I had an interaction today that I'm still sort of processing through. I had to go to my PCP for an exam and tests. I've been fighting a stubborn UTI. I really like the nurse practitioner in the office, but she asked a question in a way that I get quite frequently. I'm never quite sure what to make of it.
Inevitably, someone asks a question which leads to me needing to tell them about Robbie's early birth. Today it was because of a discussion about my kidneys, obviously because of the possible implications of my bladder issues. She asks how early he was.
Me: 26 weeks
NP: Oh, that's early!
Me: Yes, quite.
NP: Was he in the hospital a long time?
Me: Yes, 96 days in the NICU, and a few stays beyond that.
NP: But he's good now?
And this is where I stumble a bit. This interaction happens probably at least monthly with one person or another. They never seem to ask "how is he doing now?" It's always "But he's good now?" or "But all is well now?" As though the only acceptable answer is yes. You would think that by now I'd know how to answer, but I don't.
I usually stutter "Yes! Well, I mean, he's getting there, but he's awesome.. yes.." They usually want to know why I qualify it, so I explain that he's had a lot of issues and we still struggle with feeding. They inevitably shrug dismissively or say something about kids not eating. I say yes, we hope to get rid of his G-tube soon. Perhaps I shouldn't add this, but I don't appreciate the dismissive tone. They look at me pointedly, realizing that when I say "issues" I mean issues.
And then they change the subject. Whether that is because the conversation has produced the information they sought or because the notion of issues made them uncomfortable is never quite clear.
I just don't quite understand why the question seems to always be seeking reassurance that all is well. I mean, I love our life and think Robbie's freaking awesome. But I also recognize that a tube-dependent 2.5 year old isn't exactly typical. I realize that a lot of people, even medical professionals, don't realize the impact of prematurity at the level we've experienced it. But it honestly doesn't matter. Sometimes kids struggle. It's not ideal, but it's reality. Whether it is prematurity, or a genetic condition, a trauma of some sort, a developmental disorder or something else, not every kid is "all well." And when the question is asked that way, I feel like it sets me up to disappoint them somehow. It makes me uncomfortable.
I can't even really qualify why that is. I mean, sometimes I'm disappointed. I wish Robbie was tube-free. I wish Robbie didn't have to have therapy 2 to 3 times a week. I wish he would outgrow this blasted corn allergy. I wish he was as physically adept as his peers. Sometimes when I'm directly confronted with one of his peers who is clearly light-years ahead of him in speech or another area, I am sad. I'm never disappointed in him, but the situation that has lead to this still gets me down occasionally.
Surely other people should be entitled to feel that, too. Logically, I know people want to hear the happy endings. I feel like we're living one. Or, maybe more of a happy journey, but I know it's a new kind of happy that most people have trouble imagining. But every time, I find myself leaving the interaction with a mental head scratch. Why do they ask this question? And did I answer it correctly? Did we pass our tests?