Miles was still sleeping as I got ready for the morning, and I had time to turn on the Christmas lights and have A Christmas Story playing on TV in the background. Jason got ready and heard Miles starting to sing and talk to himself, so I took my position with the camera downstairs as he changed Miles’ diaper. As they came down the stairs, Miles spotted his new bike from Mommy and Daddy (or Santa) and his face lit up. He shouted “OH WOW! Bike-ickle!” And we gave him his Toy Story helmet to unwrap as well as a stocking full of M&M’s, the barrel of monkeys game, and a Pez Dispenser. He also tore into his new birthday cake puzzle, and we sang Happy Birthday, Jesus together. It was so cute. Miles third Christmas, but first really getting into some of the festivities, yet last one he will experience as an only child!Finally, we got our pj’s off, clothes on and headed to church to meet my parents and grandparents and hear the message from my husband. What a wonderful way to start the day of celebrating the birth of our Lord.
Oh, wait. That’s how I envisioned Christmas morning. Here’s what really happened:
Let me start off by saying we have been truly blessed on how healthy Miles has been for his two and a half years on this planet. If he gets something, it’s like a 24 hour sniffle fest. That’s it. Then Wednesday, December 21st came. I could tell he was not feeling great- extra clingy, a bit warm, coughing some. The thermometer said 100.5 degrees. I’ve seen it before, not concerning. A little tylenol, a nap, and he was looking and sounding better by dinner. Then he seemingly took a turn for the worst. Went to bed and every couple hours was up coughing and crying, each time the coughing getting worse and worse. Thursday morning came and the entire day was filled with mommy cuddling and movie watching, and the occasional medicine break. Not much eating. He got in a decent nap, but woke up and his temperature had risen to 102.5 degrees. I still wasn’t too concerned, since “they” say you should plan on taking a kid into the ER if their temperature is at 104 or 5. He was still pretty much himself. We decided we’d call the doctor in the morning though and set up an appointment since they were closed the rest of the weekend through Monday and we were leaving the state Monday morning.
The Friday doctor’s appointment brought some relief to his diagnosis of a viral respiratory infection (low-grade or mild croup – I know the work “croup” is scary for some people, but this version is actually quite common in kids, it’s not the bacterial diphtheria-type croup many of us tend to think of that is apparently much more severe. In short: Miles was not dying). He was given a steroid and some Tylenol with Codeine for the painful coughing. Jason stayed home that night with him like a champ of a dad while I represented the Barnharts at the annual Lawrentz Christmas get-together and Miles slept like a rock. Like a rock that was also on strong medication. And then came Christmas Eve, we saw how he reacted to the medication. He was a little sleepy, but then would start acting really strange, like repeating himself and yelling out weird things. Some of it was actually kind of funny, and I felt bad for laughing, but he was pretty entertaining. I wouldn’t be laughing long. He had no fever anymore, but felt clammy. He wasn’t eating, but as a solid kid of 32 lbs. I wasn’t too concerned; he was still drinking a fair amount. However, every mom wants their baby to eat. And you get worried when they don’t, no matter how much meat they already have on their bones! By this time he was crying over little things and falling down and it was breaking my heart. I had been spoiled that he was never sick, yes, but I never had seen him act like this and it was starting to scare me. And I so wanted him to enjoy this Christmas, as it was possibly our last in Ashland, or at least in our home we had started out in. Possibly our last real Christmas tree for a while, our last Christmas as a family of three…You get the idea. I get sentimental. I wanted him to have a magical Christmas awaiting Santa Claus and help pick out a couple of cookies and a glass of milk (and maybe a couple of carrot sticks for the reindeer) to leave out for Santa before he went to bed, but also getting the chance to read him the Christmas Story and share with him how God sent a little baby named Jesus to Earth because He loved us so much; expanding upon Linus’s reading of Luke 2 from Charlie Brown, of course;-) Who knows how much he’d understand, but it would be more than last year!
I didn’t know what to expect this Christmas, and I didn’t feel like I expected anything that wasn’t possible or something that would take the place of Jesus being enough for all my unmet expectations. But. Yes there’s a but. But, he had stayed up way too late, as we watched Christmas movies at my parents house and snacked on all the good Christmas goodies my mom and I had slaved away at. Okay, mostly my mom. We got Miles home, right into bed, and believed he would wake up a new kid. Or, we hoped, the old Miles! His last dose of Codeine was that morning, so we figured it was out of his system. The last dose of Oraped (Prednisone) was given on Christmas Eve and had helped with his barking cough that was so bad Thursday night. Jason spent close to an hour putting together the bright red balance bike we had picked out for Miles, and I put our stockings out and put whatever finishing touches on things I thought needed it. I decided just to eat Santa’s cookies and not bother to put them out since Miles didn’t help with it anyway. Sorry, Santa. I’m 7 months pregnant, deal with it. You could stand to loose a few.
Morning came, and the first sentence of my post was true. That was about it out of that paragraph. Jason had to go in and wake Miles up, and when I came up to see how he was feeling, he seemed okay, just drowsy. Then he started repeating himself. “Miles wants to suck the fingers…Miles wants to suck the fingers…” over and over. Okay suck your fingers!!! (He’s done this since 4 months old when he spit out the binky.) But he wouldn’t. Then came the crying. And talking jibberish. And stiffening up when we tried to change his clothes, diaper, anything. He would yell at us. He was mean. The other thing he repeated was “Miles wants to watch Mickey…Miles wants Mickey”. “Do you want to open presents? Santa brought you presents!” “NOO! No open presents, watch Mickey!” And crying. And more crying. Boy, what a test to my expectation for Christmas morning and what it really does means to me. I so wanted to not be phased by the sudden change of my expectations for the day given his mood, but come on, any first time mom with a pulse (or mom in general, for that matter,) would admit that you put in some time and effort and love to make each Christmas the best Christmas you can for your kid(s). You want to enjoy them enjoying the fun and the excitement of it all. You want to enjoy their grandparents enjoying them as well.
And it didn’t happen this Christmas. I had to be okay with it. It wasn’t the end of the world, and it didn’t kill my hope in anything, but it was just flat out sad and disappointing. I loved seeing my other family, but I didn’t even want to open gifts- especially my own. I was so distracted by my son’s bizarre behavior and clinginess that I barely had time to see my family open the things I had lovingly made or picked out just for them. I was purely on “wipe Miles eyes!!!!” duty along with picking him up and putting him down as he couldn’t make up his mind. Even that simple act wore me out considering I did it about 40 times with a huge belly in front of me. All I wanted was to enjoy Miles unwrapping things or singing songs or smiling or dancing or joking. I realized I still had so many expectations for Christmas morning that couldn’t or wouldn’t be met, and that as much as I felt I had ignored the commercial hype, I was still let down by my Christmas of human standards. Much like I’m let down on every one of my birthdays in the past decade- I don’t know what I should expect, but something always seems to be missing. And you can chide me till you’re blue in the face about how blessed I am and how there’s something so much bigger than all of that fluff, but I’m telling you, I know that. That’s just the honest truth, and having high expectations is one of the things I struggle with in life- I’m human, and I’m not good at dealing with letdowns, no matter how small. I feel guilty about that- and I’m probably harder on myself about that than I should be, but alas, that’s just another of my many, many flaws.
And so, Miles didn’t open one present. Not one. We opened most of them for him, minus a couple that will wait until we return from Virginia. He mostly just yelled at us to put the wrapping paper and bow back on the gift and that he didn’t want whatever it was. He slouched on our laps and laid there, dead weight, sucking his fingers and eyes half open. Sometimes whimpering, sometimes stuttering things we couldn’t understand, sometimes shouting orders at us or saying “Go in there momma! Don’t LOOK AT ME!” and breaking my heart. It wasn’t his fault, though. He had no idea what he was saying. He was a crazy, mean, zombie version of himself. I knew it had to be the medication still in his system. This was not my Miles. My sweet fun-loving boy. I just wanted to cry all day. We put him down for a nap at 1:30 at my parents house, and we were glad that he went right to sleep, but still sad that he wasn’t himself. I tried to pull it together to open my gifts, though I didn’t want them- I didn’t need or want anything- just to have Miles be himself again. I didn’t think it would get to me that badly, but it was crushing to my spirit. Maybe that’s just from being a mom, I don’t know. I pulled it together enough to open my gifts from my family and am very thankful for all the heartfelt things/cards I received, and especially thankful for the extra hugs of my husband that day. We checked on him at 5pm and he stirred, then looked up at us and we knew he still wasn’t out of his funk. We tried to get him to eat some Christmas dinner with us and more family that joined us, but he refused everything and kept crying. He finally cried that he wanted to go back to sleep. “Miles lay down! Miles go night-night!” So back to bed at 6pm. We left my parents house around 8:30, and carried our limp boy to the car, even my grandfather telling me it broke his heart to see Miles like that and not get to see him enjoy his Christmas. I think that tore at me even more. My grandparents are in great shape, in body and mind, for their age, but I know each time they see us, especially at a special event, it crosses their minds that it could be their last special time like that with us. At least my nostalgic (and perhaps morbid) mind thinks like that.
He went right to sleep again and we prayed over him. We knew it was just a matter of waiting things out. However, with our trip to Virginia to visit Jason’s side of the family planned for the morning of the 26th, we knew he needed to be better quick! We packed as much as we could Christmas night and held our breath as another morning came to see how our Miles behavior would be.