A Mother's Instinct
Written by
Tess Hardwick
May 2011
Written by
Tess Hardwick
May 2011

I don’t have medical training of any kind. I am only a mom. But I can diagnose most any ailment my children have.

My youngest daughter, Emerson, who turned 5 a week ago, received a fever and cold for a belated birthday present.  It started last Wednesday during breakfast when she crumpled into a tear soaked meltdown over nothing, which my easy-going child never does. I felt her forehead. Without even pulling out the thermometer, I knew it was a fever. We stayed in from school and other activities for several days. Friday she slept all afternoon. Saturday morning she woke acting perky and back to her rambunctious self. I sighed a tired mom’s sigh, thinking we were through the worst of it.

Then, last night she started screaming at 11, right as I was drifting off to sleep. As any mother will tell you, there are different cries. You start to recognize them when your children are infants. There’s the hungry cry, the tired cry, the angry cry, the pain cry. This was the pain cry. It was her ear, she said. I brought her to my bed, hoping she would drift off to sleep if I held her, hoping maybe we could make it to morning without a trip to urgent care. But she tossed and turned, crying sporadically, until finally, close to midnight, she started screaming, “Ow, ow, ow,” over and over. These cries meant only one thing. Her eardrum was about to burst.

I decided, without hesitation, to take her to urgent care. My husband tried to talk me out of it. It was just her cold, he said. She’ll be fine in the morning. But I knew it was time. I didn’t fight with him, knowing he simply didn't understand. Because no matter how good his intentions, he’s not her mother. He doesn’t know her like I do.

On our way out the door, my older daughter gave Emerson her special blanket in case she got cold – a great sacrifice from my creature of habit Ella.

So, at midnight I drove down the highway in the White Whale, towards the urgent care clinic ten minutes from our home.  All the while, Emerson screamed. I was sweating like I was running a marathon. Nothing is worse than your child in pain. The scene from the movie, Terms of Endearment, when Shirley McClaine begs the nurses for pain meds for her cancer-ridden daughter went through my mind. I know, a tad dramatic, but I am a writer.

At urgent care the nurse gave her children’s Advil and numbing drops in her ear. She stopped crying. The doctor looked in her ear. Indeed, the he said, the eardrum was inflamed, bulbous, about to burst. I knew it. I was relieved in a strange way, knowing that I had to answer to my husband for the $250.00 copay for an emergency room visit that was not in the budget this month, or any month. Anyway, I thought, as if I should have to defend myself for knowing the difference between something serious and something not serious. I know my kids.

A short time later we headed to the all night pharmacy, only to find they’d given us the wrong prescription. There was another child in the urgent care at the same time and we got her prescription. So, at 1:30 in the morning Emerson and I sat in the White Whale, waiting while the pharmacist called the hospital. Finally we were done and headed home without further incident. Although I have to say, there are a lot of police out that time of night. I think I saw half a dozen at various places along the highway; lights flashing behind cars pulled over for what I suspect were not harried trips to the emergency room.

Once home, my husband, after hearing the news, said, "You're a good mom." I'm trying, I thought, but I'm very weary.

Emerson fell asleep, holding my hand, doing the three squeezes in a row, our secret code for, “I love you” before drifting into slumber.


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