I traveled without my parents for the first time when I was 17. It did not go well, because I was in a car accident with my friend and had to be rescued near Hershey by a state trooper and then eventually by my dad and grandfather. I moved 4 hours away from home to attend college when I was 18. I got my first full-time job when I was 22. I bought a house when I was 23 without any co-signers. I was married that same year. I bought my first brand new vehicle when I was 24, and I negotiated without my dad. I gave birth to my first child when I was 28. I sold my home when I was 29 and built a brand new house when I was 30. I gave birth to my second child when I was 31. But, it was not until today that I became a real, live, bonafide adult.
I don’t handle blood and guts and gore well. I’ve been known to get lightheaded just watching ER and Grey’s Anatomy. I can’t handle pictures of gutted deer (don’t forget, I live in central PA), and I can’t watch anybody clean a fish. I can’t watch my son wiggle a loose tooth, and the day that he pulled out his first tooth I thought I was going to die. When a former middle school student cut his hand on a locker right outside of my classroom, I gathered him up and put pressure on the wound and screamed for another teacher to help because I was already starting to pass out. The other teacher swooped in and saved the day while I sat on the floor with my head between my knees and another teacher put a cold compress on the back of my neck. I was never so humiliated in my life, but I did all that I could before I became the patient being loaded into an ambulance.
When my husband cut his hand in our basement years ago, he wrapped it up and came upstairs and hid his arm behind a wall while he told me to sit on the couch. Once I was no longer standing upright, he told me that we had to go to the hospital and called my mom to give us a ride because I was already sitting with my head between my knees just because I thought about the blood. Once we arrived at the ER, I sat in a chair in the waiting room while my mom helped my husband. Nurses kept checking on me because I was so pale. I couldn’t look at his stitches.
A couple of years after that, my husband had his first surgery of our relationship. He had to have his wisdom teeth surgically removed. My mom offered to go along because she was afraid I wouldn’t “be able to handle it.” I refused her offer and happily accompanied my husband because I knew I wouldn’t have to be in the room during the procedure or see any of the blood. I was just a loving, supportive chauffeur. I didn’t know the doctor was going to call me back into the recovery room and start describing the procedure in detail to me while my husband was still groggy. I didn’t know I should have been sitting down while he was talking to me. If I had known, I would have told him to stop talking and put my butt on a chair. Too late. I passed out and hit the floor and my mom had to come and drive us both home. Humiliating life event #2. I, the ride, had to be given a ride.
When I had a C-section with our second child, I could not look at the incision or clean the site or change the dressing. When they came in to remove my staples, I cried and begged the nurse to do it as quickly and painlessly as she could, and I made sure I was lying down with a firm grip on the pillow because I was positive I was going to die. When I came home with surgical tape on the incision, it was my husband who had to check the site and clean it and take care of me because I couldn’t look at it, touch it, or think about it.
Before you start thinking that I am a complete imbecile who needs everyone to do everything for me, let’s get a little perspective. I have had my own wisdom teeth surgically removed and did not pass out. I have given birth: once naturally and once by C-section. I have cleaned belly button stumps and put ointment on newly circumcised penises. I have cleaned poop out of car seats, off of walls, out of the bathtub, out of carpet, and just about everywhere else shit can happen. I have wiped noses with my shirt and stopped pee fountains with my hands. Being a mother is not glamorous or hygienic, and I have done all of those things (and more!) with no help because my husband was dry heaving in the background. It’s blood I can’t handle.
So, when my husband came into the house with his hand wrapped in his handkerchief today and told me that he had just cut himself and needed stitches, I could see that old look of panic on his face. Not the I’m-worried-about-my-hand-and-don’t-know-how-bad-it-is look, but the can-you-drive-me-to-the-hospital-without-passing-out-because-I-can’t-drive-myself look. I decided then and there that I was calling my mom. But, this time, I was calling to see if she could stay with the kids while I drove my husband, because on THIS day, I was going to stop being a baby about blood.
While I was driving, I didn’t look at his hand. I was gasping for breath and feeling faint. I answered him in short phrases when he asked me if I were okay. But, I drove my husband to the ER and didn’t pass out.
And, I accompanied him to the exam room and stayed with him the whole time. I didn’t sit down because I NEEDED to; I sat down because it took forever. I didn’t feel queasy when the doctor started to manipulate his fingers and asked him questions about whether his hand were tingling or stinging. I watched the doctor glue him back together and wondered how much money we would have saved if I had just gotten the Gorilla Glue out of the cupboard and done it at home. (Note: Apparently, that wouldn’t have worked because that glue is toxic, but I still think we could have given it a try.) I listened to all of the at-home care instructions and follow-up duties and didn’t even feel lightheaded. I drove him back home and was doing a little jig about my success. I probably could have been a little more concerned about his hand and how he was feeling, but I had a major accomplishment to celebrate. I think making it all about me helped me to forget all about the blood and huge gash that was simply glued back together and seemed like it could burst open at any minute.
It only took 33 years and lots of hurdles and stumbling blocks along the way, but I did it. I became an adult today. What the Hell?