Kiley’s mom took her to the doctor to have it checked out and the doctor said not to worry about it. Umbilical hernias are common in babies and tend to resolve themselves without any treatment by the age of two or three. We just have to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t get any bigger. He said, “If it sticks out too far just push it back in with your thumb”.
Huh?!! Just push it back in with my thumb?!! You gotta be kidding me! He wants me to push on it? He can’t be serious. I can’t do that! What if I push too hard? What if I don’t push hard enough? What if I push the wrong way? What does he mean by “sticks out too far”? What if I push too soon? What if I push too late? What if it pops back out? What if I make it bigger? What if I bruise it? What if it breaks? What if it bleeds? What if…What if… What if it… AAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!!!!
While all of this is racing through my head, outwardly I maintain a demeanor of composed concern as Kiley’s mother, my niece, is explaining what the doctor said in a very calm and matter of fact tone. She’s one of those mothers who always seems in control and never appears to be flustered by any of the multiple things that can go wrong with a baby. She’s a natural – cool, calm, and collected, ready for everything and capable of anything. I was that way when I was her age. I was taking care of four or five kids at a time, Kiley’s mother included, and juggling babies like they were part of a Cirque du Soleil skit. But that was when I was still young and innocent, still invulnerable and immortal, still confident that everything will work out just fine no matter what. Since then I’ve had some nasty close calls with what can happen if you take your eye off the metaphorical road for juuuuust a second. Children are not invulnerable or immortal, quite the opposite. Things can go wrong, serious things, things that you have no control over and it usually happens when you least expect it.
Not that I don’t feel absolutely confident in my ability to care for Kiley or anyone else large or small for that matter (just ask my husband). Lots of experience with children, and life in general, has made me a better “Nan”. Despite the fact that I might be prone to worry a little more, now that I have a more realistic idea of what can go wrong, I took on the task of caring for Kiley fully confident that I would be able to cope with any situation that arose, as I have many times in the past. Everyone who knows me knows that I can handle just about anything if I have to.
But nobody ever said anything about pushing on belly buttons! I didn’t sign up for this. I’m not a – what do you call a belly button specialist anyway, an umbilicatrician?, a bellybuttonist?, a navel officer? – whatever, I’m not any of them. I can’t be expected to be pushing on belly buttons just because they’re sticking out a little bit. If I had known I was going to end up pushing on belly buttons I would have stayed in school or.. or joined the military or something, this is ridiculous. I don’t know anything about belly buttons and I don’t want to.
After Kiley’s mom left for work I took Kiley’s shirt off to get a good look at what I was up against. There it was, sticking out a little bit. Does that amount of “stick out” meet the definition of "too much"? Suppressing my natural inclination to scream, I reached down and gently touched it. It rolled around a little bit under my fingers, eeewww! Kiley just smiled. I guess it tickled. My husband was home so I called him over, “Hey, look at this”. He came over and looked but didn’t seem to understand what he was supposed to be seeing. “Look at her belly button”, I said, “It’s sticking out”.
“Yeah?” he said.
Unbelievable! “Well, it’s not supposed to be sticking out”, I said. “It’s a hernia. We have to keep an eye on it. If it sticks out too far we’re supposed to push it back in. I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if my thumbs are strong enough. I don’t know if I can do it without hurting her. What if I hurt her? I don’t think I’d be good at that. You’re going to have to do it.”
In reply to that he just held up his thumb and made a popping noise with his tongue and upper lip. Great! I dismissed him. He can’t be trusted to deal with this responsibly. I was on my own. But it’s not fair! Why me! What did I do to deserve this, belly buttons sticking out and all? What was I going to do? Then I looked down at poor Kiley, my "Little Big Button", and an overwhelming feeling of love and pity and worry swept over me and I resolved to do whatever was necessary to help her with whatever problems she has to face in her life. Even if it means pushing her belly button back in. That’s what loving a child is all about.
All exaggeration and attempt at humor aside, sometimes children can be so worrisome, even when it’s over something as minor as a belly button malfunction. I can’t even imagine the strength and determination required of mothers who are dealing with truly life altering circumstances and faced with a lifetime of worry and heartache. I don’t know how they cope, but I’m sure there must be a moment, after rage, and fear, and pity, and tears, when they too look down on their little loved ones and resolve to do whatever becomes necessary to help them through all the challenges in their lives, as they play out the hands they’ve been dealt. I can only pray for them, mother and child alike. May God bless them, and may God keep them, and may God help them find the happiness that is always possible, for all of us, regardless of what challenges we are forced to face.