Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Do Do

When Amelia began exerting her toddler independence she walked from one activity to another, "I do do." Opening doors, feeding her brother, dressing herself, whatever the task, she made it clear that she wanted to be in charge. When my brother Mark came to visit us, he mimicked and indulged her all week, much to her delight, "Ok, you do do."

My new nurse came yesterday and filled our brains with information, our arms with reading material, and our hearts with the belief that I am safe now. The dietitian accompanied her and together they were a united force of support and reassurance. The nurse taught us everything we needed to know, but realizing how shaken we were by the embolism, she offered to come twice a week to change the hubs until we felt ready to tackle it again ourselves.

When I awoke today the tired, achy feeling was back. After gaining weight on the first two weeks of TPN, I lost 1.5 pounds last week in the wake of the embolism. "I can't go backwards," I thought to myself and got out of bed. I dressed and ate some jello while Aidan read me a story.

My TPN finished while Bill was taking the kids to camp. He had made me promise not to unhook myself. Thus far, he has done everything because of all the wounds on my hands. But I really wanted to do it myself. I washed my hands and then realized that I need to unzip the bag to turn off the machine. So I unzipped the bag. Then I gathered all my supplies, opening each saline and heparin flush wrapper and setting out the alcohol pads. I cleaned my hands again. Bill was taking forever and I wanted to get this "first time" over with. I considered just doing it, but I knew he would be upset with me so I just waited patiently.

When he finally arrived home, I informed him that I wanted to disconnect myself today.

"You are going to hurt your hands."

"No I won't. You can watch, but I need to do this myself."

It took me a lot longer than it takes him but I was able to do it perfectly well. I realized afterwards that I just needed control over some small aspect of my care to boost my spirits a little.

There's the saying about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish. While there is the obvious meaning that giving someone a skill upon which they can rely to meet their needs enables them to become self-sufficient in a very literal way, there is also the underlying idea that successfully meeting our own needs creates a sense of empowerment that fosters continued self-reliance, one the likely translates into other arenas of life. Over the past several months I have had to surrender many of the roles that fueled my sense of empowerment, leaving me feeling helpless and useless. I needed to take responsibility for disconnecting my TPN because it is among the few things that I can do and, psychologically, I need to indulge my independent streak wherever and whenever I can.

Now I know why Amelia was so emphatic and relentless with her "I do do." The "Terrible Twos" aren't terrible; they are merely inconvenient for parents and others who have to deal with willful toddlers. Yes, we parents can do it faster and neater and better but that is not the point. That feisty little two year old is just beginning to tackle the delicate balance between independence and cooperation. And my guess is that I am not the only one still trying to strike that balance ...

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