This week has been rather stressful.
First, the children's hospital called to schedule my older son, Gabe, for a followup endoscopy to see if his esophagus has healed now that he's been on Zantac a while. They got ahold of me Thursday. The procedure was scheduled for Monday at 6:30 AM! Not much warning... though I'll admit we were playing phone tag for two days before that, it is still short notice. Gabe has to have general anesthesia, so I stress out about it. Lots of risks too scary to mention.
But I coped, and rearranged my schedule, and we started into the weekend... only to have both boys come down with fevers over the weekend. So much for the plan! With a fever of 101.4, they didn't even want Gabe NEAR the hospital. Still, despite the juggling of work schedules (splitting days of sick-kid watch between my mom, Will, and me), and the massively disrupted sleep, we were getting along okay. Then Tuesday, Brendan developed croup on top of the fever - his was spiking to 102.5... and he hates the steam-room approach to opening his airways.
The next day, Brendan developed a wet cough on top of the croup, and his fever stopped coming down all the way with the Advil... Time to call the doctor. And time to work through yet another night of wheezing misery from the poor boyo. Fortunately, I'm an old hand at croup - Gabe and Bren both have what is called 'spasmodic croup' - that is, instead of getting it once and being forever immune to it after that, their airways became reactive after the first instance, and go straight to croup whenever they get irritated. Even allergies can kick it off. Gabe used to get it 3-to-4 times a year, and was hospitalized once. I know all about how to handle it, and I know that as miserable as it is for them, and as awful as it sounds, the sounds and the misery are not the keys to how bad it is. The children's hospital gave us a great checklist of points to help diagnose a truly bad case of it, and so far, even the worst we've had has not been life threatening. PHEW!
But the gurgly-wheeze thing that had developed by this morning was really troublesome. In the back of my head, I was wondering if we were moving into pneumonia territory...
Which, indeed, we were. Brendan has pneumonia. Just a touch, and only in one lung. But still not fun, and contagious, too. I'm prone to it myself, so I will have to watch to make sure I don't come down with it, too. Not really a good combination with pregnancy, to put it very mildly.
Stressed? Me? Why would you say so?
It wouldn't have anything to do with the changes in business process at work (which have other friends of mine from other software companies telling me to get out before it is too late...). Or with the huge hairy deadline we have for the training materials I'm developing, on which I am now about 3 days behind due to the minimal hours I've been able to work.
And it would have nothing at all to do with not having felt this baby move in a while. As of the day before yesterday, I figured just about two weeks since I had something I could DEFINITELY say was movement. Now, with both pregnancies that made it to this point before, I could feel movement nearly all day, every day, by now. I know, it is still early... but with the lack of sleep, and the energy devoted to everything else, my defenses slipped and the panic set in. It was just a short burst of panic, but left tracks behind... worry. Real worry, not just fretting.
With everything else, I couldn't stand it. I called my midwives, and asked if I could come in and listen to the heartbeat. Sure! Only, they were leaving for the day in 40 minutes... just barely enough time to get there at that hour, maybe. Instead, I took their alternate offer to move my usual appointment to yesterday. I could wait the day to get there. I felt better knowing I'd done something.
And then I felt like a dunce. I ended up mortified, ashamed of my lack of emotional control. Everything was just FINE, my brain said. Who is it who always tells people that each pregnancy is different? Hmmm? This is just different, it doesn't make it BAD. But my fears wouldn't subside. I still felt like an idiot for being so reactive to my worries. I confessed my feelings of inadequacy to my husband. As usual, he knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. I wasn't foolish or crazy to be scared. No, I had enough reasons to worry, and enough reasons to find out if it was just worry or was something really wrong. If I'd been feeling movement every day, or if I'd felt movement off and on for the last two weeks, and still didn't trust it, then maybe I could call myself nuts, but not until then.
It helped. Didn't make the urge to hide my head now and then go away, but it was better. The fine women on the message boards here also reassured me that I was entitled to a little worry. They reassured me about movement showing up later in different pregnancies, too, but still nobody thought I was a nut. Thanks.
I still kept my appointment. Before I went, though, I was still floundering around for something to make me feel more sane. I ended up flipping through a few of my pregnancy and birth books, and found my way to my copy of Birthing from Within. I love that book.
There, I found comfort, and guidance, and a path forward. In just a few words, not even directed at my situation, I grabbed onto a spiritual and emotional life raft. It was in a section about effective worrying. Worry isn't a bad thing, the author noted. It is all about what you do with it. It was a relief just to read those words. Worry isn't a bad thing.
So, what do I do with this worry? I can respond to it, by changing my appointment to reassure me. Okay, that's done. But I still felt a bit icky about it. Then I began to think about worry, and the nature of my concerns. They were not unfounded, they were real. There was little I could do about the cause - I can't make the baby move more 'loudly' after all. There was little I could do about the risks - I am already eating well, and taking care of myself, and avoiding risk-to-baby behaviors and substances. So, what now?
Now... now, I embrace the worries. They're part of me. They belong here. They tell me that I care. They tell me how important my baby is to me. It hurts to have to include them, but it isn't an agonizing kind of hurt, it is just a sad aching kind of hurt, knowing that I know too much from too many experiences. But I can make room for my worries in my life, and treat them gently, too. They can't make things safe or guaranteed, but they can make sure I am careful enough with things that otherwise might not catch my attention. That's their job. I can honor that.
It took me a little while to get comfortable with them. I'm really still working on it. They jostle my heart at unexpected moments. But I just have to give them a little more room, open up a space that is okay for them to be. No shame, no mortification that they are there. They belong to me, after all. Pushing them away certainly didn't seem to help any, so perhaps embracing them, making them at home, will help.
I'm reminded of an article I read after a friend's husband was diagnosed with cancer. I'd been seeking some way to understand what she was facing, and to know how to respond without causing more pain. On a friends-and-family-of-cancer-patients website, I encountered an article where a man newly diagnosed went to visit a man who was dying of cancer. The man who was terminal was so at peace, so wholly in the world, so vibrant and real, it stunned the author of the article. At one point, he asked the man how he coped with the anger, the rage at the unfairness of his diagnosis and disease. The man had an answer that made me weep with the truth of it. He said that when the anger cries out, it is like a baby. And like a baby, you have to hold it to your heart, and rock it, and love it... and then it will stop crying. Only then will the anger give you peace.
The same is true for the worry. When it cries out, I cannot ignore it. The more I shut my ears to it, the louder it wails. Only when I tuck it tenderly in my arms, hold it to my heart, and welcome it, does it quiet and let me rest.
Brendan has pneumonia, Will is running a fever, and so am I. Work is going to have to wait, and I'll have to find a way to make up for the lost time somewhere.
But I heard the heartbeat, yesterday. The baby is fine. All is well in its insulated watery world.
My worries are still here. But I'll try to remember to welcome them when they start crying, and like I have done countless times with my sons and like I will with this baby once it is born, I will take them in my arms and hold them to me with all my love until their cries quiet to whimpers, and their whimpers fade to peaceful silence once more.