Earlier this week, Amber took our middle daughter, Leia, to the doctor. For a little over a month, Leia was complaining of random stomach aches, which ironically, seemed to coincide whenever she got in trouble or needed to go to bed. As weary parents of small children, we remained slightly skeptical of her pain. While we didn’t doubt she had occasional stomach aches, but we weren’t completely buying what she was selling. “You probably ate too much!” followed up by,”well, when was the last time you pooped?” was a common refrain in our house.
However, at Leia’s appointment earlier this week, she was (slightly) vindicated. While the doctor was palpating around her stomach, Leia said was in pain. The doctor was not one to take chances, and requested that Amber and Leia head over to Children’s Hospital for blood work and x-rays.
I talked to Amber on her way over to Children’s. The doctor didn’t want to speculate too much, as stomach pain can point to a number of different things, but multiple diagnoses were brought up: Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, inflammation of the bowel, etc. He told Amber that based on Leia’s presentation and history, we should at the very least research Celiac Disease.
Now, if you know me, I’m a voracious reader. When I get a hold of a topic that interests me, I jump in headfirst. Unfortunately, this is not always a strong suit of mine. Without even knowing what Leia’s diagnosis was, I researched everything Amber mentioned on the phone, paying special attention to Celiac Disease. I read about possible treatment options, diet considerations, morbidities, other conditions she may be predisposed to…I read all of it. At the end of the day, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted.
As a parent, you do your best to protect your kids. You start out when they are young by attaching the “BABY ON BOARD!” sign to your car window. You buy a car seat with a five point harness. You become the ultimate bedtime hero, scaring away foul monsters from under their bed with a water-filled spray bottle labeled “monster spray.” As your kids mature, you then shift your attention to the potential monsters outside your door. “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Don’t answer the door without permission.” “Don’t get in a car with anyone who has been drinking.” But what happens when the invisible monsters, the ones on the inside attack? How do you protect your kids from them? Sure, some situations allow for lifestyle changes to be made, medication to be taken, and therapy sessions to attend. However, your kid didn’t willingly sign up for all of that. No one asks for a pet monster. My heart broke as my thoughts turned to what additional testing Leia might have to undergo. I dreaded the thought of Amber and I sitting Leia down and explaining to her that she could never again eat any of her favorite foods. I cringed at the thought of having to watch Leia choke down horse pills everyday. In the face of the potential life changes facing us, I felt powerless.
On Friday, the doctor’s office called Amber. Leia was negative for Celiac Disease. Her x-ray showed that she was constipated, and we should start giving her apple juice to keep things moving on a regular basis. While I was relived, I felt sick to my stomach…no pun intended. I was forced to face a harsh reality that I try not to often dwell on: No matter what lengths I go to protect my children, no matter how good my intentions are or how fervent my prayers are, “life” happens. Monsters exist. Yet, their existence is not something to fear. We take refuge in our faith and the family and friends who we do life with. We talk things out to keep from bottling things up, we pray together, we read and we research. In short, we love, support, and invest in each other, striving to both know and be known. That is how we remain vigilant to the presence of the visible and invisible monsters in our lives and the lives of those close to us.