The hard days


ImageThis is a photo I hesitate to publish, but I’m choosing to do it because there is a certain horror to the scene that I can’t convey in words, and it’s something I want to talk about. This is Anna, a few minutes into an interminable dentist appointment. She needed crowns — two consultations verified this — and her brittle teeth made the going especially rough. There is a body of research on how much pain medication is safe, or safe-ish, for a young child, and even more on nitrous oxide. I read it so that I would feel prepared, and I did, going in, but that quickly evaporated: nothing prepares you for those horrible moments when your child is writhing and choking and begging and you are choosing — CHOOSING — to do nothing more about it. Your reasons are sound, of course, and you hope hope hope you’re making the best call, but how the hell do you know that?

How do you know, in the middle of it, that she won’t be done more harm by the experience as it is, that she won’t come away thinking her mother is at best impotent and at worst callous in the face of her pain and her terror?

Please don’t tell me that all parents must go through this, that all kids survive the dentist, that it could have been so much worse, could  have been this or that. My brain knows all that. My heart never will.

Maybe now that I’ve written about this, I can shake it off. Maybe it won’t haunt me anymore and I won’t feel like crying every time I see that bright flash of silver in her smile.

Maybe I will move on to focus on her resiliency — the way, each time the dentist gave her a rest, she opened her mouth for more, because she knew she had to. The way she never let go of my hands, never took her eyes off of mine, curled up to sleep that night, in my bed, comforted at last.

Yes, maybe now we both will be.

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 2:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

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