Today I realized for half of 2016 I've carried a pebble of dread in the pit of my stomach.
Since we realized that something was wrong with Felix's arm and decided to consult a pediatric neurologist, the dread has taken different shapes. Dread that it would be some obscure and fatal diagnosis. Dread that he would need an MRI. Dread that something would go terribly wrong during the MRI. Dread that it would be the rare vascular malformation and would need brain surgery.
No matter what shape it took it sat there hard and cold. I'd talk myself down. I'd do more research. I'd talk to a doctor and then another doctor and then another doctor. I began the process with First Steps and got Felix started with occupational therapy.
I would move the pebble. Smother the pebble. Ignore the pebble. Until there I'd be, holding Felix close and I'd rest my mouth on his head and the weight of that tiny little pebble would feel like a boulder.
What if something happens to my baby?
On the drive to Vanderbilt. As I handed him over to the nurse. As we waited and waited.
I could feel the weight bearing down on me until all I could do was breathe. Just keep breathing.
Then, just like I had told myself they would, the nurse called my phone and said Felix was fine and ready for us in recovery. Picking him up for the first time I felt some of the weight lift. I was so fearful of the MRI I had only allowed myself the smallest space to consider the result. I told myself we would hear what we expected to hear ... but I was prepared to wait days to hear it.
I laid down to take a nap and turned off my phone - not even considering the possibility the hospital would call. When I turned it back on, the pediatric neurologist had left a message. I called her back and she told me it was what they thought. Felix had had a minor stroke either a month before he was born or right after. There was no vascular malformation. He would need the occupational therapy he was already receiving and we didn't even need to go back and see the doctor again.
And just like that the dread I'd been carrying for months was gone. The stress of Felix's diagnosis isn't completely gone. I still worry he'll have trouble walking. I still wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent what happened. I still watch his right hand constantly for signs of improvement... but the fear? The fear of the unknown. That fear is gone.
As weird as it is, I realized the MRI got inexplicably linked up with another event this month. For those of you who might not follow me on social media, I won my primary campaign for Paducah City Commission. (YEAH! And THANK YOU for supporting me!)
It feels really stupid to talk about an election in the same post about my baby's stroke, but you know what life isn't neatly compartmentalized and mine is no different.
Plus, the fear I felt about the election has been another constant companion over the past six months. Yes, I chose this path but it didn't change the stress associated with it. By the end of the campaign, I felt fairly confident that I would make it out of the primary but I had no idea in which order I or any of the other candidates would fall. What if I didn't make it? What if I'd wasted everyone's time? What if I looked foolish?
In a weird way, one scenario constantly distracted me from the other. When I would feel my anxiety over Felix and the MRI begin to rise, I would dive into campaign work. When I would begin to worry about the campaign results, I would remind myself that I had much more important things over which to worry.
It wasn't until today - with the results of Felix's MRI finally in - that I realized that this year was half over and I'd spent all of it carrying around these tiny pebbles of dread. I'd rubbed them until they'd felt familiar - until I'd accepted their presence as my new reality. This new reality made all the easier because everyone in our lives has been so incredibly supportive and amazing.
But it was still hard ... and then, just like that, they were all gone.
It was only then that I realized how heavy those pebbles had gotten. That the weight of that dread and fear as a constant companion has taken its toll. That I hadn't been writing as much. That's how I know when I'm really avoiding something. The words don't come.
But tonight I couldn't get the words down fast enough. The pebbles were gone. The words had returned.
It wasn't until the weight had been lifted that I realized how heavy it had been all along.