Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Which My Friend is Learning to Live with The Fear

I need to introduce my friend to you my friend Katherine. A couple of months ago, she told me she was going to start writing and I was like - Thank GOD. What took you so long? Then last week, I read this post about how she is learning to live with The Fear and I felt like I needed to share it with you guys. As you know The Fear is something I really, really struggle with. 

I should warn you, your eyeballs might leak a little.

[Editor's Note: If you've been a reader of this blog for a while you've already met her because she is part of The Preschool and The Church which houses The Parking Lot where The Meltdown took place that started Rants from Mommyland.] 
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My oldest boys have vasovagal episodes in response to painful stimuli. In other words, when they get hurt, they lose consciousness.

The boys have different pain thresholds, so this has happened only twice to Bubba but has happened about a dozen times to Froggy. Monkey hasn’t had an episode but is only just now about the age at which this first happened to his brothers.

At age six, Froggy has lost consciousness so many times that he can often anticipate when it’s going to happen. He tells me “the floor feels fuzzy.” I’ve been working with him to lie down wherever he is when this feeling comes over him, but he has yet to remember on his own, so I will either call to him to lie down when I’m suspicious he’s hurt badly enough to pass out or, if he’s close enough, scoop him up and lay him on my lap, feet elevated.

Froggy has lost consciousness eight times, give or take, in my arms.

I have watched his eyes roll back in his head, his body stiffen and convulse, and foam seep from his lips. I have held him while he holds his breath and then gasps for air, as his bladder and bowels relax and release. I have hugged him when he wakes up confused, panicked, wild-eyed, afraid, dazed.

On the outside, I suspect I appear calm. Even though I know Froggy can’t hear me, I soothe him with reminders. “Mommy’s here. I have you. Breathe, Froggy. Breathe. Wake up for me. Breathe. I’ve got you.” I hold him gently, remembering not to cling too tightly. I tell bystanders who’ve never witnessed this before, “It’s okay. He passes out when he’s in pain. He’ll be fine.” I must be convincing because the last time this happened, the other moms on the playground just went about their business, rarely even glancing back to see what was happening.

But the truth is, in those terrifying moments, I’m barely holding it together.

What if all the doctors are wrong and this isn’t benign? What if this episode is different from all the others before when he was just fine? What if he doesn’t gasp for breath this time? What if he doesn’t regain consciousness? What if he hurt himself too badly this time?

What if, at this very moment, I’m holding my son as he dies?

This is why, no matter how many times Froggy loses consciousness in my arms, it will never get easier. Because each and every time, I am confronted headlong with The Fear.

Usually, when we’re going about our day-to-day business, I can easily hold The Fear at bay. I don’t think about The Fear when I’m watching the boys play soccer or when we’re chatting about our days over dinner or when I’m folding laundry or when I’m mediating another disagreement. But sometimes The Fear creeps in: When the boys are sick and I can’t do anything to make them better. When, in the still of the night, I kiss them goodnight and marvel at my good fortune to be their mother and feel my heart race with the possibility that one day I might look back on The Fear and wonder if it was really a premonition.

When I’m holding my baby and it appears to all the outside world like his life is slipping away.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier if I didn’t love them so completely.

But I do. And because I do, the only response that makes any sense to me is to lean in. Lean into the love. Lean into The Fear.

When Bubba first lost consciousness, I had no idea that the boys had this condition, that it was normal, that I had the same condition. (Boy, did that realization explain a lot about my medical history.) So when my father yelled inside to call 911 because Corbin had hit his head and wasn’t breathing, I fell apart. I dialed 911, handed the phone to my stepmother, ran into the other room screaming, and crumbled, weeping, onto the floor. It wasn’t until my sister took me by the shoulders and firmly told me, “Bubba needs you. He needs his mother. Go to him.” that I came to my senses. (Yes, it was just as Lifetime movie-like as it sounds.)

Leaning in means that I now run to my boys when they’re hurt, even when I know they’re hurt badly enough that I will hold them while they slip out of consciousness and panic will grip me and The Fear will take hold. Leaning in means that when they wake up, the first thing they will see is their mother’s face, and they will know that I am always with them when they need me the most.

Leaning in means knowing that if The Fear becomes a reality the last thing my boys will know in this world is their mother’s touch and remembering that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Leaning in is remembering that I never make good parenting choices when guided by fear. Leaning in means letting my boys decide when they’re ready to hop back on the monkey bars. Even if it’s just five minutes later. Leaning in means remembering that roughhousing and running and climbing and pushing limits and experiencing freedom are good and necessary for my boys.

Leaning in is giving myself over to loving them fiercely and completely, knowing that however long their lives are, this is the kind of mother I want to be and this is the kind of love my boys deserve to know.  Leaning in means tearing down any barriers I have feebly erected in an attempt to protect my fragile heart. Leaning into The Fear, sometimes, looks a lot like letting go.

This post originally appeared on the blog Muddled Joy. You can also follow Katherine on Facebook right here.


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23 comments:

  1. I shouldn't be crying this hard, this early in the morning. Oh.my.God! I cannot imagine going through this with either of my boys. I have The Fear of something (anything) harming them, and one has been in the hospital twice, but to live with this? Wow. Just wow. Thank you for wiring so beautifully about this, even though such obvious pain. Thank you for loving those boys as fiercely as you do. There's not enough of that in the world.

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  2. Hey, yeah, so glad I put on makeup this morning. Because now it is running down my face. So, um, thanks. Seriously, though, Katherine you are amazing.

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    1. Froggy threw chicken at me tonight and told me how mean I was for providing a consequence because IT WAS ONLY ONE PIECE OF CHICKEN. I just want to make sure I'm providing more balanced view of my life. ;)

      (And if this is a duplicate post, I apologize. I'm experiencing some technical difficulties here.)

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  3. That sounds completely terrifying. God gave those boys to the exact right mom--YOU. Somehow you make leaning in sound logical when it must be the most emotionally draining philosophy to carry out in the world. Carry on brave mama and know that we are all right behind you. Well, behind your monitor anyway. And yes, bad Lydia for the leaky eyes and emotions before coffee.

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  4. My son has also passed out, several times. He has neurocardiogenic syncope, which in the simplest explanation is that his brain and heart are fine individually, but sometimes miscommunicate and he will lose conciseness (most common example of this issue is when you stand up fast & feel light headed). It just so happens, have never been present for this. And I feel horrible about it. For all of the reasons you state. I feel horrible that I am not there for him, to comfort him, to tell him it's going to be ok, and just in case it is not ok. I am thankful it doesn't happen often. I can imagine what you are going through and I am so very very sorry, but your boys are very lucky to have you!

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    1. Same thing, different name. :) I haven't been there for every incident either, but YOU ARE THERE in so many ways.

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  5. This is a beautiful post. I'm sorry you and your sons have to go through this from reading this post, I know that you are a strong mother and your sons are very blessed to have you. Keep shining!

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  6. I can't even begin to imagine having my children lose consciousness in my arms, but I totally get what you're saying about living with The Fear. I have a daughter with food allergies that could kill her and a son on the autism spectrum who is so socially vulnerable that even though he's 10, it still breaks a little bit of my heart each and every day I send him off to school. For me, parenting feels like it is almost entirely about keeping The Fear at bay. Figuring out how to keep them safe while also trying not to over-protect, over-parent or over-shadow has been the biggest challeng. Keep leaning (and thanks for the great metaphor)!!

    (I haven't managed to write about The Fear nearly as well, but here's a story about a fender bender on the first day of school: http://www.momintwocultures.com/2014/08/fender-bender.html )

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    1. Keep loving those babies well, Mom on the Edge! Thank you for reading.

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  7. God gave you these children and He loves them even more than you do. The Bible says we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. So keep trusting God to take care of them. Praying (a lot) helps!!

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    1. Isn't it hard to believe that anyone could love them MORE (wow!), but yes. :)

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  8. That, even as a non-mother, was a really powerful read. Thank you for sharing!

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  9. Thank you for this. I don't want to let go, but I can lean in!

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  10. Wow, that's beautiful. They sound like terrifying incidents though. I had The Fear the deepest when my baby was four months old and there was the chance he had a brain tumor. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing, but the lack of knowing was hell.

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    1. Oh, goodness, was that the biggest exhale EVER? So very glad for your good news.

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  11. This is so spot-on.
    I haven't experienced this type of exact fear - experiencing it multiple times every day - but as a mom, I think we all experience The Fear in some way. We know of a friend who lost a child to cancer or have a coworker that gave birth to a stillborn baby or we hear stories on TV about child abductions. It's in those moments that I say a little prayer of thanks that my kids are healthy and here on this earth right now with me. I can't even imagine what those other mothers are going through...

    I have a worst case scenario problem, especially when it comes to medical stuff (thanks nursing degree) and I always go there. Always. I think it is my way of mentally saying "what is the worst thing that can happen?" and then realizing I will have to deal with whatever comes my way whether I worry about it or not.

    Kudos to you for letting your boys live the lives normal little boys should live. They have an awesome mother.

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  12. When my oldest son was 2 years old he was playing with his cousin in another bedroom in my mother-in-law's house. I heard a call, and went, and found my son on the floor, looking a bit dazed. I picked him up, and as I did, he lost consciousness and went a funny colour. He stopped breathing. It didn't feel real, I didn't know what to do, and I just held him and started running for the door because there is a medical center about a five minute walk from my mother in law's place. As we were running down the stairs I breathed into his mouth a couple times - not doing it properly, just breathing, and he started breathing again. By the time we were on the way to the medical center, in the car, he was asking me what had happened. We stayed at the center for a while and they checked him out but could find nothing wrong. My husband came back from where he'd been and came to meet us, and in the end they took us to the hospital so our son could be under observation. Once we got to the hospital, I just collapsed. He was fine but I couldn't stop crying. Those were the worst few minutes of my life. They never did work out what happened exactly - could be he banged his head when he fell off the bed - and he's fine and it has never happened again, and he's six now. But I'll never forget that terror. And on a different but related note... we live in Jerusalem. I live the fear every single day. I lived it this past summer when I had to try and keep my son calm as he asked me why people hate us so much that they are trying to drop rockets on us. I live it now when I know that anyone could decide to just run us over as we walk down the road or wait for a bus. And I live it looking at my six year old and my 22 month old and know that one day they will have to be soldiers. Our children have our hearts. I lean in, but it's so, so hard to face all that might happen to them.

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  13. Now I have a younger brother (by 13 years) and I'm sometimes more of a parental figure than a brother due to the age difference. I totally understand what you're saying about this; it's so weird now. However, I have a theory for this.
    I make different theories about different video game plots, and some games are like this: what if all of "Dora the Explorer" took place in her mind and her backyard? She just had a hyperactive imagination and she's just playing with imaginary friends because she lives alone, away from other children and just with her parents. She either doesn't live near a lot of people or she isn't allowed out of her backyard much, so she creates this always changing world of troll bridges and mountains and almost hundreds of other land marks, always in a straight line from her path.
    You either love me or hate me now. :3 Either way, the show is an education and fun show for kids that focuses more on problem-solving ans social aspects, which I don't mind because shows like Team Umizoomi and Bubble Guppies exist that teach about the maths and sciences and common/specific knowledge about certain subjects, respectively.

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