When Fear Becomes Too Real

My greatest fear as a child, and an adult, was and is dying: either developing or catching some horrible disease, experiencing a terrible accident, or murder. I think I feared murder the most, with disease a close second. I also greatly feared losing my loved ones to death and I still do.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t frightened of being murdered in my bed at night. Thanks to reading articles I shouldn’t have in my grandmother’s magazines, as well as watching shows like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “L.A. Law”, I knew about violent crime. I knew about children dying from diseases no child should have to endure. Also, in a well-intentioned, but very misguided act of parenting, my father managed to convince me that kidnappers were constantly waiting in the wings to snatch me. We were to trust no one.

During a discussion of getting in cars with strangers:

“What about Garland and Grace?” (A lovely older couple who lived across the street.)

“No. Not even them. We don’t really know them. Children get kidnapped by people they know all the time.”

On whether I could go to a public bathroom by myself:

“No! Someone might be waiting to snatch you in there.”

He meant to help me learn to be careful. Unfortunately, I simply learned too young that my parents really couldn’t protect me from everything.

I have been afraid while going to sleep in my own home practically every night of my life. The only extended period of time I felt little to no fear of murder in my sleep was the six months my daughter Lucy fought cardiomyopathy. My brain was busy with a fear that had materialized.

Despite these fears, I lived alone for five and a half years in my twenties. It was definitely scary sometimes. Luckily, the worst thing that ever happened was a peeping Tom at my bathroom window in College Station. I felt safer in public than in my own home sometimes. The bookstore, Target, the movie theater, and the mall were my happy places. With plenty of people around, no one could corner me and hurt me.

That has changed now. It has changed so much, that I completely forgot until last week how safe I used to feel in public.

It changed with Columbine.

It changed with 9/11.

It changed with Virginia Tech. (This is a big part of the reason I no longer teach at college level.)

It changed with Newtown.

And Aurora. (Another safe place, movie theaters, forever marred.)

And so many others that I can’t recall any more names at the moment. I feel frightened taking my child to a movie or on an airplane. There have been weeks where I was terrified to send Max to school. One day, at the height of my anxiety before Zoloft, I kept him home. He wasn’t sick. I had a bad feeling I couldn’t ignore.

The last time I took Max to a movie, I noted with relief that we were right by the emergency exit. I could grab him and get out that door before a shooter got us probably. I would probably have that crazy mom strength that comes in a desperate situation, rendering me capable of lifting a 50 pound boy and moving faster than a hail of bullets to get out that door.

I am still afraid at night, but now I feel safer at home. I would have preferred that to come from conquering my fears, not the creation of new ones.

Even with the increase in public shootings in America, I know it is still so very unlikely I or my loved ones will end up victims of one. But it should be much less likely than it is.

Maybe I Will Miss a Day of NaBloPoMo … or the Rest of It

Despite the title of yesterday’s post, I’m starting to wonder if I want to continue with NaBloPoMo. For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you might have noticed that it’s been very quiet. I’ve been working on my first book. Actually, it might be two books. Or three. J

Most days, I only work in about thirty minutes of writing. On Tuesdays, I get two whole hours, since I chose to sit out of Chorus this semester to devote more time to writing. Writing a blog post everyday sucks up that thirty minutes and then some. Now I’m not sure I want to spend a whole month away from my book(s) to do that.

I missed the ready feedback from blogging, as well as the satisfaction of finishing a project. (These books aren’t going to be done for awhile.) But I don’t miss the necessity of churning something out whether it’s the story I want to tell or not.

I want to tell Lucy’s story, as well as my own. I want to try my hand at a mystery. That’s not going to happen if I spend most of the month on blog entries. I have to sit down and do the work.

I only want to continue NaBloPoMo if it’s bringing me closer to my goals as a writer, rather than letting me hide from them. At the very least, I want to have fun with it. I spent most of my life hiding from this dream. I don’t want to hide from writing with other writing.

In the past, I wouldn’t have even considered giving up on a commitment like this. Persistence is a virtue, but I am proud that I am starting to see when it is not. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. All that matters is telling the story I want to tell.

I’m Not Going to Miss a Day of NaBloPoMo (at least, not in the first week)

Popping in with just a quick NaBloPoMo post, because it’s late and I’m tired. I just want to snuggle up with my cute hubs in front of the TV and then sleep.

So, just some short musings on my day today. What I said in the first paragraph is pretty much the theme. I’m tired. It was a hell of an October. I am tired from both good things (family wedding, Halloween) and bad (pregnancy loss, sick kids for the last two weeks). I’m tired from the time change, too, but I’m not about to start a debate about whether Daylight Saving Time is good or bad.

A dear friend gave birth to a beautiful baby girl yesterday. She is a fellow heart mom and I couldn’t be happier for her. My heart just yearns when I look at that precious bundle, though. I see photos of precious new life and research adoption and I feel as if my head and my ovaries are pulling me in two separate directions. (My heart just wants another kid and doesn’t care which way we get it.)

It seems likely our future holds another child, but I do not know when or how. I’m not in too much of a rush, despite my yearning. I am, however, trying to be excited by the possibilities instead of frustrated by the uncertainties. I know the answers will come in time.


Living my Childhood Dream

I’ve wanted to pursue many careers over the years – concert pianist, President of the United States, actress, professor, and librarian. I actually did teach at the college-level for several years, but never became a full-fledged professor.

However, my first answer at six-years-old to the immortal question “What do you want to be when you grow up” was “a writer like Laura Ingalls Wilder”. I got the idea in my head that only rarefied talents could be successful writers and that successful meant “rich and famous”, so I only sporadically attempted to write seriously over the years. Keep in mind that this was before the Internet broke down the barriers between aspiring writers and the audience waiting for their words.

I never took a writing class. I tested out of the two required to graduate from a public university in Texas and actively avoided others, due to a terror of criticism. I discovered a talent for academic writing and decided that was the right path for me. Hence, the Masters degree in English that now graces the wall of the office/guest room in our house. I thought the well-defined rules of academic writing provided a framework in which to display my talent. I failed to notice that I was actually using them as a way to hide, until the walls of the prison I created were closing in so tight I could barely breathe.

The horrible anguish of my nervous breakdown ended up releasing me from that prison. I couldn’t bear the idea of entering a Ph.D program. I knew I needed a fresh start and I somehow just knew it was in Austin. A circuitous path through the Information Studies program at UT-Austin, a position as teller at Regions Bank, a receptionist/office assistant at Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, and adjunct faculty in the English department at Austin Community College finally led me back to my first dream. I am finally able to say “I am a writer”. I always have been a writer. I can’t promise that I will never run from it or simply let it go for awhile again. But I will always come back to the words, because I am never more fully myself than when I send parts of my soul to the world through them.

Finally, Some Answers

We finally received our test results today. The baby we lost four weeks ago definitely had Turner syndrome, which means it was definitely a girl. Although the symptoms noted on the nuchal translucency ultrasound made this practically a foregone conclusion, I am relieved to know for sure. Surprisingly, I felt a bit shaken and sad at hearing this.

For those who don’t know, Turner syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that affects only girls. It occurs when all or part of the second X chromosome is missing. Babies that survive to birth can live a wonderful life, sometimes with initial serious difficulties, such a heart defects. However, TS has a huge miscarriage and stillbirth rate.

And what heart disease has Turner syndrome been known to cause? Ding, ding, ding. Cardiomyopathy, the same disease our sweet Lucy battled to her end.

Turner syndrome and pediatric cardiomyopathy are both very rare conditions. It bothers me that two siblings could each have a different rare condition, which have a connection, but share no connection for them. That doesn’t seem likely to me, especially considering my other missed miscarriage and D&C due to unspecified chromosomal abnormalities. The nurse practitioner who delivered the results this morning assured me that TS is non-recurring and that our doctor would encourage us to try again. They are wonderful, knowledgeable medical professionals, but I don’t know if I trust them on this one. Our situation is too weird. The unlikely, awful outcome has happened to us too many times.

Since Scarlett and I were at her pediatrician’s office this morning getting a rash checked out, I decided to ask him what he knew about TS and if he remembered any signs of it in Lucy. He assured me he saw no sign of it in her or Scarlett.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I don’t know if I want to try again. I definitely don’t want to without talking to a genetic counselor and possibly undergoing genetic testing. At this point, I just don’t want to period. Chris and I have discussed adoption on and off for years. Ever since I was young, I thought I would have biological and adopted children in the large family I envisioned. We are giving ourselves time to think, heal, research, and mourn our precious baby girl. We have been calling her Baby Peach, since she was about that size when she died. I think we are going to name her Violet Dorothy now that we are sure she was a girl.

Rest in peace, sweet love. We wanted you so much.

How Do You Know When To Let Go?

This tired, half-hearted feeling reminds me of when I quit twirling.

The beautiful, shiny, sparkly dream that consumed my first two years of high school no longer felt right for me. At the beginning of my junior year, I picked up the baton, flipped open the folder containing the routine written out for me by my teacher, and began to practice.

After a couple of reps, I was done. I halfheartedly tried again the next day. I didn’t feel like it the day after that. And just like that, I knew I was done. The passion that had driven me to practice every night, no matter how late I finished my homework (It’s not easy to practice twirling quietly in your bedroom at 2 a.m., let me tell ya.), was gone.

Amazingly, I don’t think I questioned it. I just accepted that, after trying and failing twice to make the majorette line at my high school, I didn’t want to try anymore. It wasn’t fear of more failure. I just wasn’t interested anymore. The fire had gone out. I feel amazement now that such a passion could be gone so suddenly. Perhaps it slipped away quietly during the summer while I was busy with reading lists and band practice. My heart quietly healed itself as life went on and I went with it. Perhaps I felt a trust in my judgment unusual for the teenaged me, a trust which abandons me still upon occasion.

I’m worried that I am feeling that way again right now, but about something of much greater importance. My passion to have another child might be gone.

The one desire that remained steady through my entire life was the one to be a mother. (Well, except for an exceptionally dark period of self-loathing in my mid-twenties.) Even when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, or ever would be, a wife, I wanted to be a mom. A devoted viewer of “The Brady Bunch”, “Eight is Enough”, and “Step by Step”, I always envisioned a big family.

When I did marry at 28, my husband and I agreed we would wait a year to start our family. That didn’t last long. I knew before we married that I would want to start trying the second the ink on the marriage certificate was dry. I hoped against hope I could hold off. Conventional wisdom says to be married for awhile first, right?

We married in February and conceived our son the following October. At my baby shower, my aunt asked about the number of children we planned to have.

“Oh, three or four, I guess,” I answered. (The reality of pregnancy must have adjusted my ambition a bit.)

Our son Max arrived in July 2009. One terrible bout of PPD, a pregnancy-related herniated disc, and two and a half years later, our daughter Lucy arrived, in February 2012. Every time I gave birth, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. (I now squarely blame that on the fact that I gave birth sans epidural the first two times. If I had it to do over again, I would get the drugs.)

On Mother’s Day 2013, Lucy died of dilated cardiomyopathy, after a six-month battle that included listing for heart transplant. She was 15 months; Max was a couple months shy of four.

From my grief surged an unbelievable drive to become pregnant again. The only thing that could make the loss of my baby bearable was to have another growing inside me.

I became pregnant in June 2013 and experienced a missed miscarriage and D&C three months later. In November 2013, I became pregnant AGAIN and delivered a beautiful rainbow baby, our daughter Scarlett, the following July. Her big brother received the best 5th birthday present ever, four days late.

After another bout with PPD, I went on Zoloft. I feel better than I have probably ever in my life. One fact I need to fill in is that I became certain I wanted three kids after Lucy was born. Like, a week after. Three was the magic number. It just felt right. When I thought about four, I thought, “Whoa. Too many.” In my case, three was enough.

After Lucy was diagnosed, my husband and I struggled with this desire of mine, especially considering that her illness could be genetic. We didn’t know if we would have the necessary time and money for another now that we were parenting a chronically, perhaps terminally, ill child. But we also wanted Max to have a sibling if Lucy died. Due to the unpredictable nature of cardiomyopathy, we did not know if she would die young or when it would be if she did. She could live in to her 50s or not make it to her 2nd birthday.

After her death, it seemed a no-brainer to have another child. We wanted more than one. We wanted Max to have a living sibling. Scarlett is the joy of all of our lives now. The only way life to have life more perfect would include Lucy still living.

When Scarlett was 9 months old, we started trying again. I couldn’t shake the desire for “three all at the same time”. Also, after being pregnant part of every year since we got married, except 2010, I was ready to be done with the pregnancy part. I wanted our family complete. I was done wondering about it and more than ready to make it a reality.

The second pink line showed up in August 2015. I could hardly believe our luck. A spring baby, so I wouldn’t be heavily pregnant during the brutal Texas summer. Scarlett would be a few months shy of two, which would be a challenging, but wonderful, age gap.

Those possibilities vanished with the report from our NT scan. The baby showed signs of Turner syndrome. When we returned the following Monday for an appointment with the maternal fetal medicine specialist, there was no heartbeat. Another D&C followed the next day.

The most recent loss happened almost four weeks ago. We still don’t have the test results to tell us definitely what happened. I have changed my mind about whether or not our future includes another child with practically each passing day.

Besides all of the practical and medical concerns, I just might be having that “fire has gone out”, half-hearted feeling. Of course, it just happened a month ago, my hormones are still in an uproar, and I am on Zoloft now. All of that could be contributing to the lack of the desperation I felt after my first D&C. I have felt it this time, but only in brief spurts.

I just know that considerations that did not unduly sway me before – the newborn sleep deprivation, the demands of a toddler and a newborn, money worries- are enough to scare me away at least briefly now. Or worse, I feel apathy. I don’t want to be housebound and exhausted again. I think about ovulation and pregnancy tests and just do not feel the old excitement and determination. I was willing to do it all one more time to get that last kid, because I would know it was the last time. This loss reminded me that we can never be sure that we have reached the last time. Or, at least, a last time with a last baby at the end of it.

Maybe I wanted the baby I lost a few weeks ago, but don’t want another. Maybe I just feel this way right now. Maybe I’m just done. I’m 36. I’ve been pregnant five times, given birth three times, and buried one child.  Maybe my desire for three came to include a subconscious desire to fill Lucy’s gap, to escape that loss. My heart might have healed once again while life’s duties carried me forward. Perhaps this is the way I am to have three children. I no longer feel sadness when I see three siblings in restaurants. I no longer clench my fists to keep the rage from surging out uncontrollably and searing everyone in its path as I tearfully insist to my husband that I want “three at the same time”.




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