She is okay now. She is okay now. She is okay now.
I have to keep reminding myself of this. I catch myself taking a lot of deep, cleansing breaths. My left eye has started to twitch every once in a while. Nausea comes and goes in waves, and it feels like something is pushing on my chest, forcing all of the air out of my lungs. My nerves are raw and exposed, but I am eerily calm. I may or may not look it on the outside, but my head is a mess.
You see, yesterday, for almost one full hour, I believed that my oldest child was dead.
On Saturday morning, just after 3 a.m., Sheepdog and I got the phone call that no parent ever wants to get. The voice on the other end said that Kid A had been found, unresponsive, in her dorm hallway and she had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. She said we should get there as quickly as possible, but could offer no additional information.
We woke Kid B and asked her to sleep in our bed in case the boys got up in the middle of the night, and we assured her that we would call as soon as we had news. We drove down silently to Grady Memorial in Atlanta. Sheepdog and I held hands. Phone calls to the hospital during the cold, long trip resulted in the confirmation that she was there, but they would tell us nothing else.
Nothing at all.
My imagination went to all of the very bad places. I thought of all of the risky choices I had made in college. All of the insane, dumb, moronic stuff I had done. All of the times I sat around with my friends, recounting the bits and pieces from the night before, wondering how we managed to survive the night. It was crazy. We were so stupid. We were so lucky. How did we get so lucky? How did we get out, relatively unscathed?
I felt I was getting my answer now. In my mind I heard a nagging whisper, “Pay up. Nobody rides for free.” Was Kid A going to be my price?
Unresponsive. Unresponsive. Unresponsive.
We found the emergency department, cleared security, and went straight to the front desk. We were quickly directed to ambulance triage. I rounded the corner and saw Kid A sitting up on a gurney. I went from zero to sixty, or sixty to zero (I’m not quite sure which) in an instant. Thankfully, my worst-case-scenario had only happened in my head.
I have never hugged someone so vehemently in my life.
The doctor reassured us that she would be fine, and later she was discharged. We drove her back to school and tucked her in with instructions to sleep and hydrate, even though my first instinct was to bring her back home with us and smother her with love and over-parenting. But I am learning that I can not protect my kids from all of the things. Sometimes they need to feel a pinch.
“A hard lesson to learn! I’m sure it will be something you will work out with her and a good lesson was learned without tragic results,” said my mother-in-law.
“Is the lesson ‘Don’t Have Kids?'” I replied. “I seem to have learned that one a little too late. They’re likely going to be the death of me.”
“Hopefully the gravity of it will scare her,” is what one sister said. Hopefully.
And, hopefully, this experience will encourage her make better choices. I hope that she tells her friends about it, too, and that they realize that none of them are invincible. I realize the hypocrisy of this advice coming from me, but my job as a parent is to advise and guide my kids to be better than me. Do better. Behave better. Make the world a better place.
Pretty please with sugar on top, because Sheepdog and I don’t think we can take another wake up call like that one, and we still have four more kids to go after this one.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…