60% water, 40% fear

Both of my children are asleep right now: Bram in our bed and Lou on my chest. This won’t last, and even this is a victory, Louis just making his way to the other side of a virus so awful that our medical community suspected meningitis (landing us in the hospital four times in three days). I may only have minutes to write, but I wanted to set my voice to this page by way of constructing an anchor. Because I feel adrift. Exhausted. Adrift. And most of all, scared.

Bram was sick last week, so it’s coming up on a two weeks of pretty non-stop care for this mama. I had to teach two nights ago (taking me away from them for the first time in a week), and I stopped by the supermarket for some sushi on the way to campus. Near the sushi counter, I saw bunches of cut flowers set in buckets of water, and I burst into tears thinking about buying them for myself. I don’t even particularly love cut flowers. And I was on my way to class in an early snowstorm: what on earth would I have done with them? But I wanted to buy them for myself as a form of self-care. I bought sushi and iced tea instead.

It’s been such an anxious couple of weeks. I found two articles indicating the possibility that the bump on my forehead could be something scary, and my fears went through the roof. There are dozens of articles about benign and superficial growths, but of course I can only think about the other two. I have a CT scheduled for Monday. I think my NP ordered it more to treat my anxieties than to really look for brain tumors, but I’m scared. And then B got sick, and what we suspect is pediatric asthma (reactive airway) got frighteningly bad. He has a nebulizer [sans steriods] now. My little not-yet-three-year-old. And then Lou’s fontanelle started to bulge and his fever skyrocketed and we found ourselves singing to his tiny self while they ran test after test. He, I am thrilled to say, has a just-plain cold.

Whenever we hit health scares, I think about the people in my life whose babies are medically fragile. Or the people who are sick enough that their ability to parent is compromised. Friends for whom the adrenal-gland-roller-coaster of sick children or sick selves or sick partners is just normal. I think that their emotional suffering is pretty invisible, and that makes me sad. I want to do a better job of holding space with them. It’s just so hard to get past the (narcissistic) fear of losing everything myself. There is so much on the line with these babies: that they are okay. That we are here and strong enough to care for them. The stakes are impossibly high. Sometimes the fear becomes terror.

But terror creates all these reactions in the body: racing heart, shallow breath, narrow vision. Terror makes it impossible to notice how pretty this first snowfall is, or that Lou has started making “m” sounds. I mean, that’s the point of terror, right? To take us out of our lives? To rob us of all good things?

Fear is my Achilles heel. Bringing terror to myself. It is the thing that robs me of gratitude and presence of mind and joy. Of kindness. Of bravery. Of every single thing that I value.

I want to invite what is true, instead of fearing it.

I want to trust my body. To finally believe that I’m not sickly. That making a baby without feet isn’t some portend of coming disaster.

I want to teach my babies how to trust their bodies too, and to hang onto serenity even when things feel precarious.

I am trying. I’m just so tired. My defenses are down.

My CT is Monday morning. I want to spend the weekend trusting that it will likely turn up no abnormalities. I want not to go down the rabbit hole a million times between now and then: not to imagine them calling me back with bad news, not to play out the script of my body failing again and again. But it’s hard even to type that. It’s almost impossible to imagine that a scan of my brain could be normal. Just like it was hard to imagine that hyperthyroidism wouldn’t kill me after EE died. And hard to imagine that an airplane carrying my family will stay in the air. And hard to imagine that the ovarian cyst I had a while back wasn’t cancer.

I want to sit here wearing my healthy, sleeping baby, watching the snow that’s falling silently outside, sipping a cup of coffee. I want to smile for all I have instead of being so afraid of losing it. Because what I have is too sweet for so much fear.

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5 thoughts on “60% water, 40% fear

  1. Health scares are just.plain.scary. No matter how well it turns out, no matter how silly you feel after when it’s all right. Just plain scary. I had my own health scare just last week and it was agony. I am perfectly fine, of course, but after the super stressful and shitty semester I have had, I didn’t need it.

    If you want a Skype date before your appt. for moral support, I’d be happy to provide. I am out of town now at a conference, but will be back tomorrow night. Love to you and J and the sweet G boys.

  2. Hi internet friend. You’re doing a lot of fighting of the fear. Maybe just sit in it for awhile. Fifteen minutes, an hour, whatever. Let yourself feel it instead of telling yourself you shouldn’t. Soak it in. Feel it. Process it. Maybe then it will pass. Hopefully you won’t have to spend all weekend fighting it off and telling yourself what you shouldn’t feel. It’s ok to be afraid. Peace be with you!

    • This post is AMAZING. I can literally not even tell you how much it has meant to me. Thank you for taking the time. I’m sorry to hear you’re grappling with fear too.

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