Monday, January 28, 2013

When Fear Enters In: Motherhood After Loss

www.bethmorey.com

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

"Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, 'Don’t be afraid; just believe.'"

I thought that after I birthed our sweet rainbow boy safely into the world that the fear would leave.  Because although I thought I was dealing with it well at the time, distance and hindsight have shown me that Baby Boy's pregnancy was a terribly anxious time for me.

I look back and don't recognize the fearful person I'd become.

But then he was born, alive and screaming as so many people had prayed, and I thought it was over -- the sleepless nights, the cold grasping fear.  Because lightning does strike the same place twice (or more) when it comes to babyloss.

I thought the shallow-breathed days would give way and I'd become myself again.  And it was like that, for a little while.

But the fear has been creeping close in again, and I'm hard-pressed to stop it.

Before Eve died, before we knew that we wouldn't get to parent her, I was concerned about SIDS.  What mother isn't?  But I knew that it was something out of my control, something that I'd have to trust God to keep from us, so I was able to breathe [mostly] easy about it.  And besides, it happened so rarely -- statistically, it couldn't possibly happen to us.

But stillbirth is really rare, too, and when that entered our lives it felt like all the other only-happens-to-other-people things pressed in tight.  Namely, SIDS.

I've been meeting new babyloss mothers, and I am not exaggerating when I say that every single one that I've met recently have lost children to SIDS.  I see photos of these beautiful, very-much-alive babies on their Facebook pages or their blogs, and its terrifying, horrifying to know that those very same children are now dead for no known reason.  Just like my baby girl -- dead before birth, and no one could tell us why.

"Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. . . .  Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is thought to be sleeping" (source).

SIDS happens.  It could happen to us, and easily.

So that's where I've been parenting Baby Boy from -- this place of asphyxiation, of will this be the night? fear. 

Because I know what it feels like to hold a baby who won't wake or breathe or cry or smile.  Because I have known it once, I fear it happening again.  There has been so much grace poured out on me, on us, these past fourteen months since Eve died, from God and from others.  It has helped me to sail through the terrible storm of stillbirth, to find a measure of healing falling with the rain.

But if it happened again?

I can't think about it.  And at the same time, I can't stop thinking about it.

How do you battle the anxiety that visits every mother when you have reason and experience that validate those fears?  That tell you that you should be afraid?

I don't want to be an anxious mother.  I had an anxious mother, and while it was sometimes challenging to be an anxious mother's daughter, it was far more terrible to watch her crumble beneath it.

I don't want that for our son.  I don't want that for myself, for my husband. 

I want to be strong in faith.  I want to be able to breathe easy again, to trust that it will be okay even when past experience points to the contrary.  

But even though I'm taking it to God, even though I'm trying to break open the fingers that I've clenched closed around the life of our son, even though I'm begging Him to open my heart to reckless trust . . . I can't feel the grace falling in this storm yet. 

Tell me, parents who have both living and dead children -- how in the world do you do this?

18 comments:

  1. Beth we are in similar places in our parent journey, and I'm still figuring it out too. I refuse to let fear steal my joy. I check on Oliver all the time when he is sleeping, but frankly I don't have time to worry about what I can't control. That doesn't mean I never worry. Maybe come up with a mantra or prayer you say whenever the fear creeps in? Something like: dear lord, there are things I cannot control. Help me to remember you are always in control. Help me to cherish and not to worry. Amen
    Big big hugs sister

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like that, Megan. I've been wanting to memorize some scripture anyway...maybe that Joshua 1:9 verse would be a good place to start. I always forget that Oliver is only a few weeks older than Jacob - it felt like a lot longer when I was still pregnant. ;) now both our boys are out of the prime SIDS occurrence window - Jacob turns 4 months today :)

      Delete
  2. Beth we are in similar places in our parent journey, and I'm still figuring it out too. I refuse to let fear steal my joy. I check on Oliver all the time when he is sleeping, but frankly I don't have time to worry about what I can't control. That doesn't mean I never worry. Maybe come up with a mantra or prayer you say whenever the fear creeps in? Something like: dear lord, there are things I cannot control. Help me to remember you are always in control. Help me to cherish and not to worry. Amen
    Big big hugs sister

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beth we are in similar places in our parent journey, and I'm still figuring it out too. I refuse to let fear steal my joy. I check on Oliver all the time when he is sleeping, but frankly I don't have time to worry about what I can't control. That doesn't mean I never worry. Maybe come up with a mantra or prayer you say whenever the fear creeps in? Something like: dear lord, there are things I cannot control. Help me to remember you are always in control. Help me to cherish and not to worry. Amen
    Big big hugs sister

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beth we are in similar places in our parent journey, and I'm still figuring it out too. I refuse to let fear steal my joy. I check on Oliver all the time when he is sleeping, but frankly I don't have time to worry about what I can't control. That doesn't mean I never worry. Maybe come up with a mantra or prayer you say whenever the fear creeps in? Something like: dear lord, there are things I cannot control. Help me to remember you are always in control. Help me to cherish and not to worry. Amen
    Big big hugs sister

    ReplyDelete
  5. You know that I'm not a babyloss mama. But I'm a hypervigilent one. I had an Angel Care monitor and the first time I used it (L was 4 months old), it was the first time I slept more than half an hour after he was born. I was CERTAIN that the instant I took my eyes off of him, something horrible would happen. He's never had a babysitter, the first time I left him with my mom, she left him alone and he fell off her bed, he has been with me or his father nearly every minute of his life. I don't know how to be any other way. HOWEVER - I am NOT a paranoid mama when I'm right there. He started walking at eight months, I'd let him walk. He wanted to do the climbing wall at the park when he was ten months old, I let him. Slide at the park on his back, head first, go for it. Sledding, roller blading, bike riding. When it came time for preschool, I put him on that yellow bus and let him go for three hours twice a week. Now he's in all day kindergarten, has to ride two buses to get there, and his school is in the city, MILES away from me. I had to let that happen. I did. I don't always like it, but I did it. And I do NOT call his teacher ten times a day to make sure he's OK, but she does frequently post pictures on facebook of him having fun in school. He just turned six and I STILL check to make sure he's breathing fifteen times during the night. I don't wake him up (OK, I did when he was a baby sometimes), but I check.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like how you are hyper vigilant yet not paranoid - letting him take risks, even ones you don't like, because he needs to. I want Jacob to take risks, too, without me freaking him out. So...your story gives me hope of that, Goog. We use a Halo Snuza monitor all the time and it is a huge sanity saver. Even with it on I sometimes can't sleep, but it's helped so much. Yikes this parenting thing is a mind trip, huh? ;) I appreciate you, Goog! <3

      Delete
  6. Beth, I was just talking to my mom about this same fear for my two older living boys. My daughter died at eight week last summer from complications of a congenital heart defect, so not SIDS, and I have a 6 yr old and a 3 year old as well, so not a new baby, but I believe this is a fear we all face when we know now that we are not exempt from the suffering, from the bad.

    This weekend my 3 yr old started throwing up in the middle of the night, all night long. And even when his dad was laying by his side so I could rest in my bed I could not sleep because of the fears..."here we go again", "what if its more than just a stomach bug" or "what if..." and on and on it went as my brain came up with more and more ways this could become really bad really fast. And then all the sudden I heard a still small voice reminding me of His presence. Last time this happened a few months ago I started praying "Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy" over and over and over, refusing to let the worry and the fears come into my brain, mainly so that I could get some sleep. And so the last two nights, when I haven't been caring for my son, I've been repeating that prayer over and over until I drifted off to sleep.

    You are not alone. Its a daily battle, but like you mentioned, I do not want to be an anxious mother. I am starting to get back to scripture memory too, which I think will help me to dwell on those words when I am afraid.

    Peace to you, mamma.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Have you heard JJ Heller's song "Control"? I think I may have posted this in our class, but it's been months... At first I didn't like the song, but when I heard JJ explain that she wrote it based on her experience with anxiety, I really started to like it. Listing to it helps calm me sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have no advice yet...but in a 5 months, I am sure this will be something I will walk through the Lord with. I do not want to be paralyzed by fear, I do not want my joy to be stolen. All I remember now is that our lives are numbered by our Creator and all we can do is step back with arms lifted high in surrender to that. I dream all the time I miscarry this baby I am carrying now, so obviously fear is here and trying to reign...and I think you are wise, memorizing verses is exactly what would help the most, because then you are allowing God's Words to penetrate to your very soul and teach and restore your thinking. I also think of Phil 4:8... Anyway, thank you for writing this... I need to begin praying over myself now it seems. I will be praying for you, too. :) <3

    ReplyDelete
  9. I completely understand. My 5th child Noah died a day after he was born from Trisomy 13. My rainbow baby was born miraculously on his 1st birthday and I too found myself catching my breath the days she slept longer than usual. I can see how I parent her different than I did my others before my son died. How can't we, we've been changed. It honestly took some time but eventually I could see I wasn't as anxious as I had been in her earlier months (she is now 18 months & I'm expecting again). I did feel better when I got a video monitor so I could see her when napping. ;)

    But I also know ultimately my children are in God's hands and no amount of worrying will change whatever may happen. I have been more intentional in my parenting by keeping this in mind. I know I hug more, cuddle more, say I love you more, especially before naps & bedtime since I now know what it's like to know that last moment may happen out of the blue.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I know I will be right there with you if I'm ever lucky enough to even have a rainbow baby. I had a pulse ox monitor for my foster son who had lung disease... it alarmed if the baby's oxygen got low, or heartrate got too high or low. I slept SO easily knowing the alarm would sound if anything went wrong. I knew it would be challenging to have my own child and NOT have a monitor... unfortunately, I never got to face that challenge, because she was stillborn. But now I can't even imagine, for one minute, not having at least an apnea monitor on the baby for the first few months. When swaddled, and until fine motor skills develop better after 3 or 4 months, the monitors stay put pretty well at night.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think you are all so, so brave. I have yet to get the courage to try again. I admit it, I am terrified. I just hope I get the strength that you all have to put myself through it. I am so sorry though that the greif does not just vanish when your next child makes it safely into this world. I miss being ignorant to the loss of a child. Blessings to all of your babies.X

    ReplyDelete
  12. We all are brave everyday. That is what being a
    mother is about. After my two stillbirths, I was terrified of SIDs. I prayed over my babies constantly. I felt an over-whelming sense of responsibility on my shoulders. It is never to early to pray for your children to know God and the Holy Spirit. I did enjoy my Rainbow Baby every moment. I wasn't going to let fear rob me of that after all I had gone through to get him here! Peace comes from God. Bless all of you women in this journey!

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow i seriously have been thinking for so very long about this very same thing.. I stare at my son and make sure he is breathing.

    I never worried about death and dying before losing our daughter. before giving birth to death literally..

    I enjoy my son or i try to. I can't let the fear take over. I've gotten help medically and been going to a therapist. It is helping.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am showing my support by nominating you for the Leibster Award.
    http://babyringostewart.blogspot.ca/2013/02/leibster-award-i-have-nominated-for.html

    ReplyDelete
  15. Its really freaking HARD isn't it!? And for me, this is so new. This 'hyper-vigilance'. I had 3 children before my angel, and one rainbow now since. I didn't think much about SIDS before Seb died and I was introduced to the world of babyloss and many mothers who'd lost their sweet babies to SIDS.
    I had read during Malachi's pregnancy that 2 months was the key time for SIDS to occur. And I was pretty paranoid at this time. But yet being torn time and time again between 'trusting God' and being a paranoid mother.
    And it has certainly affected the way I parent my older children now, or at least how I feel about it. Only yesterday morning, I decided to drop my eldest (now in high school) off on the side of the road not too far from his school so he could walk the rest of the way because I needed to go to the uniform shop at the primary (elementary) school. I told myself I'd drop the little ones off and then go and drive the way he walked to check. And then instead I drove home, and was almost there when it occured to me that I forgot to go and see him. Horrible visions flashed across my mind. I was paranoid that I would find his body dead in the creek bed or behind bushes or something. PARANOID. And so I turned around and although he would have been at school by now, I drove back to his school and past all the way he walked, craning my neck to look into the bushes. CRAZY!! But that's what loss has done to me. Thankfully their school texts if the kids are not there for the day, so I was ok after I hadn't received a text after 9am. But seriously! I was never like that before!

    Its one day at a time, one step at a time. One prayer at a time. Praying madly over those kids that really don't belong to me anyway.

    ReplyDelete

"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King