There’s a children’s song I used to sing when I worked at a summer camp about a bear hunt. At several points in the hunt you reach an obstacle and when you get to it, you chant, “Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it.” and then you tread through whatever imaginary peril lies ahead. It’s always great fun for the kids to chant along as a little echo and to victoriously traverse the pretend obstacle. The song is in my head lately and the bear I’m hunting is every bit as imaginary as the one my campers hunted all those summers.
Things have gotten easier in the past week. Life has returned to a beautiful version of normal. Eli hasn’t vomited in almost a week. He has been off all pain medicine for several days and is doing really, really well. And much of the time, I have been doing well also. But it’s been fake.
I’ve been trying to squirm away from the anxiety that’s regrowing. I’ve been trying to go over and under it. Finding ways to pretend like it’s not an issue, shoving it aside constantly. Never going through it. Going through means facing it, means saying words out loud that seem to flow easily from my fingers, a story that I can tell here with little trouble, but which can only be told aloud with tears. And a racing heart. And nausea. And I think I’ve assumed that if I can just tuck away this anxiety, if I can just go around it, that eventually it will go away.
Last night, shortly after going to bed, Eli fell backwards off the floor bed (another post coming soon). He was literally 6 inches from the floor, which was a nice padded carpet. But I saw it on the monitor and heard the thunk from downstairs. He cried immediately and I ran, climbing stairs 2 at a time, to get him. He was fine within seconds of me cuddling him, but I was not.
I felt sick. And shaky and horrible. That sound, the one from the hotel room, I heard it all over again. I saw the whole thing happen again. The images I had managed to put out of my head all came rushing back. I thought I would be sick as the fear I had been going over and under suddenly overtook me.
The anxiety is coming out in other ways too. Eli has decided that he would like to exclusively sleep on his stomach, which I know is fine at this age, but the first night in the new bed, I was awake for 2.5 hours, watching him breathe. I went in his room and checked on him 7 times when I thought I couldn’t see his back rise and fall anymore. It’s a miracle that he didn’t wake up. And then this morning when I woke up and it was 7:30 and Eli was still asleep, on his tummy in the same position he was in when I woke up at 4:30, I ran, literally ran, into his room, assuming I’d find my child lifeless. Instead I found him pretty confused and groggy with some fairly excellent bed head.
I feel so frustrated and sad, all at once. I worked through so much of this in therapy. I was happy again. I was relaxed and easygoing and confident. I was enjoying the hell out of motherhood. And now I feel it’s falling apart. Whenever I get too happy or start to feel normal again, I hear this screaming chorus of what ifs crescendo in the background. My blood pressure rises, my pulse quickens, my stomach clenches.
I think that Eli’s accident reminded me that though the risk of something happening to my child is low, it’s not nothing. He got injured in a way that a tiny percentage of kids get injured. We defied odds in the worst way, and I think I’m newly afraid and newly aware that we could do that again, at any moment. Newly aware that bad things don’t just happen to other people.
As much as I’ve tried to shove the fear aside and wait for it to subside, I’m realizing more and more each day that it’s not working. That if anything, it’s growing and accelerating. It’s infiltrating the happy moments like weeds in a garden, and I can’t let that happen again. I have to do something because I don’t want to feel this way again.
All this is to say I have a therapy appointment on Wednesday that I am both looking forward to in a huge way and am also dreading more than almost anything.
Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it.