“Will I get a poke?” he asked, lip trembling.

“Yes, honey. But it’s just one little poke. Very fast. It doesn’t hurt like a shot does.”

“I don’t WANT to get a poke!” he yelled, thrashing in his booster seat. “I don’t like them!”

getting a butterfly needle into a vein“I know you don’t like them. I know.” It was all I could do, just listen and let him be mad. I was mad too. We let him argue and cry as we drove. Once he settled a bit, I asked him about school, and he quickly forgot his tears.

He surprised me, staying calm when the hospital came into view, bouncing happily into the building. He was chatty and relaxed all through the checking in and the waiting. He climbed easily onto the platform and listened as the techs explained how their cameras would come in close but not touch him and that he needed to hold still.

He was his usual outgoing self right up until the second they pulled out the tiny butterfly needle. As soon as he saw it, he began screaming and thrashing. I told him to squeeze my hands as tight as he wanted, and Scott pinned his legs so he couldn’t kick anyone. The injection was over quickly, and he calmed down as soon as he saw that the needle was gone.

“No more pokes?” he asked, a tear still perched on his eyelashes.

“We’re all done. Just taking pictures now.”

He relaxed, eyes on the DVD player running Toy Story. We relaxed, too.

Until they turned on the camera. As soon the image appeared on the screen, we knew.

Tears burn, especially when you try to hold them back. They hovered just below my eyes as I watched the image on the screen and chatted with the nurses. Their answers to my questions only confirmed what we saw. The conversation turned to our children, and the tears spilled as we talked about Elli. We had heard those words, “There’s nothing we can do” in a room just a few dozen yards from where we stood.

“Where is the bathroom?” I asked, desperate for a moment to collect myself.

“Just behind you.” She pointed to the door.

Too close. I couldn’t let the sobs out so close to my son. I dabbed furiously at my face, yelling at myself in my mind. “Get it together, Joy. You can’t fall apart here.”

I yelled back at myself too (also in my mind, and yes, this probably makes me certifiable). “This SUCKS! I don’t want this for him. I don’t want another surgery. How will we tell him? How will we tell the other kids? They’ll be terrifed that he’s going to die just like Elli did. I’m terrified that he’ll die. I can’t bury another child. I just can’t.”

 Anger, grief, and fear wound into an all-too-familiar tornado in my gut… “Stress Stomach” – my secret to weight loss. I knew I had to walk back out there. I breathed deep, held wet paper towel on my eyes for a minute, pushed the tears and rage away, and walked back into the test room.

One of the techs looked at me. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

I am fine: “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional,” to quote Charlie Croker on “The Italian Job.”

The official test report confirmed our observation. The doctors have confirmed that we need to do something about it. More tests lie ahead to determine whether he needs major surgery or if we can cobble a fix together now to delay surgery a little longer. We should know in three months.

Three months. I have to figure out how to wait three months without going crazy. I’ve done it before — this is all too similar to the months between his in-utero diagnosis and his birth. I’m fighting the imagination that tries to take me through worst-case-scenarios and leaves me sobbing into my pillow as I envision another child’s tombstone in the cemetery and whether we could bury both kids close together. I cannot allow myself to go there. That is the path of insanity. I tell my imagination that’s a bridge we only cross if we must.

Meanwhile, I’m alternately annoyed with the boyishness of the boy, angered by his defiance, frightened by any little sign that something may be more amiss than we thought, and ashamed that I could feel anything but overwhelming love and affection for him no matter what.

I guess there’s a comfort in that — he’s still a little boy who acts like a little boy. And I’m still an imperfect human mother who sometimes cannot stand one more battle cry, whiny request, or tearful outburst. Focusing on handling these every day things better… that could be the secret to the waiting.

This post written and linked with Genevieve for “Emotions on Tuesdays” and with Heather of the EO’s Just Write. I’m intentionally vague to protect the privacy of my child, who may one day prefer that the blogosphere not know his medical history.