Thursday, February 26, 2009

a healthy respect for the jinx

The funny thing of it is that Joe and I really aren't sleeping any less now that Mack is here. I mean sure, Mack wakes up at night, once around midnight-one-ish and once around four-five-ish, but given that I need to get up for work by five anyway, there's really only one real interruption to our night, and even then, it's not like he's crying or anything. He just starts fidgeting a lot, grunting like he's moving heavy furniture around. And then it's just a matter of changing his diaper and feeding him (ah, the miracle of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, you can basically sleep right through it), so that the whole waking ritual takes only, like, five minutes tops. Joe keeps saying that I should wake him up to do the diaper change, but most of the time I don't, as I have to feed Mack anyway so Joe doing the diaper doesn't actually buy me any more sleep, and anyway, the actual effort it takes me to wake Joe up far outstrips the effort it takes just to change the diaper myself. I was worried that after what an easy baby Cal was, we'd be stuck with some nocturnal hellion when Mack came along, which would render me sleep-deprived and stupefied for my days at work, but actually (and man, I hope I'm not jinxing myself, but it's been two months already and we're still smooth sailing) it's so far been fine.

Speaking of things that keep you up at night though, I don't think that there is any medical professional who is immune to the concept of The Jinx. Everyone knows that the second you look around the PACU remarking, "It looks pretty quiet here tonight" you are giving the signal to the universe to deal you the call night from hell, just like when you tell someone, "This should be a short, easy case" you will being pushing epi and giving chest compressions in short order to that seemingly young healthy patient who came in to get his hemorrhoids lopped off. Taking certain things for granted is just tempting fate, and no one understands that better than people who see, every day, fate turning on a dime.

So when people tell us how lucky we are to have two healthy kids, I can't help but to squirm uncomfortably and make quiet, almost apologetic remarks under my breath. Joe and I have the exact same reaction, and conferring with each other, we agree that it's just not something we feel comfortable saying out loud, because it just feels like an invitation for bad things to happen. It's not that we don't think we're lucky to have two healthy kids--we are lucky, very lucky. It's just that we also recognize luck for what it is, and that is: completely random. And there was nothing I hated more in taking a Pediatric history than hearing this prelude: "He was totally normal and healthy, everything was perfect, until..." before launching into a huge, tragic story of injury or illness. In fact, part of what made me not want to do Peds anymore was because I needed to get away from those stories. What makes that kid different from my kid? Answer: absolutely nothing.

It sounds so pessimistic to say that, but when you see bad things, it's hard not to realize that no matter how much distance you try to create, the fact of it is that bad things can happen to you too. It has nothing to do with your job or what kind of parent you are or your socioeconomic status or education or where you live. Sometimes bad things happen. And it makes it easy to understand why, in some cultures, children are hidden or disguised or given secret decoy names to obfuscate whatever demons or evil spirits wander the Earth. Because if they see you with your gorgeous baby, catch you looking too cocky, too proud, if they think you're taking your good luck for granted, they just might come along and show you how wrong you can be.

I'm not superstitious, and I don't really truly believe in evil spirits or anything like that, but I have a healthy respect for the concept of The Jinx. Because why push your luck? Since when is the universe indebted to me or my family? We have been lucky, but I don't ever want to get too comfortable with that. I'm only three and a half years in, but I realize that parenthood is like this lifetime of worry that never ends. And I feel like even talking about The Jinx is jinx-y in and of itself, but I just want whatever it is out there to know that we take nothing for granted, that we respect and fear The Jinx. And that no matter what we may say or how much time may pass, we will never stop being thankful, nor forget how lucky we have been.