As I type this, my wee ones are lying listlessly on the couch
surrounded by their Children's Motrin, prescribed antibiotics, and
plastic buckets for emergency situations. It is though I am working
in the children's ward of Christ Hospital. If you were to show this
vision of my life to a twenty-some version of myself, I don't think
I would have believed what was in store for my future. After all, I
was a total wimp when it came to blood and guts. The word "skull"
used to make me sick. Being called on now to handle all kinds of
surprise bodily fluids got me thinking about my life back then: the
one that didn't require a particularly strong constitution.
When I was in my early 20s, I got a marvelous job working on the
top floor of a Fortune 500 company with my sole credential being I
could type 85 words per minute (accuracy notwithstanding). I was an
executive assistant, delighted at my very important sounding job
title. My boss was an easy-breezy fellow who never really asked for
more than a cup of coffee or the occasional PowerPoint
presentation. If it wasn't for him, I'm fairly certain I would have
pursued a long career in the French fry arts.
I landed there after a host of hairnet jobs (Old Country Buffet
anyone?) and a brief stint at a Japanese-owned bank. I'm not sure
why the bank felt my English degree was the right fit for the
accounts receivable department, but I certainly wasn't one to look
a gift horse in the mouth. The first time my boss showed me a
ledger, I thought she was showing me a crossword puzzle. Not
surprising, I didn't last very long. Plus, being six feet tall in
an office where the average height was around 5'5" made me feel
When I began work at the big global insurance company, I
welcomed an environment where nobody was breathing down my neck to
get the apple strudel out faster. It was as though I'd won the
starter-job lottery. I'm sure there were days where the other
assistants on the floor ( 40- and 50-something women) looked at me
as though I'd arrived from outer space. Some speculated I had an
"in" with a senior executive or board member. Again, I refer back
to 85 words per minute. High school typing classes matter,
What I lacked in experience, I made up for in sheer volume of
stupid mistakes and irreverence for the rarified air of corporate
America. I was a nitwit. It took me months to figure out the
switchboard, and I was forever jamming the floor's only copier
machine. I ordered pork for executives keeping Kosher, and I once
sent a bunch of vegans to Gibson's steakhouse for dinner.
I'm really killing my chances for ever getting another job,
Anyway, I arrived at work one morning and found all the ladies
gathered in a conference room. I meandered over in my JC Penney
extra-tall dress coat and asked what was going on. Nordstrom Coat
Lady was the first to respond:
"We have been asked to receive training in a VERY important
area," Nordstrom Coat Lady said conspiratorially while turning on
her designer heels. I sheepishly looked down at my own Payless
pumps, which thankfully came in a size 11 (wide).
I began wondering about this mysterious training. Were we
testing some new corporate-wide database? Were we going to be
instructed on a second copier machine because somebody-who-shall
remain-nameless kept breaking the old one? I was intrigued.
After a few minutes, a cute young paramedic guy came in with a
briefcase. He opened the case to reveal some sort of machine with
wires and pads.
"This, ladies," he stated dramatically, "is a
And this is where I nearly passed out. I am not a
medical person. The use of medical terms anywhere near me resulted
in vomiting and/or loss of consciousness. Cute young medical guy
went on for nearly a half hour about how to slap stickers on a
person's chest and check for irregular heart rhythm requiring
zapping and the term "CLEAR!" The gals and I were meticulously
prepped in the event one of the head honchos pulled a real-life
I was nauseous and confused, but that didn't keep Doogie Howser
from having me go first for defibrillator certification. I dizzily
slapped the stickers on, pressed the appropriate buttons, and
My now-husband, a trained paramedic, tells me that monkeys can
use these defibrillators. Still, on that day, I felt as
though I had climbed Mt. Everest. I survived "medical training" and
didn't throw up on a single pair of fancy shoes. It emboldened me.
I eagerly monitored the entire floor of executives during earnings
calls and high-stress events just in case. I was ready with my
stickers and big red button should ever the need arise. I felt like
a superhero lying in wait.
Alas, the big-wigs all managed to survive my tenure, or rather
in spite of it. I never once got to use that snazzy little
So what does this all have to do with parenting, you ask? I
never considered myself capable of handling any sort of medical
emergency, particularly one involving my own child. But just as I
once surprised myself by managing a simple portable defibrillator,
I am even more astonished by my adeptness at attending to bloodied
and ill little boys. Not only have I survived the basics, but I
have also been called on for special assignment in the area of
choking. My oldest son once required the baby Heimlich on a weekly
basis due to sensory issues and a chronic choking problem. I was
able to get stuck food out of him with one firm blow.
Most people would never work in a field that challenges the very
core of who they are. A claustrophobic would never work in coal
mine. A person terrified of spiders would never work in pest
control. Yet I had no choice in my role as mother. Broken bones and
blood continue to terrify me, but I cope. And some days, I do feel
like that superhero.
Until somebody asks me to wipe their tush.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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