Sunday, October 23, 2011

Confessions of an Anxiety-driven Mommy

 ... it's just been one of those weeks.
You know those weeks - when the exact poetic things that you desperately need to not happen simply ... do?  And yes, I am ashamed to admit that I let it push me over the edge.  I have once again given myself over to anxiety.

Confession #1: Living in Fear  This impending repeat c-section with our third child (tomorrow!) has been a huge source of inner conflict.  Yes, I have expressed to friends and family my irritation that the insistence that I deliver my last two children by surgical removal be on the part of liability lawyers, not medical wisdom (even my doctor is a tad frustrated given my extremely low personal risk).  However, I haven't felt it worth the added stress to fight the hospital so I rolled with it.  And frankly, I still don't think it's worth the stress to fight the hospital - for me.  So I also have felt that for the bulk of this pregnancy, I have been defending my decisions to not fight for a v-bac or encourage spontaneous labor to everyone on the other side of the fence.  Admittedly, this constant turmoil has not set me up for a relaxed mind and contented heart as tomorrow looms.

To make matters worse, the one thing that utterly terrifies me (regarding a cesarean) is the risk of compounding recovery with pneumonia as I did last time.  I got sick before the surgery and this is one of the risks that walk hand-in-hand with a cesarean-section if one's immune system is already compromised.  Wouldn't you know, I got sick two nights ago after a long week of sleepless nights caring for my two children who shared the lovely bug.  Suffice it to say, I'm terrified.

Confession #2: Failure of Temperance   Lack of sleep and fear have really shortened my fuse with the other two.  Even though I already know their illness coping mechanisms, the patterns still really rubbed my already fraying handle on stress.  I know that when my son is in the initiating days of an illness, it's as if his spectrum symptoms utterly disappear.  He is a joy of a patient.  The flip side: as he starts to recover, his impulse control disappears entirely and the spectrum symptoms manifest twofold.
Meanwhile, anytime my daughter isn't feeling well, she turns utterly to the comfort of mother ... so my nearly weaned child wants only to nurse once again.  Let's face it: when working around a squirmy full-term belly and my own "don't touch me" nature when sick ... this did not make for an attractive couple of days.  I lost touch with God's strength to love my children without condition.  My short fuse made us all miserable.

  ... and I can't even begin to express my gratitude to and for my husband who was our rock from his first day off.

Confession #3: Running on Anxiety  Isn't it amazing how anxiety manifests itself in each of us in a manner that's as unique as our personalities?  Coping mechanisms can be such a dirty thing.  Some people bury themselves in work or other "constructive" (but nevertheless escapist) behavior.  Others cave in to addictions such as substances, gaming, or shopping.  Still others (like yours truly), manifest a form of stress-induced OCD.  My "escape" from addressing my anxiety directly is to attempt to set the perfect stage: from environment to costume.  Everyone thought I was traditionally "nesting" these last two weeks.  No, I was consciously trying to create the perfect stress-free living environment for when the baby came home and I was presumably out of commission.  This last week, despite combating illnesses, I found myself obsessed with filling the gaps in the kids' wardrobes - operating on the assumption that we were going to be hit with foul weather before I was capable of driving again.  But it didn't stop there: I desperately needed said outfits to coordinate together evenly.  And the greatest point of stress, as stupid as it sounds, was the baby's "take-home" outfit.  Everything was ... wrong: either "pull-over" (my kids have large heads so we avoid pullover items at all costs) design; or no sizes available under 9M, or simply too pink.  I found myself almost violently repulsed by the retail industries "cutesy" projections onto my child and her personality.

... and then I had to stop.  What is going on here? Who cares what the baby wears home from the hospital?  The only people who will see it are us and the nurses.  All that matters is that she's comfortable, not how she "looks."  I thought and prayed long and hard ... and finally the Spirit smacked me over the head with the obvious:

Take-home outfit.  The perfect home environment.  I am terrified of bringing this child home, outside the relative convenience of my body.  So here I am, operating on the assumption that I'll be laid to waste for the next six weeks with a complicated recovery, anticipating hell and high water to freeze my children, and trying to "fix" my anxiety by addressing all the symptoms of my fear instead of committing my terror to God directly.  It's not unlike taking medication for the flu: the symptoms will be masked and you might be able to operate more "normally" for a short time, but your body is still at war with an invading enemy and masking the symptoms may actually only lead to your battling the bug longer.

So from here on out, Y'shua's exhortation in Matthew 6:34 must be my focus:  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Forgive me, Father, for not trusting You with all things that I cannot control.