It’s hard to be a good Mama when you’re sick. It’s difficult to meet the needs of needy children when all you want to do is curl up in bed and watch “Say Anything” or “Bridget Jones’s Diary” on a loop. (That’s what I want to do when I’m sick.) It’s even harder to be a good Mama when you’re sick and exhausted because you’ve been up all night. And it’s yet even harder to be a good Mama when you’re sick, you’ve been up all night, and you have an early morning flight to catch to Boston. With two kids, five bags, and no help (except for the ride to the airport).
This is what happened to me in the wee hours of the night (morning?) last Saturday when I woke up at one o’clock with a raging urinary tract inferno, er, I mean, infection.
Every thing feels worse in the middle of the night, I convinced myself when I thought (and cried) about the 11-12 long hours I had to get through before I could get medical attention on the other end of the trip. I’m sure I’ll feel better once I get out of bed. As it turns out, that was wishful thinking.
Under the best of circumstances, air travel with kids is – I’m going to be polite here – challenging. At ages six and four, Dylan and Riley require less equipment (strollers, bottles, diapers, etc.) than they used to, but they continue to require a lot of attention, especially when they race their backpacks on wheels through the airport terminal like Lightning McQueen and Francesco Bernoulli (apologies to everyone’s feet they ran over) and they fight over who gets the window seat.
(Riley won the coin toss.)
This trip was a Beast. The UTI and all of its unpleasant (i.e. hellish, horrifying, nasty, atrocious, ghastly) symptoms made me want to crawl out of my skin. Actually, jump out of the plane might be a better description. For the entire duration of the flight – when I wasn’t going to the bathroom, refereeing fights over the window (in spite of the coin toss), fetching snacks, and begging for inside voices – I fantasized (hallucinated?) about swallowing the first dose of antibiotics to put an end to my misery.
After a safe landing and another backpack race through the terminal (apologies again!), we finally reached baggage claim. Almost there, Mama. Almost there. With all of our bags in hand, I instructed the boys to be good listeners as we prepared to exit the airport into the busy terminal traffic to wait for our ride. I set each kid up with their toe crushing machines backpacks, hoisted my bag over my right shoulder, and lined up each suitcase behind me to the right and left (on wheels, thank God) so I could have a handle in each of my hands. Just as I was about to say, “Let’s go, boys,” a man standing next to me who I recognized from the row behind us on our flight said, “Excuse me, would you like some help?”
It was in that moment that I realized what I had done. Under the best of circumstances, I had flown from Fort Lauderdale to Boston with my two young sons and five bags all by myself. All by myself. This kind man had no idea that my urethra was on flipping fire and had been for 12 excruciating hours. He simply saw a mom attempting to herd two kids and too many bags through a busy airport. Even if I had felt great, it was a feat of which to be proud.
I responded, “Thank you so much, but we are just fine. I have this.” I had it, indeed.
I do this thing on the blog and Facebook called “Motherhood is…” Sometimes it’s something sweet like:
Motherhood is… witnessing the delight of your child telling you what the Tooth Fairy left for him under his pillow.
Sometimes it’s a bit grittier:
Motherhood is… flying from Fort Lauderdale to Boston on three hours of sleep with two kids, five bags, and an agonizing UTI.
It’s in these seemingly impossible situations that we realize we’re capable of way more than we think.
When my dad’s car finally rolled up to the curb at the airport, I cried. From pain, from relief, from the realization that medical attention was minutes, not hours, away, and most importantly, from the glory of it all.