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 really self-conscious.
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, folks.
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, aren’t I?
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 defibrillator.”
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 Fred Sanford.
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 somehow qualified.
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 defibrillator.
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.