Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shaking Fear by the Shoulders

And there was this, too.

After Liam lived, and he was curled naked next to my naked body under a heat lamp in the postpartum room, I let go of so much of my fear for a time. He had lived, he had survived the cord, and the confines of my womb, and he was out in the air where I could see and watch him and help him to keep on living. For four days we lay in bliss in hospital, watched over by a team of loving and caring nurses, peeked in upon by our sensitive pediatrician, with food delivered at regular intervals, sheets changed each morning, and visitors with gifts and tears and cards all day long.

He was very jaundiced, my Liam, and they couldn't get the numbers down to a good place. Most babies are taken from their mamas, and put in light-beds with teeny-tiny sunglasses so they can soak up the rays that will help them to break down their excess bilirubin. Without so much as a word, or a conversation, my pediatrician knew that this would never fly for me to let my child leave my side, and so he arranged for an alternative situation. We would be discharged, and that afternoon a truck from the big hospital down in Springfield would arrive with a teeny-tiny "bili-vest" for our little tiny boy to wear. It would wrap around his tummy and light him up like a glow-worm, and would serve the same purpose as the light bed, only we could hold him and sleep with him while he wore it. The arrangement was perfect. We signed the papers, and went home.

And home we were, no longer watched, no longer monitored. The bili-vest arrived, and we lit up our newborn son so adorably in an eerie-ghostly blue colour, and tried to sleep. The light was warm, almost hot, and I couldn't decide how to dress or blanket him. Too cool? Very dangerous for a newborn. Too hot? Very dangerous for a newborn. My heart began to beat a little faster. Perhaps I could dress him cool-ish and tuck him very close in beside me? But oh, day 4 post c-section and night 4 of nursing all night long, I was so exhausted. Very dangerous for a newborn. What is a mother to do?

Then I noticed it, or heard it, rather, this strange breathing thing he was doing. He would take a breath, and let it out. Then a pause, a rather long one, and then several quick breaths, and another pause. I sat up, straight, and began to listen more intently. It continued, with alarmingly long pauses.

Suddenly it occurred to me. He wasn't safe! He still might die! Maybe he had some kind of heart, or respiratory problem that hadn't been detected. Maybe he was overheating from this bili-vest. Maybe his lungs were not ready and his blood-ox was dropping and oh, my, oh my. I started to cry, very hard, and Greg could not quite figure out why I was so hysterical and really it was not even that I was so worried about him right then, which of course I was, but it was just that I had just realized that now I would have to worry this hard forever, that I would always be a mother who would KNOW what it felt like to have a child die, and so would fear that loss in such a real way.

Most people are lucky enough to fear the unknown, but I was fearing what I already knew and could never survive again. But, back to the breathing situation which was nearly paralyzing me for the time being, of course I called the pediatrician right away, and he assured me that this is what newborns do, it's how they breathe because they just aren't that good at it yet, it even has a name: newborn periodic breathing. And so I was comforted a little bit for that event, but it stuck with me for a while, this realization. I wished so much that I didn't have to know what I was afraid of.

This was, of course, before I decided to let fear go, and live for the day. There were even days when I would look at him and say, oh, my, if today was his last I would feel so fulfilled, I have had so much love with him, so much more than I had with her. But I have found that I have become greedier and greedier for time as the years have passed, and I no longer feel that there would be much sense of fulfillment if this was all I got. I want a lifetime out of this one. (and Aoife, too!) But I do live for the day, I live so freely and happily where I am, and this is a much easier way to live, but can only come after living for a while with the fear.

How could it be any other way?


ezra'smommy said...

Oh Carol, you write so beautifully. I hope to know what you know one day.

Meg said...

Carol, I had a scary pregnancy with my first daughter. I was at risk for pre-term labor and had weird heart things happening and needed a c-section and had to spend a night in the ICU and had to be put under for my c-section. And then, after all that, when she was born, I was so much more scared! I was shocked because I thought the fear would end when she was born. Only, it was much worse! I can understand what you're writng here so well. And, as always, it's beautiful writing!! I'm so glad you were so well cared for after Liam was born and they were so gentle with you. It's what you work so hard for with your work. The best experience that can happen for EVERY mother!

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

This is so beautiful, Carol. Thank you.

Amy said...

Fear, he is a difficult one to shake, to turn away from and let go. Your are inspiring in your willingness to live for the day. I do hold this motto close to my heart, and try each day to live in the moment.

You write so beautifully, transporting me into the room you describe, as if I am watching the events unfold.

rebeccaeee said...

When my son gets sick (as he often does with asthma), I stop eating. He had a bout this weekend and my husband noticed I had skipped dinner and I told him maybe this was why I lost so much weight in our son's first year- I was too worried about keeping him alive to bother to eat. I am reminded that some things about motherhood are almost universal, such as fear. Everyone's is different, sure, but it's there, lurking. All the time. I figure its the price we pay for the gift of motherhood.

Dalene said...

If I get to take this growing baby home, I anticipate this feeling--the fear of the known. I hope that I am able to get to a place of peace where the fear is not overwhelming.

Delia said...

So lovely! Thank you for sharing!!

Ya Chun said...

People can boast all they want about being 'fearless', but unless they know, really know, what it is to experience what they are 'not fearing', I don't think they can really say they are fearless. More like clueless.