I had to bring August to see a doctor on Tuesday last week, a very routine outing that sent my anxiety through the roof. I was anxious because something was wrong- a suspicious rash was spreading quickly over his body- and I was anxious because it meant I would need to navigate a potentially-stressful situation in Portuguese, which I speak only at a basic level. Just calling to make the appointment tightened my stomach into a hard knot, and it was only because the concern I had about August outweighed my fear of calling that I was able to pick up the phone. I stumbled through a conversation with the help of a patient receptionist (I could hear her telling her coworker that an American was on the phone), and at 2pm later that day, I arrived at the clinic with both kids in tow.
Having both August and Oscar with me was not ideal. They have uncanny instincts for exploiting the two-on-one dynamic. Sometimes they run off in different directions. Neither one of them can resist running their hands up and down window blinds and pulling on cords. They have been known to bite in retaliation for whatever havoc one has wreaked on the other. For the waiting room, I came armed with books, a couple of toys, and a few downloaded episodes of Peppa Pig, but I was still anxiety-sweating profusely.
There are many reasons why I should not have been so worked up. Here they are:
- August wasn’t in any kind of emergency situation.
- I was able to pay for the appointment.
- I had all of the documentation I needed for myself and my kid.
- I had been to the clinic and had seen the same doctor once before.
- Said-doctor is super nice.
- Brazilians are so kind, helpful, and patient with children (and their harried parents).
- I actually have been studying and practicing Portuguese with a fair amount of diligence.
But my anxiety has never responded well to logic, and getting through the appointment was hard. It takes all- and I mean ALL- of my concentration to have a conversation with someone in Portuguese. I have not yet achieved the level of language fluency where I can reflexively respond or listen with only one ear. It takes me at least twice as long as a native speaker to put together a response that makes sense. And it is a million times harder when August is, for example, hiding his head under my shirt and squirming his way off of the exam table, and Oscar is stealing pens from the doctor’s desk and trying to make emergency calls from my locked phone. At one point, I had to describe August’s symptoms while simultaneously physically separating him from Oscar, who had enraged August by not letting him crawl up onto the same chair. I stood and held August tightly, bouncing him like an infant while he stretched out his tiny fists of fury towards his brother. I scoured my brain for the right words while he screamed in my ear. Our doctor listened, heroically ignoring the chaos, then gave me instructions about treatment, repeating them slowly so that I would understand. It is to her credit as a professional that the only editorial comments she made about our kids were that they are beautiful.
When we were home for Christmas, I told people that the hardest part of living in Brazil is that most things require a little more effort from us, and some things require a lot more. That doesn’t change the fact that this is the experience we signed up for, or that we really do love living here. It just is what it is. It means that sometimes, after a full day of navigating situations in our nonnative language, we are totally exhausted. Sometimes, after a full day of navigating situations in our nonnative language, we are buzzing with energetic pride.
After herding my children out of the doctor’ office that day, I was worn out, but there was still more to do. We headed to the nearest pharmacy- because I was frazzled, I got lost on the way, even though I’ve been there several times. August had fallen asleep, so I carried his inert body while Oscar walked next to me under his umbrella, which he likes to use when the sun is hot. The pharmacy staff was really helpful, but they didn’t have one of the items we needed. Matt was checking in via text and at one point asked me if I wanted to order pizza and play cribbage that night after the kids went to bed. My brain was so fried that I texted back something like, “Maybe? I’m feeling so stressed. I’ll think about fun things later!” when I could’ve sent, “Yep!” or even just a freaking thumbs-up emoji. Who needs time to think about pizza?!
I decided to try one more pharmacy, close to our house, before calling it a day. We found an easy parking spot, the kids were cooperative, and they had what we needed, but by the time we got home that afternoon, I was beat. After the kids went to bed that night, Matt listened patiently as I verbally processed my feelings. The pizza helped, too, but it honestly took a day or two for my confidence and energy to bounce me back out into the world again. By then, August’s rash started to improve as well.
On Friday, I took the kids to the supermarket with me to pick up a few things, and it was great. They were funny and no one bit each other. I understood the overhead announcement with ease (a sale on salmon!), and I made a joke to the cashier that she laughed at. It went so well I even took them out for lunch, basking in the exaggerated high of a day where everything felt easy.