Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mama Worry, Go Away

Mama Worry and her sister Mama Guilt have been beating down my door.

Before Eli was ever born Rob and I decided that we were going to parent like Eli was our 4th kid. We weren't going to panic, we would let him eat off the floor, and the 5 second rule would be extended to, if he finds it he can have it - germs can be our friend. We'd play pass the baby at parties and church and everyone would be happy and relaxed.

This lasted until week 17 of Eli's life when he stopped breathing during the night. I woke from a bad dream, checked on Elijah and found him sleeping gray and breathless. I thank God for waking me from that nightmare and giving us the state of mind to do rescue breaths to bring our little boy back to us. For letting there be time.

Nothing was ever found to be wrong with him and Dr.s labeled it a "near miss SIDS". Needless to say, this rocked our world and a sleep monitor for Eli finally allowed Rob and I to sleep soundly through the night and stop taking shifts. But, oh did Mama Worry bend my ear. Does he have brain damage, are doctors missing something, will it happen again, can we save him again, did I cause it somehow?

I suffered some serious post-traumatic stress and felt the after-effects of adrenaline in my body for days. I totally know now how moms lift cars and do all manner of crazy feats to save their babies. Within a couple weeks we resumed a new normal; our reality changed based on what we'd experienced. We celebrated having Eli with us, but unlike ever before we realized that he was in God's hands for protection and provision. We got to love, care for and look after this little boy, but he wasn't ours alone. Life could be fragile.

I struggled to take back our relaxed parenting style. For the couple months following, I was on edge. Nervous and doubting most everything. But I adopted a 'fake it 'til you make it' strategy; remaining calm and nonchalant on the outside, while quietly resolving paranoid fears in my mind endlessly entertaining Mama Worry and Mama Guilt. However unhealthy, my 'fake it 'til you make it strategy actually did work. And our healthy little boy grew and grew unencumbered by psycho mom.

With few and normal new mom/baby health scares along the way we did great and Rob and I really were able to continue parenting in a non-stressful way. Remembering what happened week 17, allowing ourselves to be forever changed by week 17, but trying not to dwell on the what could have been and trying not to let week 17 unduly and negatively influence everyday normal parenting and health decisions. We always ended those remembering discussions with God is amazingly good to us. We are incredibly lucky to have experienced God's direct intervention. He is mighty to save.

And then came last weekend. I was at a Bradley Teacher Training in Atlanta and Eli got sick. He began running the first temperature he's ever had in all of his 9 months of life. Friday night the fever began and it continued over into Saturday. Fever and a runny nose were his only symptoms and Eli wasn't phased by either. I called both his pediatricians (one in PA, one in GA) and our pharmacist to get advice on what to do until his previously scheduled appt. on Monday am. We gave him Tylenol and Motrin (the first he'd ever had) and watched him. I continued with my training and Eli continued playing, eating and drinking like normal. We were assured we could easily ride out this illness until we got to the dr.s office on Monday am. Then on Sunday afternoon after waking from a nap you could tell he felt worse and his fever was higher, 103+. We took him to the ER, but before going in we checked his temp again. It was back to 101+, so our pediatrician said it would be okay to just take him home and bring him in first thing Monday. So we went home.

Then Sunday evening around 6 after waking up from another nap, Eli appeared to have a febrile (fever induced) absent seizure from a temperature spike. We got in the car to drive back to the hospital but decided to call an ambulance instead after he projectile vomited. Poor little sick boy. His underarm temp in the ambulance was 104.5 (so more like an oral 105.5) and his pulse was close to 200 bpm. He got a mega dose of Tylenol in the ambulance and a dose of Motrin once we got to the ER. His temp came down and we came home. It was just a plain virus.

At the peds office the next day, we got an antibiotic for a possible sinus infection and our kind nurse (my nurse when I was a baby) attempted to calm my fears concerning febrile seizures. But once again Mama Worry and Mama Guilt decided to stay for a visit. What would another mom have done, does a temp that high or seizures cause long-term damage, is he going to be okay, has he had enough of the meningitis vaccine to be protected, surely this bug came from the shopping cart at the grocery-why didn't I cover the handle bar?

We spent Monday night from 5pm to 11:30pm with Eli in and out of the bath and rotating hospital dosages of Motrin and Tylenol every 3 hours. We worked so hard to keep his temp below 103.5 which was the Drs' cut off for us having to go back to the ER. He got up to 103.4. Poor sick baby.

I come from a long line of fretters. Which is a big reason I tried so hard in the beginning to not start the pattern of worrying early- To tell Mama Worry and Mama Guilt to take a hike. But man, has it been hard I feel like I've been given this perfect baby boy where my one and only job is to not mess him up - but, it is unbelievably hard! And surely, he will not escape unscathed from our parenting. My mom and Rob's were notorious (though now reformed) worriers; and they are my best cheerleaders in my anti-worry campaign. Just last night my mom reminded me not to waste this time worrying, Elijah is growing up so fast.

Fear, stress and anxiety is a terrible and exhausting frame to parent your child from, though a great way to lose weight (picture wedding day skinny-friends from years ago). Our week 17 is what I go back to when my brain senses danger and it is a perpetual tug of war between rational calm mommy and Please-Don't-Let-Him-Die panic mode. Hopefully realizing this will help me lean toward the rational calm side of my mommy brain more and more often and that time will heal the trauma we faced when Eli was so small while still remembering our reality that God gives life and keeps our babies even when we can't.


  1. man. so good. is there really any mom is isn't faking the laid back approach? we are all about eating off the floor, letting him learn about gravity the hard way (though we look like asses when we tell people, "no no, let him fall and hurt himself.") and general non-helicoptering, but the whole time i am running through every possible horrible outcome. even with some scary moments in his history, i think you are keeping an amazing balance in parenting little eli and the fact that you still want to be not a worrier despite that stuff is awesome. you are a freaking natural, man. love!

  2. Wow, girl...awesome post!! Like Keight says, we are all the same! love y'all!

  3. Man, I'm not even a mom and I worry a ton about kids (if I'm babysitting, etc). How brave of you to share your worries and concerns. I have a feeling that I'm going to be a lot like you as a mom (hopefully as awesome). You had written a blog before you had Eli about something, and I thought "man, that's exactly how I think." So thanks for sharing your thoughts, worries, and insights. You and Rob seem to be great parents and doing a great job with Eli. I love following your blog and keeping up with you guys! -Jen Crews Davis