I mentioned earlier that Briar and I were going to the hospital for blood work, she for routine lead testing at 1 year, me for prenatal blood stuff. I had the sitter give Briar Tylenol ahead of time to deal with the ache she would get in the location of the shot. We weren’t nervous or apprehensive. So far every time Briar has had a shot I have been right there waiting to nurse her after the shot and she’s been fine.
So we got to the lab and went to check in. I had, per the instructions I was given by the pediatrician and my ob-gyn, pre-registered. They had my paperwork no problem. Briar’s they couldn’t find, so we registered her again. I still wasn’t nervous. I figured this is a standard 1 year procedure. They will know how to draw blood from a one year old. All I asked was that I go first so that I could be there to nurse her after the needle stick.
I went in for my stuff and the woman asked if I felt faint. I said no and told her that I just planned to look away. She said great. Then she asked which arm they usually used to draw my blood. I laughed. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have very pronounced veins. I am the dream blood drawing specimen. Either arm I told her.
“Super,” she said followed by what I thought was, “I had a bad stick earlier,” which I thought meant she had seen someone who was not easy to draw from. I think she could have just said, “I am a bad stick.” Because I have a purple bruise the size of a quarter where she drew. Usually, as much as I would like to have some sort of “Ooh, look at this, aren’t I tough?” kind of mark there is not even a discernible red mark. Whatever. It hurt just a bit and I moved on.

Then it was Briar’s turn. A different woman, much younger, came in wearing a scrub top with a children’s motif of some sort. “Oh, she must be the kid tech,” I thought.
“Just set her on the table, sitting up if she wants,” she told us. She kept looking at Briar and I with a pained look. The nurses at the peds office where she goes for well-baby visits always apologize before they do the shots, so I didn’t think anything of this woman’s appearance of nerves as she wrapped the rubber around Briar’s thin little upper arm. She was starting the struggle against me as she made the obvious deduction that something very unfun was coming. Sean and I cooed with our faces next to hers. The nurse made a sort of shaky “ahhh” as she said moved in to administer the needle.

I watched Briar’s face, kissing her cheek, and holding her upper body. After about 20 seconds I turned to look at her arm thinking we must be about through. I didn’t see any blood coming through the needle. Then I realized this woman was probing the inside of Briar’s arm with the needle. “What the hell?” I thought. Sean was seething beside me as he had already figured out that this woman was searching for a vein. After another 15 seconds she pulled the needle out and told me that I had let her move. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe I had done this.

Now hindsight being 20/20 we should have been dubious about the qualifications of this teenage nurse with a wrong side of the tracks look about her. I know that sounds hateful and narrow minded, but you weren’t there to hear Briars panicked and pained screams. Holding her down, having them say that I was letting her move. I had my whole upper body on her. It was horrifying. The nurse couldn’t make eye contact with us and after grabbing a sticker for Briar out of the cabinet she fled the room. Ultimately they sent for a phlebotomist. They gave us warming packs to hold on Briar’s arms for 5 minutes until the tech came. 20 minutes later she came in. She was confused about Briar’s terror.

“Did you guys already try this?” she asked. Damn right they did I thought. Why the hell didn’t they tell her she was coming to see an already distressed baby. She took one look at Briar and said that it wasn’t worth it. Bring her back another time she said. Once somebody has failed in a child’s arm you run the risk of blowing out the vein. The thing is I have been fine with the shots at the doctor, we have pretty mush breezed through them in fact. This was just awful.

As we were waiting and holding the warming packs I had a moment when I hit bottom emotionally thinking of the parents who aren’t going through this once a year for a standard test. The parents and the children who go through this as a routine born from illness. Their everyday reality. I hate what happened, but I am so knee-weakeningly grateful that my child is healthy. I simply cannot fathom the strength and courage it takes for parents to project a calm front to their children as they are subjected to test after test or treatment after treatment. The grace to find a way to accept what they have been given and make the most of it that they can. It is sobering.

I hadn’t meant to go there. This was going to be an entry about our awful experience, but once again, through writing about Briar I am brought to a place with a deeper meaning. However, I am still human, and I don’t know how I am going to get myself to take her back to the lab to try the whole thing again.