammit. And that's what counts.
- Sun Ra
Columns by Sun Ra