When you become a parent, you get to see what you’re really made of. What type of person do you become when sleep is no longer an option? How long can you manage your temper when all the little mouths in your home are formed into permanent whines? Would you maybe, possibly, sell your soul for some peace and quiet?
But then… there are those parts of parenthood that stretch you beyond any stretching you’ve ever experienced. Those elements you were sure were not part of the package — otherwise you never would have signed up for this parenting gig. These are the things that do not make you grow as a person; all they do is drag you down to the inner circle of hell where you writhe in endless agony and suffering.
I’m talking about eyeballs.
I remember the moment I knew eyeballs and I would never get along. My mom had just had a procedure done on her eye and it was rather traumatic for her. As she drove me home from the mall, she told me — in detail — what she had endured. I can still remember the stoplight where I began to feel my stomach turn. Two decades later, I still get a little queasy any time I go to my hometown and drive through that light.
As she explained the upsetting parts of her experience, I tried to listen and show support. It had been rather traumatic for her, you know. But I felt like I was experiencing the trauma myself. I’m sure I seemed like a distracted teenager instead of the supportive daughter I should have been, but I was tasting bile in my throat and feeling feverish.
I thought this was all a strange reaction, of course, but it wasn’t the last time it would happen. A few weeks later, a friend told me how a bug had flown into her eye, prompting her and another friend to scramble and get it out. I had to leave the room before she finished her story.
And so it has gone with every eyeball-related thing in my life. Some people can’t handle blood; I can’t handle eyeballs.
Of course, parenthood breaks down your fears and discomforts in 1,001 ways until you can handle almost anything.
And in my nearly 10 years of parenting, I’ve successfully handled my fair share of clogged tear ducts and pink eye. Because I’m a mother. And when you’re a mother, you just get stuff done.
But then it happened.
I don’t even know what “it” was. But it happened.
As I ran to the family room and fell down to his eye level, I gasped.
How did he get a marble in his eye? I wondered and felt my heart pound while I forced myself not to throw up.
To quickly set the record straight, there was no marble in his eye, dear reader. That would be preposterous.
There was, however, a huge, bulbous, yellow, gelatinous, marble-like protrusion coming from the whites of his eye. (I will not post a picture here, in case you have a sensitive stomach. If you would like to see the image of this horror, however, you can visit the comments on my Facebook page.)
He looked confused and moved his hand to rub his eye.
“NO!” I snatched his hand away, and more than one of us began to cry.
“What do I do?” I thought I asked this in my mind, but quickly realized I had said it out loud when my two daughters answered me.
“Mom, you need to call the doctor,” said one, gently but firmly.
“Mom, you need to take him to the hospital,” said another.
Someone was gently patting my back.
“Okay, okay,” I breathed, sweat pouring down my spine while my stomach turned somersaults. “Okay, that’s a good idea.”
But even though it was a good idea, it didn’t make sense in my head. Because this was an eyeball situation. And eyeball situations and I just don’t work together.
I looked at my phone, trying to remember what I was doing with it. Then, as I stared, I thought to myself that this eye thing probably wasn’t so bad. I probably had made a bigger deal out of what I saw. Eyeballs do freak me out, you know. It makes sense that I could have blown this out of proportion. So I went back to take a second look, expecting to see a minor eye issue that could be taken care of with a warm compress.
I was already getting ready to tell my daughter to please get me a clean washcloth when I took a second look. Unfortunately, it was just as I remembered — a marble-sized protrusion extending from the whites of my son’s eye.
Oh. My. Gosh.
I began to breathe heavy again.
“Mom, you need to take him to the doctor,” one daughter said again, but I couldn’t process what she was saying.
Still trying to convince myself I was blowing things out of proportion, I took a picture to send to my husband. Maybe I’m seeing things wrong, I thought.
He was shocked, as everything had been fine when he left for work only moments before.
“Am I making a big deal out of this?” I asked. “Is this as bad as it seems? You know how I can’t tell with eyeball things.”
“No,” he answered. “You’re not making a big deal. He needs to go to the doctor.”
20 minutes later, I was again doubting myself at the doctor’s office. So I watched the faces of the nurse and doctor carefully to gauge the seriousness of the situation.
Both glanced at him, looked shocked, looked away to compose themselves, and looked back with greater intensity (but from a few extra inches back).
After examining his eye, the doctor wavered. “I think I should probably send you to the children’s hospital,” she said. “I’m worried he could be in danger of losing his sight. But let’s first try this strong antibiotic to see if it helps.”
She urged me to rush to the pharmacy and give him the medication as soon as they put it in my hands, and instructed me to not hesitate to go to the children’s hospital if his eye looked any worse throughout the day. If I had any questions, she would personally answer them. (And she did the next day. Even though she was preparing for her daughter’s wedding.)
Fortunately, the medicine worked, and we avoided the hospital.
We still don’t know exactly what happened to him, but our best guess is he rubbed some ointment into his eye from a nearby cut that was still healing.
I have since noticed that any time he rubs his eyes too hard, or gets an eyelash in his eye, his eye begins to swell and turn red in unnatural ways.
Of course it does.
Motherhood has tamed my temper (after first bringing it out in full force), made me less judgmental, and has given me a high tolerance for poop-related experiences. But the pink eye and clogged tear ducts have not been enough to cure my eye phobia. I see now that we go the whole hog here, and I have been given a son who will show me what Eye am made of. (haha)
And this is what I now believe: Motherhood is handling eyeballs like a boss.
Or like a whimpering fool.
Either way, motherhood is about getting it done — and still wanting to smother your freaky child in kisses.