Anxiousness during hardship, and how anxiety makes hardships even more challenging. Sometimes it is okay to not be okay.
This past week was the most terrifying week of my entire life. This past week I was in a heightened state of stress and consumed with fear for my daughter, Eleanor. Eleanor “Elle” had pneumonia, a fever of 105 (with Tylenol and Motrin), was severely dehydrated (even after trying all day to hydrate her using water, juice, milk, sprite, popsicles, ice cubes, sippy cups, bottles, syringes…you name it we tried it), and she started to have a very hard time breathing. This week was so challenging to me emotionally, mentally, and even physically. I am the mommy to this sweet, precious, God given gift, and I couldn’t fix her and I felt out of control.
I remember dialing my phone calling the ER at 9:00 PM last Thursday night with panic in my heart that there was something very wrong with my baby. I had second guessed myself all day long with whether I needed to take her in to the hospital or not. Let me pause right here to say to all you parents out there…LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. I won’t ever second guess myself again. I will always ere on the side of caution when my gut says to take Elle to get help. I want to also say here that every single person will experience anxiety and stress in the sort of situation I found myself in, however, I do feel it is worse when it is someone already suffering from anxiety.
The whole day leading up to this terrifing call, I stressed because I didn’t have the answers in regards to what I was supposed to do. My mind went crazy with the worst possible scenarios while I tried to stay calm and find a solution to my baby’s problems. Did I need to take her in to the doctor? Did I need to take her back to the ER? I called her doctors office and they told me to watch her close, because she was borderline needing to go in for fluids and help. I asked myself a hundred different ways: How do you get a baby to drink fluids when she doesn't want too? How do you know what is wrong with her when she can’t tell you? How do you tell her you need her to try to take the medicine even though she doesn't want to? You can’t. You can't communicate these things, because she can’t understand you or talk back.
Thursday night around 8:55 PM I had just got off the phone with my husband who would be home in five minutes to help me take Elle in if we had too. Five minutes later I was no longer able to wait for Chris to get home before I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency that I needed to call the Emergency Room right then. Since we had taken Elle into the Emergency Room the day before, I hoped they could advise me on what I needed to do, and if they thought Elle needed to come back in.
When Chris walked in the house, I was already on the phone with a nurse from the day before who saw us in the Emergency Room. I explained to her that Elle was dehydrated and right at the bare minimum of wet diapers for the day, and I told her that she was refusing to drink anything even from a syringe. I went through the questions she asked letting her know that she still had a fever and diarrhea. I told her she was asleep in my arms, but the way she was breathing was worrisome, especially considering she had just had a breathing treatment. I told her I didn’t know if it was the pneumonia, or if it was something else. I asked her what she felt I should do.
As I spoke to the nurse I said, “I don’t want to over react, but my gut told me to call, and I just need to know what to do. Do you think I should bring her back in to you guys?” Instead of answering me, she told me to be quiet. Startled by her abruptness I stopped talking at once.
The nurse asked me, “Is that your daughter breathing in the background?”
I said, “Yes ma’am, it is.”
The nurse then told me something I was not expecting to hear.
The nurse said, “I don’t mean to panic you, but I can have an ambulance to your location and have her in the hospital in 40 minutes time, or you can get her here in that amount of time. I want you to stay calm and stay on the phone with me while you make the decision. What do you want to do?”
Stay calm, I thought to myself. In that moment I felt there was no way I could do that.
I found my voice and responded to the nurse, “What? Is she going to be okay? She is going to be okay, right? It’s that bad already? Please tell me she will be okay? I will be there in 40 minutes, please be ready for us.”
Every single part of my body and soul panicked. It was a God send that Chris was home, so I had someone to help share the responsibility of getting our baby to the hospital. At this point, we are both staring wide eyed at each other in complete shock and fear. I jumped out of bed and I threw on pants. I grabbed my old beat up glasses from high school, because they were the first thing my hands found to put on my face to help me see. I scooped Elle up and loaded us in the truck, and we are gone.
As we are driving down the road, I started shaking from head to toe and my teeth started chattering. I was in shock at the words the nurse had said. I was in shock that my baby was this sick. I was in shock that I was thrown into a life or death situation with my baby… my baby! I thought to myself, not my baby. God, please see us through this. You better keep her alive and healthy, she’s the most important thing I have in this entire world… she is my every thing. You can’t have given me someone this perfect to then take her away.
This was the longest 30 minute drive of my life, and I was beyond grateful to my husband who drove instead of me. In that moment, I worried if I would have been able to do it on my own. I know I would have, but it scared me thinking of my body’s physical reaction. I’m sure mommy mode would have kicked into high gear and we would have made it there if I had Elle on my own, but even now the anxiety of not knowing if I would have been able to do it on my own eats away at me. I need to be able to protect my baby no matter what, and that includes terrifying rides to the Emergency Room. I don’t like feeling that I was not in control enough to do my main job, which is being a mommy able to see my baby through anything.
I battled with myself the entire way to the hospital to stay calm for Elle’s sake. In that moment I was scared senseless and anxiety gripped me with visions of my worst nightmares. Anxiety often presents itself as what-if’s, and man did I have those that night. I tried to talk myself through the what-if’s as soon as they popped in my head.
No, she was not going to die. Yes, we will get her there in time. No, she will not stop breathing on our way there. Yes, she is going to overcome this. No, she will not be the tragic story of other parents. Yes, our God was going to see her healthy and healed soon. Back and forward my mind went as I shushed and talked to my baby who was practically limp in my arms.
I prayed and prayed on that drive. Lord, please keep these anxious negative thoughts from my mind, so that I can focus on getting my baby healthy. Lord take away all that is on my mind that I don’t need, so that I am free to be the best mom I can be. Please help me help her through this. Lord, please see Elle through this.
As we swung into the parking lot, I ran Elle inside the registration area. I waited not so patiently and got her signed in, and then we were whisked back to the nurse. The next four hours were extremely scary, frustrating, and emotional. They came in immediately to do another chest X-ray of Elle and found the pneumonia was now in both lungs, at which point the doctor told us we were being admitted and they would let us know if she would have to be flown out to a hospital with a Pediatric Unit. Respiratory Therapists came in and started doing breathing treatments on Elle, and there was a flow of nurses who tried desperately to get an IV in Elle, but with no success. At one point, the nurses told me that I needed to try to help calm Elle down as best as I could, because her heart-rate was in the 190’s due to stress and dehydration. My poor baby's heart.
Laying over Elle I sang every song I could think of, stroked her head, and tried to get her calmed down. I was terrified the entire time I sang. It took 3 hours for a nurse to tap a vein to get the fluids going that my baby desperately needed. Let me say here that I am not knocking any other doctors/nurses, because they all tried their hardest every step of the way. However, I can't begin to explain how frustrating it was waiting on something that I knew would make my baby feel better.
Once fluids got going they took us up to a room in ICU and we continued with breathing treatments, temperature checks, medicine, etc. All the while, I held my baby in my arms. I waited for the doctor to come in and tell us the game plan. I was overwhelmed with every scenario again. Would my baby really be okay? I was stressed out and snapping at my husband who was dealing with the stress of everything his own way. I prayed to be more understanding that he deals with things different than I do. I did now show my best side of myself to anyone but Elle and the medical staff throughout this time. It pains me looking back on how I reacted to Chris, but I was not okay and in that situation it was perfectly fine for me to NOT be okay.
Over the next day, we stayed in the ICU room not leaving our baby once, and finally her fever started breaking and the fluids started helping her. The breathing treatments were starting to help her too. The doctor came in and said she was still extremely sick, but that we could relax a little bit because they didn’t need to fly her out. Over the next two days that ICU room was our home and refuge for our sweet baby. When she had finally progressed past the point of needing to stay in the hospital I was terrified to take her home. What if she relapsed? What if something new developed? What if she got dehydrated again? What if, what if, what if? These are all normal fears for a parents, but they were extreme in my case and my anxiety did not help me.
Driving home I was thankful our sweet little girl got to come home, and I prayed and prayed that she would continue to improve and we would be clear of this forever. I set alarms every few hours to wake-up just to hear her breathing, and I worked hard to stay calm over the next few days. Every spike in fever stressed me out, every ragged breath I heard scared me, and every strange sound or mannerism was poured over. Eventually, I was able to calm myself down enough to feel we were through the worst of it.
In a lot of ways I reacted the way any parent would react, but in some ways my anxiety left my mind, body, and soul in an even more heightened state of stress. Thoughts are still plaguing me with the what-if’s of that night. I recognize this as my anxiety. I have had to consciously work through each worry, what-if, and stress. I have been praying, I have turned to others, I have read at night, and I have drank my calming teas (and wine). I face my fears head on and tell them they did not come to fruition, threfore, I will not worry anymore over them. I try, as I always do, to manage my anxiety. Anxiety is something that manifests in the worst of times, the best of times, and in the midst of the times. Anxiety does not exempt you based on what you are going through. It is something that one is ever 100% free of and that is okay. It is, however, something you can always work to manage and overcome.
Until next week readers,
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.