I’m one of those people who are generally pretty good in a crisis. I tend to remain calm while I’m going through it, but as soon as we’re “out of the woods” I break down.
When Taylor was 9 months old we couldn’t get him to wake up one Saturday morning. He’d sort of open his eyes, but didn’t seem able to keep them open. His little lips were gray and his breathing was shallow. Todd was very ill with pneumonia so I strapped Taylor into his car seat and made the 30 minute drive to the emergency room in about 15 minutes.
There was no waiting for me and we were taken into a private examination room instead of a curtained area. He was listless during their examination, he didn’t flinch when they swabbed his nose, and their faces told me a whole lot even though their mouths didn’t. It seemed like forever though it was only short minutes when the doctor said they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis and a nurse escorted me out of the room. His words were burned into my memory – “Your baby is very ill. You need to be prepared for anything.”
I knew what he was saying to me, but I refused to freak out because it wouldn’t do any good. We didn’t have cell phones at the time so I found the phone in the waiting room and called my frantic husband. I can only imagine his feeling of helplessness. He wanted to be right there, knowing what was going on. But it turned out he wasn’t even allowed at the hospital.
My sick child was so out of it he didn’t twitch or move a muscle when they did the spinal tap. But thankfully it wasn’t meningitis. It was RSV and severe dehydration. He was admitted to ICU for 24 hours until the crisis was past and then the general pediatric floor for four days after that. My parents still lived in California at the time and on day three my mother showed up at the hospital so I could go home, see Todd, have a shower, eat something normal, change my clothes. I wouldn’t leave Taylor alone and with Todd banned from the hospital because of his pneumonia I’d had no breaks. (Not knowing any of this was going on, Todd’s doctor wanted to admit him. When Todd explained our situation – and that it would be too much for me – the doctor agreed and made Todd promise to come into the office every day for a shot of something or other.)
I don’t believe I cried at all while I was in the hospital with Taylor. Never once. Partly because I didn’t figure it would do me any good and partly because I worried if I started I might not stop. And it wasn’t about me. It was about my baby. I had to be strong for him. You can bet I did a lot of praying, though. And so did my heathen (at that time) husband at home.
Todd’s cousin, Joe D., picked my mom up at the airport and drove her to the hospital. What a relief it was to see her. Taylor was still undergoing breathing treatments, but by this time it was clear he was going to be fine. I walked outside for the first time in three days and drove home – much slower than I’d driven there. I talked to Todd for a little bit and then went to take a shower.
You know how wonderful a hot shower feels when you haven’t had one in a few days and you’re feeling uber grungy? As the water washed the previous days away, so did the tears that came rushing out. I think I ended up sitting on the floor of the shower, arms wrapped around my knees and sobbing uncontrollably. Not tears of despair, but tears of relief and tears of gratitude to God. All the emotion I’d been holding at bay poured out. The dam was breached and there was no turning back.
After my shower I felt wonderful. Inside and out. I took the best nap of my life in my own, comfortable bed; I ate something besides hospital food; I spent a little time with my recovering husband; and as I drove back to the hospital I felt lighter than I had in several days.
That event is a rather extreme illustration of how I tick, but it’s the best example I could think of. And the reason I brought it up is because of my experience last week. I say I’m a fraud because I kept telling everyone I wasn’t worried about my bone scan. But it wasn’t just everyone else I was saying this to, it was myself. I must be a pretty good actress because I believed me.
After I’d received the call from the oncologist I made a few phone calls, sent some e-mails, posted here on my blog I ended up in a total funk. I didn’t react the way I had with Taylor’s ordeal, but I did have a bit of a breakdown in the form of withdrawal. I wanted to be with my family and I wanted to be alone all at the same time. I felt like one of those rubber band toys that you twist and twist and twist until it won’t twist any more and then you let it go. Except I hadn’t realized I was being twisted so taught until I was released.
I guess it was bothering me more than I appreciated. Even Friday morning as I was getting ready for my Homies (named for my ladies’ home team – bible study – by my fellow Homie, Tina) I was a bit funkitated. It was rainy and dreary outside and I was feeling blah. But just pulling up to the house we were meeting at was enough to make me feel better. And then those crazy women finished me off.
So you see. I’m not as brave and calm as I seem to be. Oh, I think I am at the time, but afterwards I realize I was just suppressing my anxiety. Still, this mechanism has served me well so I don’t imagine I’ll be changing any time soon.
And the last thing I have to say about that is this. Any perceived strength or bravery on my part is simply an extension of my faith. It’s the way God made me – a chip off my mother’s block – and it’s a gift. But I don’t handle anything without my God. When I start to feel anxious I ask for peace and He gives it to me. When I start to feel depressed I ask for joy and He gives it to me. And I love Him all the more for it.