I need to be honest. There is one phrase that has been hitting a nerve with me lately. Not a bad nerve, or a “I want to punch you in the face” nerve. But a little twinge of a nerve. Let me first say that if you have ever said this to me (and/or Bear) PLEASE don’t think “oh crap that was me!”. I’m obviously not upset or hurt by any means (and you’ll find out a few paragraphs down why you should not feel even the least bit guilty for being one of those people). The phrase is…”I don’t know how you do it”.
This is something I know MANY people have heard before. Whether you’re a special needs parent, a parent in general, a single parent, you work two jobs, you’ve rescued a person from a burning building, whatever the case is, most of us have heard it. So why has it struck a nerve with me?
I brought it up in my last counseling session and we tried to figure out why it has been added to my “list of least favorite words/phrases”. And really there is no answer. No detailed, psychological answer at least. But we attempted to delve into the phrase itself and how I’ve responded to it in the past.
I’ve learned over the last couple years that I am apparently the type of person to completely immerse myself into whatever situation I am in at the moment (especially when it came to Quinlan and his medical needs, whatever they happened to be at the time). When we were in the hospital I was making sure I asked all the questions I had on my many lists of questions to the doctors, nurses, whoever I needed to get answers from. When Quinlan was home and sick, it was making sure I was on the phone with the doctors giving them all the details he or she needed to in order to get him better. When we were home and he wasn’t sick, it was making sure Bear, nurses, any visitors, and myself took all the necessary precautions to make sure he wouldn’t get sick. During any of those times when people said to me “I don’t know how you do it” I would say “I just do it”. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about how I was doing it. I was just moving through the motions of this crazy life.
Today when people say “I don’t know how you did it”, my gut reaction is to say (maybe in a bit louder tone then necessary) “What were our other options? Should we have left him in the hospital for others to take care of? Should we have not learned all that we did to take care of him? Should we have sat in the corner and cried and just given up?” It seems so obvious to me that it’s what needed to be done so it was done.
So, now here is the kicker. While talking to my counselor about this phrase, she asked me how I felt about doing everything I did for Quinlan last year, the year before, etc. And do you know what I said? Yea, I said it. My answer… “I don’t know how I did it”. And yes, right after the words came out I may have blushed or put my hand up to my mouth, something along those lines. Because there is it, I am one of THOSE PEOPLE! How can I get unnerved when other people say it to me, when I am saying it and thinking it myself?
I still feel like I have lived two lives in a way. A life that stopped just as quickly as it started. And this life I’m in now. Yet, I still question how this other life of mine was lived every day and how we managed to stay sane. How did we have someone in our house, sometimes a complete stranger, pretty close to 24 hours a day most days? How did we stay up all hours of the night when needed to make sure he was taken care of? How did we transport him, the ventilator, the suction machine, his oxygen tank, his feeding pump, his backpack with extra supplies, his kid cart, his meds, his formula, and at least two people with him, one driving and one in the back seat to suction him/start feeds/stop feeds/give meds/make sure his trach didn’t come out?
The only reason that I know for sure of how and why we did it, was because it was Quinlan and he was our world. Any parent knows that you do anything and everything for your child no matter the situation. If we had to spend weeks living in the hospital, we did it. If we had to drive to and from Boston every day for over 300 days, we did it. If knowing his future was not promised yet making the best of every day just loving him was what was needed, we did it.
So yes, it’s a little bit “ugh” being asked how we did it. Because the “why” of why we did it is so obvious. Even though I still don’t know myself, how we did it.
I really am a walking contradiction.