Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hell on Earth is the pain of a child

Our dentist as he pointed to the x-ray: "You paid $7,000 in orthodontia, you simply have to get these out of there before they wreck all the good work done."

On Monday, an important milestone was reached by our oldest.  You see, we run in only the very well-heeled social circles of American society where state health plans reign and orthodontia is the order of the day.  And with that lifestyle of champagne dreams and caviar wishes, Olivia endured our culture's coming of age ritual that might be akin to the certain ritual of other cultures, namely, female circumcision; the forcible wrenching of her "what'd we ever do?" yet-to-have-erupted wisdom teeth, but in only the very best of oral surgery offices that money can buy!

The lady at the front desk: "Nothing to eat after midnight and DO NOT FORGET your medical and dental insurance cards with you to the appointment." (her real message being, it would be better to forget Olivia rather than forget the insurance cards.)

Initially it seemed funny showing up to the cattle call of the "8:45am arrivals for a 9:00am start" families, the children silent, unfed and unwashed for their perp walk to registration.  Parents were apprehensive while the kids all wore the same facial expression, almost a mask that said, "I got this" but so thinly veiling their dread and hunger.  And all in similar suburban uniform...loose fitting t-shirts, running shorts with girls in flip flops and boys in sneakers.  In the waiting room, we Moms sat with our sewing or our books because we know the drill.  Awkwardly, the Dads mostly came unprepared for their 90 minutes, either playing with their phones or glancing at Sports Illustrated for ten minutes before staring blankly at the walls, arms folded across their bellies before finally, yes you know it...dozing.  Typical.

"Olivia Hunter?" The governor had not called in a reprieve.  We walked hesitantly to and through the doorway down the long corridor to a stark dental office.  Meet and greet with the surgeon, plan discussed, questions answered, kiss on the forehead, squeeze of the hand and I was sent packing, passing three assistants in the hallway masked, gloved and gowned.  She was probably asleep before I even sat back down in my chair in the waiting room.

All the kids were gone when I returned, secreted through more than one door by numerous ladies in blue.  My one attempt at gallows humor, God love me I cannot help myself.   I said to the woman across from me, "Well, that was like walking the plank..." She stared through me without acknowledgment of my comment like they often do in Wisconsin and put her head down with a vacant smile.  I am constantly left hanging when it comes to the spirit of humanity here in the Midwest so nothing new there.  Finally, two dads who knew each other struck up a conversation much to their own relief and mine and the silence was broken.

the plant was more engaging than the woman across from me
I had time to reflect...the guy snoring next to me distracting me from my book...on the utter privilege of parenthood that affords so many gifts but has steep prices that must be paid, like subjecting one's kid to something incredibly painful even in doing the right thing.  The worrying never fucking ends, people.  It's all what I call, "The BIG Lie".  Getting them to their 18th birthdays, buying them laptops and trundling them off to college so that we can resume some sort of carefree pre-kid existence?  What kind of a joke is that?  I'm a lunatic now, thank you very much.  There's no going back to my former state of mental health, if ever there was any.  Parents of soldiers, firefighters and police know about the big lie.  That they can move forward with their own lives not curled up in the fetal position, knowing their kids are in danger every day, that's real heroism.  I guess ultimately I'm made of the same stuff but sitting in this waiting room Monday knowing the brief but intense pain my kid would endure over the next few days made me queasy.  They'll come back alive alright but it will be us doing the triage and mending and nursing afterward.  No Walter Reed for the post-extraction pain patients.  Just mom and the sofa.

Three days later, her pain is still never lower than a 5 out of 10, she cries when it gets to 7, she's hungry for real food and fatigued by pain.  I have accidentally overdosed her with Tylenol this morning hence we may need a new and different clinic later this week for a replacement liver.


  1. You mean I was supposed to have them in for wisdom tooth removal sometime in high school?? Ooops, missed that one. Must be my Polishness. You never let go of things unless someone holds a gun to your chest. Dentists shmentists.

    (Hope she's feeling better by now.)

  2. I am sending all kinds of good vibes her way. I hope she can endure the coldness of a shake from Michael's...

  3. Hey, that's the same office I just took Kiran to have teeth removed. Only one impacted, so not quite as painful as 4 wisdom teeth. I remember having them out very well. Hope she's feeling better.

  4. Oh my!! A wonderful, but painful to read post. Reminds me I need to make the appt with the oral surgeon for child #3.
    My oldest is celebrating his 20th birthday in Afghanistan next week - he's spec. ops and right in the midst of it . I sure do know about the lie!

  5. Genuine Lustre, in case you return, welcome to my blog and I'm honored that the parent of a soldier read this post and generous enough to see the humor and tragedy of THE BIG LIE. I am thankful for you and your son and I pray for his safety. Thanks for stopping by.