Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A New Perspective on Motherhood

I've been terrible about contributing to our tribute to women this month, and I will tell you why: I've been mothering a sick hedgehog.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I brought this little darlin'  home.  She was very sweet and quite tame (not too prickly) and we were just in love.

Then, one night our little gal sneezed all night long. Her breathing sounded wet and snuffly, and everything I saw in the literature about hedgehog care (I know, right?) said that it was probably an upper respiratory infection from the pine bedding the pet shop sold us (and swore was all right for her)  - an infection that could quickly turn to pneumonia and be fatal for our hedgehog. And the worst of it was that we just didn't know what to do for her because she was so new to us. Who knows what a hedgehog's eating and breathing and playing should look like?

I spent the next few days constantly checking to make sure she was breathing, tensing up whenever she started to sneeze, counting her kibble to see if she was eating (she wasn't) and worrying, worrying, worrying. After a few days, I couldn't stand it anymore and took her to the vet, where they gave her some medicine and told me I was on the right track and she would be fine, that it hadn't gone to her lungs and antibiotics would clear up the rest. After thinking she might die because she was so lethargic and sniffly, it was a huge relief. It was an even bigger relief when, after a couple of days of working a medicine dropper into her mouth (while she threw her head back and forth and clenched her teeth like a little kid), she finally started to eat regularly, drink normally, and (I'm sorry) poop non-green poop.
I've always had a great respect for mothers - for the work they do to keep their babies happy and healthy as often as possible, for the worrying they go through when their babies are sick or sad or in trouble. However, I'd never understood things like the relief that comes when a baby starts eating right, the concern over weird-looking stuff in the diaper, the need to just watch the baby breathe. It may sound silly, but my concern for a spiny little rodent gave me a glimpse into the lives of new mothers - women who want so badly for their child to be healthy and normal and okay. I finally understood why someone would obsess over the color or frequency of baby poop - because any sign of normalcy is a huge comfort, another sigh of relief, another night when you don't lie awake listening for any sound that might be a bad sign.

To the mothers out there: I'm certainly not saying I understand everything you've gone through now that I've mothered a hedgehog. Cute as she is, the fear that little Stickybun wouldn't recover has nothing on the feelings a mother has for her child's wellbeing. But I do understand a little better the feelings of investment that come with trying to keep something tiny and helpless alive. I both dread and look forward to the day when I will be crazy with worry for my own child.

Until then, if you want to tell me about the color of your baby's poop, I will listen.


Melissa said...

I think the thing about mothering whether it be a human or a hedgehog, you are always going to be wondering if you are doing everything correctly, if you are being the best caregiver or if you can do more. That is where faith comes in because yes, there is always something more you can do and no it doesn't always matter if you don't know what it is or if you never do it.

You are a great mommy to Stickybun and you will be a great mommy to some humans one day =)

Julie W said...

You are very sweet meg.