The real pain of raising children

I was meeting with a Gastroenterologist
about my stomach. He was a short man with a bald head, in his mid-30s, a small
gut, and brown skin. He was cocky. Everything about him, from his lab coat, to
his scrubs, to the way he held his nose just a little higher, was about letting
me know that he was a doctor.
He read through my chart, lips slightly
puckered, grunting every so often. Then he asked me about my medications, poop,
pee, and exercise. He asked about whether I smoked or drank. They were the same
questions that every one of the three doctors I’d seen in the past week had
asked. This seems to be the way of the medical system. I went to an urgent care
doctor on a Saturday because of stomach pain, who sent me to my regular doctor,
who sent me to a specialist. I live in a small Oregon town, and am part of an
HMO that only has locations nearly an hour away, so all of this required me
taking significant time off from work, and each doctor had given me at least one
prescription, and now I was taking about five pills at night and morning, and
experiencing drowsiness at work and diarrhea.
It was awesome.
I told the Gastroenterologist about my
pain, how it had lasted three weeks, mostly in the evening. “It feels like I’ve
been punched in the stomach. Sometimes I just have to lie down on the floor for
a couple hours, curled up, and wait for it to pass. Most of the doctors I’ve
meet with think it’s an ulcer.”
The Gastroenterologist leaned his head
to the right, stuck out his lips, and said, “I don’t trust other doctors.”
“Wow,” I said, laughing. “How’s that
working out for you?”
“Just fine,” he said.
He asked me more questions and I told
him that I’d had this pain before. Years earlier when my daughter was in the
NICU for two weeks. I had it before that, too, when my father died. And as I
traced back the pain back, to my father, I told him about my Dad’s surgery. How
he had an ulcer when I young, back in the 80s, and how doctors cut open his gut
and removed part of his stomach. “He became addicted to pain killers after that
and died about 10 years later. All this talk of an ulcer is really scaring me,”
I said. “I don’t want to talk in life or death, but I’m afraid this is going to
kill me.”
And at the mention of my father, he
seemed to soften up a bit. “I don’t think you have a ulcer,” he said. He asked
me a few more questions then he said, “I think it’s stress.”
“No. No.” I said. “I mean. I don’t
think that’s it stress. I don’t feel stressed.”
He leaned against the counter behind
him, folded his arms, and said, “You don’t have all that many symptoms of a
ulcer. You just have the pain. Tell me about what’s going on your life. Have
you had any big changes?”
I thought about it for a moment. Then I
told him about my 10-month-old baby, our third child. Then I told him about my
new job at the University. It was more money and responsibility. I told him
about my blog, and how it was doing well. Then I told him about my new church
calling. “I’m Mormon,” I said. “They asked me to be the Elder’s Quorum President.
I’m not sure if you know what that means, but it’s a lot of responsibility.”
Think back, I used that word a lot: Responsibility. Every year, as a parent and
adult, I seem to get more of it.
We talked about Mormons and basketball
for a moment. He mentioned how some of his medical school friends were Mormon and
they always played basketball at their church. I hear this a lot, and I find it
frustrating because I don’t play basketball, but being Mormon has made me feel
like I should.
As we spoke, I thought about everything
that was going on in my life. So much of it was exciting. Most of it was a good
thing. The new job was more money and a lot of new responsibility. Our new baby
was sweet and wonderful, and yet, a baby means little sleep and a lot of crying
for a good year (for both the parents and the baby). We bought a house, which
meant the responsibility of a mortgage. Everything that was going on in my life
was good, and yet, perhaps it was too much good. I felt this enormous pressure
to fulfill all of my responsibilities, and somehow it has started to manifest
itself in a physical way. I was in pain, serious pain. Pain that was making me
sit down, slow down, change my diet, and my actions. In the past week, when
this pain came on in full force, I’d lost ten pounds from not eating. With my father’s
drug addiction and death, I knew that bad things could cause me stress. But I’d
never thought that good things could do this to me, too.
“I suggest limiting your stress as much
as you can,” he said.
I laughed.
For the first time since meeting this
man, he smiled. “You can manage it.” He started to type up a list of things I
could do to make things better: yoga, exercise…
“Could you add sex to that list?” I
said. “I could take that home to my wife.”
He laughed and said, “I will add other
and you can define that how you’d like.”
He wrote down a few more things, gave
me another prescription, took away some others, and said, “Let’s try this for
two weeks. If it doesn’t get better we will have a look in your stomach.”
“So what you are saying is… I’m not dying?”
I asked.
“No,” He said. “I think your religion
and your children are going to kill you long before this will. I hope that gives
you comfort.”
“Surprisingly. It does,” I said.
 You would also enjoy,  Sex Is Not An Obligation

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a
charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky
little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father
left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and
husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good
Morning America
, The New York Times,
The
Washington Post
, The
Huffington Post
, Scary
Mommy
, The Good
Men Project
, Fast
Company
, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and
Twitter.  
Photo by Lucinda Higley 

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