Self-Care: Finding Self Care Wherever You Can

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
09/13/22  10:25 AM PST

Never Underestimate the Power of a Cinnamon Roll

On a sweltering morning in June less than two weeks after graduating college, I found myself alone, sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor of my 800-foot studio apartment in Manhattan surrounded by the bric-a-brac of Ikea furniture parts. I had one thousand Allen wrenches and no one to help me turn them.

That morning, I did not know yet if I had gotten the job at the publishing company interviewed for in Chelsea. I hadn’t opened a bank account. I didn’t even know where to shop for groceries. My mom had departed early that morning to fly home to Nashville. That was still “home” and this place, with the finicky windows and rusted fire escape was most definitely not. My stomach grumbled. I shoved the furniture debris aside and grabbed my one unpacked plate and the only food I had in my tiny kitchenette – a cinnamon roll from my favorite bakery back in Nashville. The smell hit me as I unwrapped the cellophane: brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon chips they load in between swirls so that each bite is both crunchy and doughy. My body eased as I took a bite. The tension of the last few weeks (who were we kidding, the last few years) eked out for just a moment while I let myself enjoy this taste of home.

As it turned out, my love of literature did not translate into my love of the publishing industry. I would only last a year in that tiny apartment. Many things changed, but the cinnamon rolls did not. I had them shipped monthly, and they carried me through a turbulent and often lonely year as my career changed and my priorities shifted.

When I moved back to Nashville to start graduate school to become a teacher after realizing the publishing industry was not for me, I was a mere five-minute drive from the bakery, but I rarely visited. I was doing what I loved in a place I loved with friends and dates and all the things that fill a life. I didn’t need the gooey consolation quite as much.

It wasn’t until my son Charlie was born that I found myself once again circling back to the close comfort of the bakery. He came three months early. His birth was traumatic. He was diagnosed with a rare syndrome and was not thriving in the NICU. This wasn’t “grow and gain” as they like to say of the little ones who are early but stable and simply need to gain weight. This was life or death. Every day was full of alarms and experimental procedures to figure out what would allow Charlie to breathe on his own and begin to thrive. I spent all my waking hours at the hospital. One day as I sat crouched in the plastic recliner next to his oxygen monitor, the head of neonatology asked me to accompany him to the cafeteria. We needed to talk next steps. Dr. Shenai had wrinkles from smiling and was never in a hurry. If I was ever going to brave this conversation, it would be with him.

So, we went to the cafeteria. It was early still, but a hospital is a weird time warp where nurses change shift at seven and parents wander down from the floors above in search of coffee in their pajamas at all hours. The Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Ben & Jerry’s still had their countered shuttered. But Dr. Shenai knew where he was going. He steered us toward Suzy’s – the coffee shop/deli favored by all the medical professionals. While he ordered a giant mocha Frappuccino with extra whip, I perused the baked goods. I didn’t have much of an appetite in those days. Seeing your kid in pain can do that to you. Nothing looked good. It was all too sweet, too much, too cheery for this setting under the neon lights. And then, in a basket by the register, I found them – my cinnamon rolls. Apparently on Thursdays, Suzy’s got a special delivery from my favorite bakery. And so, there they were, in this hospital on this day, waiting for me.

We found a quiet table by the window. Dr. Shenai folded his hands around his cup like a prayer and began to talk about Charlie’s stats, his oxygen, his heart rate, what was keeping him from getting out of this place, and while he talked, I unwrapped the cellophane on my cinnamon roll. My stomach and my mind settled as he spoke of a future for Charlie outside of the hospital. I ate and listened and after talking with my spouse that evening, we made a decision to allow Charlie to get a tracheotomy. He came home one month later.

Charlie is ten now. With three kids and a fulltime job as a writer, I don’t find myself downtown much these days. But last week I visited my local independent bookstore to sign books and say hi to the people who love words as much as me. That bookstore just so happens to share a sidewalk with the bakery. It was a Wednesday. They don’t make cinnamon rolls on Wednesdays. That’s okay. I bought a muffin. At this time in my life, I don’t need them as I once had. But I like knowing that in case of emergency, or grief, or panic, or loneliness, they are there, whenever I might need them again.


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.
Author of the middle-grade novels:


















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