Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is there such a thing as too much perspective?

Is there such a thing as toxic perspective?

I think sometimes I have too much perspective. Which probably sounds arrogant and insensitive. And maybe it is.

Because of Brody’s issues, I not infrequently have conversations with people that are comprised of them starting to tell me about a problem they are dealing with, and then stopping themselves because, they say, their problem is insignificant compared to Brody’s problems. I respond, sincerely, that just because we may be dealing with Brody's issues doesn’t mean that [insert their problem here] is any less troubling, draining or heartbreaking for them. And I really believe that, and have never once thought differently.

I used to think Brody’s medical issues were devastating. But in the last year, becoming acquainted with Dante, and other Vacterl kids who have had 20 or more surgeries and are younger than Brody, who seem to live in the hospital, I have gotten perspective. It really isn’t as bad as I used to think, because Brody could be so much sicker.

I think especially in the last few months I’ve shed a lot of self-pity and looked positively on what’s going on with Brody. I outlined in my head the next course of surgeries: a, then b, then c, then maybe d in the spring, etc. We can do that, I said. We can get through that, and then we can get a “rest” from surgeries. I was thinking that, with the hand surgeries in particular, it will be so nice not to worry about how to give Brody baths, or take him swimming, or let him play in the sand or water, because he won't have a cast on after the spring.

Then, when we were in the hospital last week, I had a talk with Brody’s hand surgeon. He’s brilliant and talented and I really do trust and like him, which is saying a lot because I don’t trust or like most people.

And he told me, after looking at Brody’s hands and arms during the surgery, that unless Brody wore some kind of splint for the foreseeable future, his hands were not going to remain straight, and they would continue to curve in no matter what he or we did.

Even with the surgery to straighten and centralize the wrists.

He said even the bones were curved, to the point that he couldn’t put the pin (from the arm to the hand, to centralize the wrist) in straight.

Writing it down right now, it doesn’t seem really upsetting on "paper." But the reality of it is something else. I had my very own sobbing pity party in Brody’s hospital room. No family vacation with saved up annual leave. No break from casts or splints for Brody. The poor child is so skewed that he thinks casts are fun and splints are pretty.

The surgeries not working, which is essentially what the surgeon was saying to me, was not part of the plan. Brody having more surgeries, and having to wear a cast and splint for the summer, and maybe for all his summers, was not part of the plan.

You might be laughing now. How could I actually have believed that the plan would not change? You'd think after 4 miscarriages, 2 1/2 years of trying to have a child and 2 1/2 years of dealing with Vacterl association, that I'd know better, right?

I didn't know better. I imagined that we’d have a “fix” for the hands and that the thumb surgery was the 2nd to last hand surgery and casting event for a few years at least. For the last year, and all 7 surgeries of 2008, I kept telling myself that once we did a, b and c, then his kidney reflux would go away, and then his hands would be straight. He’d have thumbs. Yes, his arms would be shorter than most, and yes, he’d have 8 fingers, not 10. But the surgeries would make his arms straight and he could play and sleep and eat and swim without casts and itching and discomfort and telling us the cast is too tight and to take it off.

And now, all my best laid plans are gone.

And it’s ridiculous because I bet Dante’s mom would trade anything for Dante to be here, in any shape with curved bones or not, in casts for the next 20 years or not. I really do understand that, and then I'm still upset by the news about Brody’s arms.

And then I get mad at myself for being upset. Because I have no right. I really have no right. My son does not have an illness that will shorten his lifespan. He has no brain damage or developmental delays. We have jobs, a home, and really the most incredible support system. What the hell right do I have to be upset about this?

And then I remembered what I’m always telling friends who censor themselves around me: just because someone else seems worse off, doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to be upset about your own issues and struggles.

But I can’t stop the constant reminding of myself that we don’t have it so bad so what in God's name am I complaining about?

And then the real worry starts in: that, when faced with my whining and lack of gratefulness, the universe will send something our way that will make everything so far look like a stroll in the park.

So that's why I wish I didn't have so much perspective.

Because (a) I think I'm losing my mind some days because I don't know what to feel; and (b) I think I need to feel a little disappointed about the setback in order to process it; but (c) I don’t feel like I’m entitled to really be upset enough about it warrant "processing"; and (d) on top of that, I'm terrified that if I do allow myself to feel whatever the hell I feel, then that will trigger some cosmic chain reaction that will bring us something even worse than anything I've ever imagined.

I'm going to pour myself a vodka tonic now.


SaRaH said...

Whoa. I need a vodka tonic to process just the post. I'll be right back. Chris, you go ahead and fix yourself another, too.

Robyn said...

Make it a double. LOL.

Chris, there will always be someone better off and someone worse off. It doesn't mean that your stress, your struggles, your disappointments are not valid. It's good to count our blessings and remember to be thankful. But we also need to acknowledge our other feelings and work through them. That is a healthy thing to do, and you should take your own advice about that.

Brody is such an amazing little boy. He will touch the world in ways that you cannot yet imagine, possibly BECAUSE of the struggles he experiences. I am grateful to know you and him. You are a strong, incredible woman and mother. You will be his rock; I know that. Let your friends be your rock. You need one too.

As for the karma thing, I can't possibly imagine that yours would cause any catastrophic universe-happenings ;-)

SaRaH said...

*sip* *sip* *gulp (and then that satisfying ahhhh sound)* OK. I totally understand what you're saying but you're right that the existence of more horrible events should not mean you have to censor your experience or that it is somehow less horrible. Each setback SUCKS and the fact that you guys will handle it with strength and pizazz does not make it suck less. Being strong is often forced upon us and it just isn't fair. I'll share my secret little prayer with you: "Dear God, Let me be pretty rather than strong. Amen" You should know that, in my case, the answer to this particular prayer is a resounding NO. ((((CHRIS)))))

Shannon said...

Oh Chris, everything I want to say has already been said by these two very smart ladies. I'm sorry about disappointment and I don't blame you one bit for feeling disappointed. You have every right to feel the way you do.

Kim j said...

Wow!!! that was a really deep post. And it's exactly how I felt during the four years we had with Jacob.

I didn't want to even acknowledge my pain in all of it because I was very afraid I would get so depressed and wouldn't be able to come out of it. He and my family needed me to be strong. Plus I always felt he was going through so much and always had a smile that really what can I complain about. Its the VATER child, they are so happy and strong and most certainly someone forgot to tell them they were born with "prolems".

But that said, we have to grieve or process the dissapointments. Just like we had to grieve for not having "the perfect child at birth" we have to grieve for the things they will not be able to do or the treatments that will not work for them. We have to be allowed to have some self pity. It will not last and believe me there are days i would cry and cry and then Jacob would smile or reach some milestone and I would completely forget what I was crying about. Our children are amazing. Our families are amazing. That is why we were chose to care for these angels. I believe not just anyone can handle it and god knew exactly what he was doing when he placed them with us.

Like you were saying I would do anything to have Jacob back with VATER and all. I would do it all again, even knowing he would only be here for four short years. In those four short years he taught us alot about love and faith. But you have the right to be sad about your current disappointment.

I wish you and your family all the best.

Christine said...

Thank you so much for your insight and wisdom, comisseration and empathy. Jacob was so very blessed to have you as his mother.

Christine said...

I completely disagree with your assessment. You are pretty AND strong. And beloved by me. Thank you.

Christine said...

Thank you for that. It helps to be reminded of the bigger picture.xoxox

Christine said...

Thanks, Shannon. I appreciate that.

Alina said...

Chris, I wish I could come up with something witty and poignant like I know you would come up with if the roles were reversed.

I understand your fear of the Universe, but just know, if anyone's gonna get it from the Universe it's me. I feel sorry for myself FOR NO REASON AT ALL quite often. You have a reason that nobody could question. Do you hear that Universe? LEAVE CHRIS ALONE, you'll have to go through me--but please don't. (strokes the Universe, "nice universe")

Hugs to you and a new bottle of Skyy vodka for the cause--the kind that doesn't give you hangovers.

Hef said...

When my plans for dinner don't work out, I need time to process it. And I pout.

Your plans for your son and your family's future are thrown off, and that is certainly something that warrants a negative reatction and a period of "processing."

My God, Chris, what you and Brody have gone through, are going through, is one hell of an ordeal and you both are incredibly strong. You amaze me.

I break down into pity-party mode when I think about the situation with Aub's father and I know darn well that there are plenty of children out there that are dealing with much more traumatic situations within their families.

These ladies beore me said some awesome stuff so I'm going to sign my name to their comments as well.

My Carousel of Progress said...

Well I can only echo much of what has already been said, there is not a lot more to add except that you have to keep being you and not down play your stresses and troubles because you feel them insignificant compared to someone else. Perspective is just that, one person's junk is another's treasure. Problems, stress and issues are the same. I have come up with a saying that I have found myself saying to myself as well as to others...when I complain about a problem, be it with Elias or something simple like spilling coffee on my shirt, I follow it with "...if that is the worst I have to complain about today, then I must be doing just fine." I have been able to address and air my grievance, but also respect the knowledge that someone else is experiencing greater pain than I at that moment somewhere. It has really helped with perspective without letting go of my own true stress and issues, a mental balance if you will. The very person you feel has more right to complain than you is likely thinking the same about you, that is why it is called perspective. To get that kind of change in prognosis is traumatic and it takes time to process, except or figure out. You guys are strong and Brody shows that strength as well. I'm sorry to hear the news. Best wishes!

Hez said...

**catching up**
Chris, you have hopes and dreams for Brody. When those get knocked off track it is okay for you to be disappointed, sad, mad and frustrated.
I am sure that the idea of more surgery is VERY scary even though you have been through so many already. It is okay to feel upset at the idea of needing to do more.
You, dh and Brody have been through alot these last 2 years...not to mention the years prior to Brody getting pg. You have taken more than your share of pain. I would never think that karma is going to get you for having grief over your situation. You are right, there are always worse situations but you have endured and are now Brody's champion.
Please know that I am not always eloquent with my words... but I think you are a fantastic Mother.
Heather (Maya's mom-Hex06)

Dawn said...


Your post makes perfect sense to me. I do the same thing in my head all the time. If I am upset about something, I think I shouldn't be....because it could be worse.
I have decided that I when I am upset about something like Z's allergies (which really are not that big of a deal) I let myself be upset BUT at the same time I make myself feel grateful for all that I do have, and for having a boy with allergies vs not one at all, etc.. kwim?
I think it is perfectly fine and wonderful to feel upset and grateful at the same time!! You can't bottle up all your disappointments and sadness!

I am really sorry about the disappointing news you received about Brody!! You have every right to have many emotions about that!