I sit, looking at my baby, trying hard to stop counting the seconds between coughs. Eight, nine, ten, ele..cough. One, two, three…He coughs about once every ten or so seconds, and I am doing the math in my head. Six per minute. Three hundred sixty per hour. He’s been doing this for a couple of hours now, seven hundred coughs. He threw up twice yesterday, the combined mucus of a weeks-long cold that comes, goes, transmutes, returns. The coughing becomes gagging, becomes a kind of gooey non-food throw-up. Once on my lap, once down my shirt.
Meanwhile, the ingrown toenail from a week ago became infected enough to warrant a weekend urgent care visit. The urgent care doctor there told us the infection had passed, but a callus had formed at the corner of the toenail, which would likely require a podiatrist. We went home with a prescription for an antibiotic ointment, to prevent re-infection. The doctor there was sick herself, sneezing and wheezing. She didn’t wash her hands before handling baby’s foot. But baby is now banging the toe pretty regularly, and he starts crying any time it is remotely touched.
This doctor is unbelievable on a number of levels. Callus? What? Did they just pull a random woman off the street, dress her in a white coat, and collect our copay? We send off a photo to his pediatric orthopedist, the amazing Doctor David Scher. He responds via phone call Monday morning that the toe is still infected, to get a course of antibiotics, to not see a podiatrist (who will likely just exacerbate the problem by shaving the skin around the toe, which often causes another hangnail when it grows back), and to soak the baby’s foot in warm salt water a couple times a day. We make an appointment to follow up with him later in the week. The first doctor is looking like a malpractice suit in waiting. Good luck with that New York Methodist.
So fine, this has been the nail in the coffin that is our relationship with our current pediatrician. She’s fine, but her practice, Park Slope Pediatrics, has often left us feeling sad and a little angry. And if the benefit of an urgent care center nearby is offset by the fact that the urgent care center does more harm than good, well, then what’s the point? Our new doctor takes a 5 second look at the toe, declares it infected, and sends us home with a 10-day course of amoxicillin. She, like Dr. Scher, is puzzled by the suggestion of a podiatrist. We have an appointment with Dr. Scher later this week, so we’re still a little in who knows territory.
None of this post is meant to be about baby’s health. But his health has been spotty these past couple months.
Instead, it’s about a creeping sense of anxiety that I’ve been feeling since yesterday, but which has bloomed more fully in the past day or so.
I often find myself thinking I’m the wrong guy for this parenting gig. I am not saying I’ve made bad choices, that I don’t want to be married or have a baby (though I do sometimes think life would certainly be easier. Not better, at all. Easier.). I love the kid very very much, and I love my wife even more. But what I am saying is that I do not know whether I have the fortitude for parenthood. Honestly, I may not have the fortitude for adulthood. My interests seem juvenile even to myself, I don’t obsess over work. I just don’t know how to keep moving forward, not worrying about baby’s health, or family’s wealth, or my mental well-being.
Rationally, this makes little sense, I know. But I look around at the other parents, and they seem different from me. When I was a kid, my father used to enjoy reading historical fiction and James Bond novels, and playing tennis. He liked to collect fountain pens. I like playing video games and thinking about intractable social problems, like why American culture seems to hate women so much. I still read fantasy novels, and I can quote pretty reliably from any number of nerdy movies. In my spare time, I conspire to build and program robots, and I like to make pancakes. None of these things scream serious father to me.
Maybe this will all go away a bit as baby’s health picks up. It’s exhausting, maybe it’s just a lack of sleep. But when along the line are you supposed to stop feeling like you’re faking it and actually feel like you’re the adult others imagine you to be?