This post might feel most relevant to anyone who is parenting after a loss.
The other night, my daughter was sick. She woke up at night because she was coughing. And it sounded horrible and painful. She was gasping for air, and rightfully so, seemed panicked about it. I quickly rushed to her, and rubbed her back as she sat up in bed. I went to get some homeopathic medicine to help her little body with the coughing. She was coughing too much to want to take it at first. And I quickly noticed my own fear and panic. She was OK, right? She’d catch her breath, right? She HAS to… Do we need to take her to the ER? Call the after hours line for our pediatrician? And if you’ve lost a baby, you can probably guess where my mind went next… what if she can’t breathe?…what if she dies, here, in my arms, right now? Aye. I can’t even begin to imagine. And yet, parenting after a loss, I already know every parent’s worst nightmare, my child could die. Right here, right now. My fear is not a generalized, could happen to me but always happens to someone else, kind of fear. I know. It has happened to me. And I don’t know that it won’t happen again. It could. And that experience and knowledge will always be a part of how parent. I can try to resist, or downplay it’s importance, or I can acknowledge it and embrace it. It is simply a part of who I am now, as a wife, mother, family member, friend and therapist.
So what did I do? I turned on the humidifier in her room in hopes that would help ease the coughing, and then quickly climbed in bed with her, held her in my arms and eventually she calmed down, took some medicine, and stopped coughing. I kissed her head as she slept in my arms, waking to cough a few more times. Then it stopped, no more coughing. I held her for a while longer and then finally laid her down and she slept the rest of the night through. My heart stopped racing, and I once again settled into reality that she is alive and well. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. And I rested in the fact that I know our loss has deeply affected how I parent now.
I don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. Many of us like the illusion of control we have in life (I know I do!). Some of us are more aware of this illusion than others. And if you lost a child, you know this more intimately than others.
If you’re parenting after a loss, what moments have caught you? When have you noticed moments of fear or anxiety? What do you do to help cope with this?