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Monday, January 12, 2009

Fear is a Barnacle

Fear and Grief. They are a team. The worst kind - a tag team. They surrounded me when Emma died, consuming every part of my being. When one rested the other swept in, rejuvinated, more than able to keep me wading in a broken- unable to function - place.

My grief has morphed, evolved, shape-shifted. My life is filled with moments. I can tell her story without crying (most of the time). I can feel her presence without falling to the floor. I can love my angel baby without my heart repeatedly self-destructing. To support my growth, I take affirmative action to ensure the our daughter - or beautiful Emma Grace - is remembered always.

In a recent post I said I would, "go back", but the joke was on me. I didn't need to. My fears are still here, quiet - stealth like, but part of me forever. They took permant residence within the marrow of my bones, waiting for their chance. They attacked on Sunday morning.

The girls, all four of them, had gone to bed without any trouble - two in one room and two in another. Sure, I heard some talking. The youngest had to use the bathroom, get a quick drink of water, and "check" her sister's middle of the night flashlight to be sure it was working. But, all in all, a very smooth bedtime routine considering we had three additional kids in our house on a Saturday night.

The baby, after a very stimulating and napless afternoon, had passed out early. At 6:00 I snuggled him in, read a book, surrounded him with all his familiar bedtime paraphanlia and sang as I walked out my bedroom door. The monitor was on full blast, but we never heard a peep. That boy was tired!

"Well" I said to my husband, who looked equally napless and wiped out, "He'll probably be up at the crack of dawn." We were quite mistaken.

At nine o'clock I tiptoed around the pack-n-play at the base of my bed. Snuggled down under the mountain of covers necessary in an old farm house in mid January, I listened. It felt so good to have a baby in our room again. He talks in his sleep, sometimes sings a little I think. For the first two hours, I was in and out of a light slumber. I tossed when he tossed. I turned when he turned. I lay still, but heard the rustle of flannel sheets moving against the mesh sides of the portable bed. And then, I slept - until 6am - (the formally referred to "crack of dawn"). The Comedian's elephant feet thumped down the stairs. Tip-toeing past the sleeping baby I stopped for just a moment to take in the sight. The peaceful slumber of a 1 year old is a sight to behold.

That's when my demons jumped out. You better check and see if he's breathing! I scoffed, Of course he's breathing, but gripped by an irrational fear, I checked.

The baby slept. I peeled hard boiled eggs. The coffee maker buzzed.
The baby slept. I made scrambled eggs. I drank my coffee.
The baby slept. The girls pounded around on the hard wood floor, doing a morning rendition of our chicks moving in their tiny coop.
The baby slept. I took out the "you can only play with these when the baby isn't here" toys for the girls.

Fear attacked again. I tried to fend off his advances, but he was too strong. He played dirty.

You better go check on him again. His head was tilted into his blanket a bit, wasn't it.

I'm sure he's fine. Had a long day. He's just tired!

You don't know that for sure, do you? I guess not.

What if you let him sleep and then it's too late? What if you get up there and he's still, beyond help. Oh Cara, It's bad enough that you let your baby die without taking action, but you may have killed someone else's. GO. GO CHECK NOW!

I ran up the stairs, panicked, a feeling of dread in the my chest that hadn't squeezed me for so long. I couldn't get there fast enough. I was now sure that there was somthing wrong - that I had missed my chance to save him. That our friends who are so particular with who they entrust to watch their children would feel the same fear and despair that I have for the rest of their lives. That they would never again be able to look at me with with any semblance of respect.

No longer caring about noise levels - I pushed the door open and, with fear looking over my right shoulder and grief on my left - I peered into the crib.

He lay still - with eyes wide open. At the sight of me a huge grin grew on his perfect little face. "Aaaa" he said, not attempting to sit up, but just smiling up at me. Brushing off my shoulders, I reached down to meet his upright arms.

He is fine. I am forever haunted.


Amy said...

My heart stopped while reading this. My eyes welled with tears when I finally reached the end. Like you not getting up the stairs quick enough, I couldn't get to the end of this quick enough.

Wow, I'm glad so very glad, he's alright and to be honest (not trying to be mean, I promise!) there's a part of me that's glad the fear stays...I don't ever want to become complacent where children are concerned!

Michelle said...

I do that when I have my nephew stay over. I am always checking that they are breathing because I always think...what if this is the one time I don't check and I should is sorta obsessive. But I like Amy think it is a good thing in some ways...maybe crazy in others ;0.

Martha said...

Beautiful post, I am able to breathe again.

Sara said...

Yesterday I wrote about finally living without fear, and I think I do--at least without the strangle hold it had had on me for the last year and a half--but I still keep nudging the baby to make sure she is breathing. And I wonder what else might bring the fear out again for me.

Eskimo_Kisses_4_U said...

I'm so glad that he's ok. I know that there are some people/mothers that never have that fear, but I would much rather have it than not.

Kristin said...

I think at some level, everyone who has gone through a loss does that. Your reaction is exacerbated because yours was a full term loss. I know I have had moments of paranoia and utter fear that something has happened to one of my kids.

Dora said...

What a great post. I can only imagine that fear.


Barbara said...

I'm preparing myself to be forever fearful, but hoping not to be.

Lovely that your fear was ended with a big smile!

The Turtle and the Monkey said...

I know that fear all too well. I think it will stay with us forever. Monkey is now two and I still creep into his room at night. I always put a hand on his back to feel his breath. If he doesn't move, I will nudge him just slightly as to make him move around. I know it is irrational, but I just can't shake the fear.

I am sorry that you still feel that fear, but very glad he was okay. Nothing better than I sweet baby smile in the morning.

Charlotte's Mama said...

Having provided daycare for two children in my life, I cannot tell you how many times I have played this game with myself... somehow the idea of feeling responsible for someone else's child compounds it into a whole new animal...

Charlotte's Mama said...

Did I mention that I still have the Angel Care breathing monitor hooked up to my almost three year old? Yeah, there's that too....

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