Lunch Notes: Stop And Smell The Lab Work

I have three kids under the age of 5.

When I was pregnant with my third I got warnings wherever I went.

“You are going to have your hands full, Mama!”

“Another one? Wow – how are you going to handle three?”

“I don’t envy you – I can hardly handle one!”

I have to admit: Now that I am attempting to move through the world with a 4-year old, a 3-year-old, and an 18-month-old in tow… THOSE FOLKS MAY HAVE JUST HAD A POINT!

The difficulty of being the mother of closely-aged young kids really came to light when I brought my daughter to her 18-month checkup this week.

I love our health care facility. The doctors are friendly, the staff is helpful, and the facilities are easily accessible. But the place does have one epic downside, and that is that when you need any kind of tests done you have to make a whole separate trip to…

*CUE SCARY MUSIC*

THE LABORATORY! (pronounced, in this case, LA-BORE-A-TORY *insert evil laughter*)

The lab at our local doctor’s office is a subterranean purgatory that routinely involves waits of more than an hour. Throughout that time one is forced to sit clutching a little paper number in hand like a disgruntled deli patron, all for the privilege of eventually being stuck with a large needle by a harried medical technician.

So it’s kinda terrible.

Which is why, when I was told at my daughter’s checkup that she needed some standard bloodwork, I came to the ill-advised conclusion that it would be best if I "brought her back for that some other time." (I ignored the tried-and-true parenting rule: When you are knee-deep in a crappy day, you might as well get ALL of the crap out of the way, rather than put it off and wholly ruin another potentially crap-free day.)

So it was that on Monday I found myself dragging all three of my children to the dreaded lab. It had been over a month since my daughter’s appointment, and the doctor was quite unequivocal when he called to follow up on the tests that no, I could not just "assume" that her lead levels were fine. I needed to get her blood drawn.

For realsies.

There we sat in the lab waiting area, all three of us in our vinyl chairs at the beginning of what was shaping up to be the WORST. DAY. EVER.

I grabbed NUMBER 87 and looked up sadly at the ticker to confront the fact that they were "Now Serving" NUMBER 23.

It was going to be a while.

As the numbers ticked by with INSANE slow-ocity, I was trying to keep the kids entertained, so as not to add to the plight of our fellow lab patrons.

• I was swimming Goldfish into the baby’s mouth one by one while making fun (yet subdued) fish noises.

• I was reading "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" repeatedly in the quietest silly voice I could muster.

• I was providing all three with carefully doled out sips of juice.

• I was changing diapers on the bathroom floor for want of a changing table.

What can I say? I was dancing as fast as I could.

Here's a brief sample of my hour-long internal monologue:

"Grumble, grumble, grumble....I hate the stupid lab...Oh, kids, give me a break...No! Please don't drop Goldfish down that man's shirt...You've pooped now? Really?..... *sigh*....OK, let's try another story...I'm in hell, I'm in hell - I'm in a laboratory purgatory from which I may never escape....OK, how about we all look at the pictures on my phone? NO? You'd rather punch me angrily in the jaw while your brothers wrestle to the consternation of other patients? That's unfortunate. How is this my life? I hate the universe."

Things only took a turn for the worse when our number was finally called. As I attempted to contain my two boys using various leg grips, I had to pin my baby girl down while the tech stuck a needle in her arm.

I barely had the strength to contain all three as the baby started screaming a desperate scream that seemed to translate to,

"WHAT? MOMMY!!! I THOUGHT YOU LOVED MEEEEEE!!!!!!”

By the time the blood draw was complete, at least three of the four of us were sobbing.

When it was all over I headed back towards the waiting room with my now-whimpering baby and her two stir-crazy older brothers in tow. I strapped my daughter into her stroller, bribed my sons with promises of ice cream if they’d JUST... COME... ON… and attempted to genuinely forget the whole day had ever happened.

I threw the last of our scattered items into my diaper bag and limped past the elderly lady who had been sitting next to us throughout our whole wait. As I gave her my best, “I’m so sorry you had to encounter us today” smile, she laid her hand gently on my arm and said,

"I just wanted to tell you what a joy it was watching you all this time with your beautiful children. You are such a good mommy for them, and I know how much they must appreciate you."

Then she patted the knee of her 60-something son, who was sitting next to her, and added,

"I wish I could tell you how fast it all goes."

I smiled at her as I hustled the kids towards the car, and thought to myself that we might have just had one of our BEST. DAYS. EVER.

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