Friday, October 29, 2010

Where's the manual?

I went to school to become a writer.

While at Murray State, I worked at the college newspaper, learned about AP Style, realized there are preferred mechanics to best tell someone's story, learned about governments and how to request public records, wrote stories I loved and stories I hated, realized communication didn't always fit in a box but was necessary for every professional and personal relationship I had, took both creative and technical writing classes that were considered electives for my print journalism major, and left there wanting to be a writer, for real.

Since then, I have worked as an intern at one of my favorite daily newspapers, as a temporary editorial assistant at a major news agency, as an education reporter at a small-town daily, and as a reporter who covered police, courts, my alma mater, city government, the public hospital and whatever else came across my desk in this town that I have called home for seven years. Those seven years don't count my four college years that I enjoyed but was ready to move on from, swearing to myself and others that I'd never live here.

Never say never. I married my college sweetheart who is from this town. And now it's our town.

And I have no complaints about that.

But there are days I wish I had a manual for my new profession. Motherhood.

My 3-year-old daughter has had a sore beside her mouth all week. I wondered about it, sometimes even aloud to my husband: "I wonder what this is on her mouth." But I just assumed it was some sore she picked at. But it wasn't going away.

So I asked my mother-in-law at dinner last night what she thought it was. "Impetigo," she said. Thanks to my iPhone, I was only clueless for a few moments. I read about it, and then I felt bad I sent her to preschool as usual three days this week and I hadn't taken her to the doctor.

We went on about our evening, which included the annual kick-off to Murray State basketball season. The enthusiasm was Fan Jam was lessened with my mom guilt about my daughter possibly having an infectious sore. My friend Courtney, who happens to have a nursing degree, also said impetigo after a quick look. Then my own doctor happened to be sitting behind us at the basketball party, so I asked her. "I think it looks like impetigo," the internist said.

Three of the same diagnosis with no prompting from me about what the others said. So I called our pediatrician's office this morning. So much for our orchard/pumpkin patch trip we had planned. Instead this mini van headed to the pediatrician, where I learned that strep throat can cause impetigo. Yep. The story continues ... Cate and Ben both tested positive for strep throat. [Ben, who is 11 months, was only with me because we made the appointment on short notice this morning and I didn't really have any easy, quick childcare alternatives.] Other than her sore, neither of them have exhibited any symptoms of anything being wrong.

So we left the doctor's office armed with popsicles, stickers and Amoxicillin prescriptions. And after 24 hours of the pink medicine my kids seem to enjoy, my family will stop unintentionally infecting people.

My husband reminded me that I have a bachelor's degree in journalism. Not any medical degree. Heck, the only science I took in college was "Chemistry for Non-Science Majors," my choice because I liked math and figured I could plug numbers into formulas and survive. Yet I still find myself feeling bad that I hadn't taken Cate to the doctor sooner.

I'm still a writer. But I'm a mom first, and not much is black and white in parenthood, even with a college degree. So I guess I'll just write about it.

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