Slivers of sunset-streaked clouds are painted across our windows. I sit in peace, no television echoing, no children squealing or calling my name. I’m left in my thoughts, sitting amongst our treasured things- books, paintings, sketches and hand-drawn cards with Mommy scrolled across the top. This is a picture of peace, so why is it that all I feel is tension building. Stress, my old friend has returned.
It forms across my forehead, and when I attempt a deep breath, my toes curl under and I inadvertently flex my stomach fighting against relaxation. I’m oddly comfortable here- in the stress- living and feeling as though no one understands the complexity of my thoughts which at the moment are mostly fears. I know my circumstances are not special, they are not overtly unique. Many other parents have feared what will happen to their child and have faced insanely difficult medical futures with their littles. But this still feels isolating. It feels unique to me, to us, to this story.
During these times, I like to shrink away from socializing when I’m feeling this way. I actually think I prefer to be alone in this worry. To feel it all at once- anger, resentment, guilt, and now in the last couple of years… intense longing for my child. Raising a child seperately means time spent apart- an every other weekend cadence that I detest. While friends clamor up to us sweetly proclaiming they are jealous of our parentless existence, while we lazily sip our drinks poolside, what they don’t feel is the aching pit in my stomach, the tear that haphazardly falls from my eye without effort while I fold her tiny clothes in a childless room. It’s eery, I feel like their sweet little voices are embedded in that room- echoing off the walls as I open the closet door. As I sort their toys and carefully arrange Landon’s books, I’m careful not to disrupt formations of tiny toys left mid-play and untouched in the three days she’s been gone. This distance from her only magnifies this intense emotional state I find myself wading in.
The building pressure has returned. I’ve done a decent job burying it for a couple of years. It built up again before and after her last eye surgery, but with so much tumultuous separating and divorcing mixed into that time period, it was unclear what was being felt and for whom. Now, with a budding new family, beautiful and supportive love, this pressure around my heart, furrowing of my brow, clenching of my toes has all returned and I feel like it’s inevitable. Even with happiness, and a new sense of peace and love, this old friend I met almost five years ago has come back… just in time to face surgery again.
This sounds dramatic, I’m well aware. It feels, however, like we’re sitting at the base of this enormous mountain, one with cliffs, those annoying rocks that turn ankles, and dark trails. This massive unknown, arduous and complicated journey laid out before us. Very few if any we’ll ever know have traversed what’s ahead. But we have to go forward- for the better health and well being of the most important thing I’ve ever created… Landon. I am facing entrusting someone, truly a perfect stranger in the form of a pediatric surgeon, to purposefully hurt (by means of required surgical maneuvers) our child. And because I’m the author here, my baby.
The build up to Thursday where we learn the next surgical step is overwhelming. Just waiting to know how often, how badly, how complicated this next step will be. It feels, although it’s not true, that the other surgeries are looming more closely, almost on the heels of whatever is next. That once we start with this first major surgery, the others fall right behind. Ear reconstruction- how, where, when, why? Baha implantation- the infections, and again by whom, where, when?
If I spend time focusing on what this will be like, look like, feel like upon healing her, on nursing her head, her jaw, her sweet face, I simply crack. She’s perfect, yet I know well that these surgeries will help. They’ll improve air flow, sleep, brain stimulation, hearing health, but I very well may break in the process. I also feel violently protective of her lately. With this crazy thing that happened in the last two weeks, that I wrote about just before this piece, I feel more protective than ever before. And as always, I want to be near her daily, miss her hourly, and feel … well, all of it.
I remember when I was young, being told to calm down… often. My emotional control was underdeveloped and I fell apart when things went sideways. Divorcing parents, losing friends, not so great boyfriends… I went into a tailspin. I had to learn to sort through and manage my high emotional IQ. It was not easy. Too many therapist’s couches and boxes of kleenex later and I am still searching for that meditative state of peace amongst complex emotions. And while now my control seems more in check, my ability to love and learn and still work hard every day is in tact. However, I wonder if that emotional sensitivity was always a part of me because she was coming. This uniquely beautiful and amazing child would require different love. Fierce, protective and advocate-style love.
So I sit, staring at this sunset, missing my girl and looking at the base of this mountain. Eric told me a story about a man who’d climbed Everest more than any one else and he said that it wasn’t the mountain that was the hardest part, it was the journey within one’s mind that was the most challenging (I’m paraphrasing here honey). So it’s not about the complexity of what’s coming, it’s how we (I) manage this next phase. What am I doing to show up every day to be the best for her, for Anna, for Eric, and for the rest of my world? And not let our normal living and loving overwhelm me. Worrying and breaking apart isn’t going to soothe her as she heals. It’s not going to make dinner happen, shoes tied, to camp on time.
Recognizing that I’m struggling is healthy, working through it instead of around it is next. For now, sending love and some very cute pictures.