The doctor moves his stethoscope along Cols back while Rose prattles on about whether or not unicorns are real. The pediatrician looks at me and winces as he says, Doesnt sound good.
What do you hear?
Crackles and wheezing, he says.
But has anyone ever seen one Mama, or are they invisible, like dinosaurs? Rose asks.
Walking pneumonia. Well get him some antibiotics for that. Open your mouth for me Col, says the doctor.
This will be Cols fourth round of antibiotics this winter. Theyre like the punchline to every cough Cols ever had. Dan and I start each illness all Pollyanna-like, administering our herbal lung-tonics like medicinal kisses. I think the herbs are really working, one of us will comment to the other, hope flanking our shoulders like a wreath of peace doves. Even the nebulizer treatments we do at the first sign of congestion seem like a folksy home remedy compared to the chalky, pink liquid that is prescribed to kill life.
Sometimes I have dreams about unicorns, Rose whispers.
Stick out your tongue Col. Oh wow, the doctor chuckles, those are some huge tonsils. Wow.
Two weeks later it takes the otolaryngologist three minutes to determine that Col is a good candidate for a tonsillectomy.
Right sides a plus four, lefts a plus three, the doctor says after a cursory look in Cols mouth. The scale tops out at four.
This means Cols right tonsil is all jammed up against his uvula and his left is leaning in like a child looking for snuggles. Explaining Cols symptoms to the doc was like watching Agatha Christie solve a mystery. Dark eye circles, short stature, bedwetting, frequent infections, snoring, fatigue: Aha!
I picture Cols mouth all clogged up with this gargantuan tissue, choking out his airway and harboring germs like stowaway rats on an ocean liner. And Im Rational Mama, understanding the medical rhetoric and the need for this routine surgery. I carry a flag that reads: tonsillectomies: 500,000 children a year cant be wrong! I will kiss my son goodbye in the operating room, confidently leaving him with the experts and their expert tools.
Then, Im Freakazoid Mama, who cant get the phrase cauterized knife out of my anxious mind, nor the image of someone slicing slicing! living tissue from my sons throat. It doesnt much matter that tonsillectomies are the most common childhood surgery, because at some point the anesthesiologist is going to tick off the potential complications, and buried in that list is the teensiest possibility that my child never wakes up. And even though its a million times less likely than a vehicular accident, and almost every day I strap my children into car seats, thinking about nothing more earth-shattering than onion bagels, motherhood is not a rational occupation.
And so, this coming week, while the rest of you are enjoying your spring break frolics, Rational Mama will be holding Freakazoid Mamas hand in the hospital waiting room. Theyll be dreaming of unicorns.
Rachel Turiels column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Read her blog at http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.