When life gives you the Heisman

I'm talking about the trophy. The stiff-arm pose of the man ON the trophy — in your face.

It happened to me recently. I woke up, just after falling asleep, with a searing pain in my chest. 

In my stupor, I thought it was indigestion — I had eaten a big pizza and drank a cider with dinner — so I took antacids and tried to go back to sleep. 

This was after several days of my youngest child waking every 45 minutes. So as the minutes ticked by, I became too frantic to sleep: I’m already so overtired, and I know he’ll be waking any moment; my GOD will I ever sleep again?

Problem was, the pain was coming in waves. I thought: Am I imagining it or is it getting more intense? Do I go to the ER? I was pretty sure I wasn’t dying, so I thought I’d better wait. 

Then at 4 a.m., after not sleeping a wink for six straight hours, I mentally slapped myself: Katie. This is not normal. Would you please take care of yourself? 

Long story short, by 6:30 a.m. I knew that I had a major gall bladder problem and I was probably having surgery that day. 

Literally my first two thoughts were: 

1: Is there any way to put this surgery off until January because this will probably clear both my deductible AND my out-of-pocket max and it’s almost October?

2: Oh god, I hope there are clean socks for the boys in the laundry basket, and that William has school and daycare drop-offs handled. Also, who is going to do all of the things while I’m in surgery and recovering? 

Answers were 1:. No, and 2: Of course, he had it handled; and of course it all got figured out. 

I cried when the anesthesiologist came to explain everything to me. By then, my brain had turned into a big blinking red light, worrying about whether my kids were worrying and worrying about me worrying about, you know, complications

I’m still in the midst of recovery as I write this from my couch. I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the love and care my little family was shown while we were caught in the tempest. 

A tray full of yummy desserts, soup deliveries, drop-offs and pickups and babysitting, funny texts, grocery deliveries, ready-made dinners, extra free medical advice, all of it. 

We got so many offers of help that we didn’t even need it all. 

Even the kids pitched in, being good sports by rolling with the changes, fetching me things, being more willing to pick up around the house. 

I don’t know why, but it’s so hard to accept help, even when life sticks out its Heisman hand and knocks you flat on your butt. But I’ll tell you it was really an exercise in reflecting on how much I do every day, especially when I’ve been battling nagging failing feelings. 

At no other time has it come into such sharp relief as when I asked for, or accepted, all of that help. I’m not a religious person, but Anne Lamott, my patron saint of writing, says there are three essential words to prayer: Help. Thanks. Wow. 

Reading those words, distilled down so simply, it almost overwhelms me with gratitude. 

To all of you who help me do what I do every day, and did what I couldn’t every day for the past three weeks, I’ll add one word since I hope I’m done asking for help: Love. Thanks. Wow.


Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a full-house renovation in West St. Paul with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at instagram.com/dohmicile.