Tag Archives: anxiety

The Night Was My Enemy

1 Mar

“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.”

― Nicole Sobon, Program 13

I called Oli’s doctor and told her our decision to try Melatonin. She suggested that we start at 3mg and see if it helps. The first night I gave it to her I was so hopeful that she would begin a normal sleep pattern. I crushed up the pill and mixed it in some applesauce at bedtime. As Oli closed her eyes I whispered a little made up song in her ear.

“Sleep sweet Oli. Sleep tonight. Sleep sweet Oli until it’s light.”

It worked!! For the first time in months she slept through the night. I would like to credit my little song and the mystical powers of my voice, but there was a reason I was whispering it to her and not singing it.

Melatonin was now my best friend.

It was wonderful seeing what regular sleep did for her. She had more energy, ate better, and put on some weight. She finally weighed 20lbs at 20 months old.

It helped me tremendously too.

Before we tried Melatonin I would occasionally have anxiety attacks when darkness fell. I worried every night about how many hours of sleep I would get. Was I going to be able to function at work the next day? If I was staying at home the following day I worried that my temper would be short and that I would be too exhausted to do anything productive with the kids.

The night was my enemy. It held all of my fears, inadequacies, demons, unfulfilled dreams and unanswered questions. It made me feel weak and useless. I would hold my playful baby in my arms at 2am and silently cry so she couldn’t hear my anguish. I would turn my head so my tears wouldn’t fall on her face. And I would pray in the dark. I prayed and prayed for peace. I prayed for comfort and then I would wrap her up in her blanket and hold her tightly to my heart. Oli’s link to my heart and the complete love I felt for her was the only tether I had binding me to this life. This place and my role as a mother. I held onto her and gave this tiny person the power to hold me down and keep me from floating away.

Once she started sleeping it lifted some of those anxieties from my shoulders and allowed me to take a much needed deep breath. I actually took deep breath.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

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My Old Lady, Gertrude

28 Feb

Tomorrow Oli has surgery…again. Every time she has to go through this I think, “For sure this is the last time. Surely she won’t need anything else done.” I think it Every. Single. Time. And then we have to do something else. Something comes up that only can be done under anesthesia.

Tomorrow’s surgery is no big deal. I know that it’s no big deal. They will not be cutting into her. Many, many people have gone through MUCH worse with their children. I know that too. Oli will only be having an ABR (hearing screen) done and possibly tubes put back in her ears.

But…I am terrified.

I have this wicked old lady, Gertrude that lives in my mind. (Wait….stay with me here.) She likes to whisper nasty, horrifying things in my ear. Remember worst-case-scenario-girl from previous blog posts? The one who is sure the power will fail during Oli’s surgery and her arm will end up falling off? Gertrude tells me these things. “Yoo-Hoo! Shaaannoooon! What if the anesthesiologist is a drug addict and gives her WAY too much medication and she never wakes up?” This is not all that far-fetched. When I had my tonsils out as a child my doctor was an addict and really did give me too much anti-nausea medication. Fortunately it was just that and not too much sedation. (A few years after my surgery he ended up giving a pregnant mommy too much sedation and sadly, she died.) I just couldn’t control my tongue for hours after surgery.

What?

Yes it was very, very bizarre. It would pull back towards my throat and then hang out like a dog. On the drive home my mom kept saying “Shannon. Stop that! It’s not funny.” I told her I couldn’t help it. After I finally convinced her that I wasn’t doing it on purpose she got kind of freaked out. (Hello! Her child had lost all voluntary control of her tongue!) She called the hospital and after looking at my chart the nurse realized that during surgery, I had been given WAY too much medication. The sticking out tongue thing eventually went away after a few hours. Thank God!! What if I had to live the rest of my life like that? What if I still had no control of my tongue? Has that ever happened before? I should Google ‘permanent loss of voluntary tongue control’.

Then I start thinking, what if that happens to Oli?

No. I probably shouldn’t Google it. I don’t want to know.

I’m just nervous. Nervous, nervous, nervous.

I’m scared because they will be putting her to sleep (obviously that alone provides a whole crap load of things for that old lady to work with), but I’m also scared of the hearing screen results. What if it’s NOT just fluid in her ears? What if that doesn’t explain why her eardrum isn’t moving? What if it’s something congenital? What if she’s NEVER been able to hear well out of that ear? I’ve spent her whole life providing a lot of information auditorily. What if I’ve been doing it all wrong? It would definitely explain a lot if it turns out that she really isn’t hearing well.

No matter what, I have to try and ignore the millions of bad scenarios that are racing through my head. (Shut up Gertrude!) I have to put aside my own fear and step up for Oli. And I have to just keep moving forward whatever the results of that test show.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” -Denis Waitley

Real, Fake Eyes

19 Feb

“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” ― Nicholas Sparks, Three Weeks With My Brother

A few days before Oli’s first birthday I woke up after only sleeping a few hours. The big day was finally here. The biggest day! She was getting her first pair of painted prosthetic eyes!

I could hardly contain my excitement. I couldn’t even imagine what she would look like. All of those feelings returned from when I was pregnant and would lie awake at night trying to picture her.

Before she was born I imagined her with big brown puppy dog eyes, long full lashes, and a sparkle that would melt everyone’s heart. Now I was imagining the same thing minus the long lashes and the sparkle. Little did I know how fantastically real, ocularist’s can make fake eyes. That sparkle was there, just painted on.

I rushed everyone through breakfast and we all piled in the car for the trip to L.A.

The drive seemed to take forever. Seth and I passed the time talking about what we each thought she would look like and what color we were going to choose.

“Brown. Or maybe blue. Kekoa has blue eyes. Or green like yours?” I couldn’t make up my mind.

“Blue. Kekoa and Thalia both have blue eyes and her little left eye looks like it is blue.” Seth makes the final decision.

“Blue it is.” I honestly really could have cared less by this point. All of those dreams of big brown eyes were receding from my mind and by the time she was 1 year old I just wanted her to have any kind of eyes. They could have been purple, red, or painted like cat eyes and I would have been absolutely thrilled.

Months and months of staring at blank eyes had made me realize how much I wanted to look at a pair of real looking ones. Although we had shed the ghastly pegs months ago, I was now anxious for the conformers to be painted.

I knew that I would love them, but I had no idea how much the prosthetics would change her whole face and appearance…

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Oli before she got her painted prosthetics.

Please Don’t Let Her Arm Fall Off

16 Feb

“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

Fortunately because my two small children were in the car with us that cold day in January it ensured that my husband’s enthusiasm for an adventure took a back seat. We made it to Oli’s surgery appointment unscathed, unstuck and virtually un-traumatized.

It was scary riding with a driver who was unfamiliar driving in the snow on gravel roads in the middle of the desert, but Seth was cautious. We got to the hospital 2 hours late to her appointment. I had gotten a hold of the surgeon when we realized that we were going to be late and she told us to go ahead and come whenever we could.

They prepped Oli for surgery and the nurses whisked my baby girl off to the operating room shortly afterwards. We were assured that Oli was in good hands and were sent to the waiting room.

I had never been the parent of a patient before Oli was born. One time I had to take Kekoa to the ER when he was 4 months old because of a high fever. We were only there long enough to make sure he didn’t have an infection and then left.

This was nothing like that.

I knew they were going to be cutting into my baby, however minor the operation was.

THEY WERE GOING TO CUT INTO MY BABY!!!

I had been involved in lots of surgeries with babies before Oli, but none was my child. My heart went out to all of the parents who had sat in those little plastic chairs before me.The parents that I myself, had sent to the waiting room when I was the nurse on duty the day of their child’s surgery. Many times I spoke the exact same words spoken to me that morning, “She’s in good hands. Everything will be fine.”

Of course there are no guarantees. I knew that. I was terrified.

The few hours it took to perform the operation and get Oli into the recovery area were some of the longest hours of my life. Oli has had a few other surgeries since then and it never gets any easier.

Remember I am a worst-case-scenario girl.

I worry about everything from a complete power failure when my girl is still on the ventilator and unconscious down to worrying that the nurse didn’t properly swab her IV port before injecting medication into it and subsequently she gets a terrible bacterial infection and her arm falls off.

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It’s awful!

Luckily none of those things has ever happened.

I want to trust people taking care of Oli. I really do. Most of me has to or else I would drive myself crazy, but this is my baby girl. I can’t trust them completely. I don’t think any mother ever does.

Moms worry about our children the moment we realize we are having them. It’s not any more difficult, I don’t think, when you have a child with special needs. We are just given more opportunities to worry. And we are given more opportunities to trust people and have a little faith in them. Sometimes they let you down, but most of the time they don’t.

Most of the time my imagination is far worse than reality.

Good thing!! Otherwise my girl would defiantly be missing a few limbs by now.

Roller Coaster

12 Feb

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Each day came with an anticipation of ways to fill the day with two young children and ended with a feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. My mind was full of contradictions and confusion. I looked forward to going to work, but hated taking care of other people’s babies when mine seemed to need so much. I liked to stay at home with my kids, but I wanted to get out of the house and try to focus on something else. However nothing seemed to be able to tear my mind away from focusing on what I should be, could be, or would be doing if things had turned out differently.

Oli was actually a very happy and easy baby. When she learned to smile she smiled all of the time. She started to coo and babble, giggle, reach for toys, and bounce in her bouncy seat. She seemed to be developing as a regular baby despite her blindness. By the time she was 5 months old and meeting her developmental milestones I wondered if maybe the doctors were wrong. Maybe despite all of her quirks she was actually pretty typical. I still worried about her, but I had a little bit of hope again that her blindness would be her only hurdle in life. I was slightly more comfortable with the idea of her disability and even began to enjoy hearing stories about inspiring blind adults and children. I would think, Yes, Oli can do those things too!

But then I would remember that the specialists had warned me that the developmental gap between her and other children would only widen as she got older. My life had become a series of these highs and lows. I would just reach the top of one peak only to come crashing down the other side.

You see I was on a roller coaster ride and I couldn’t figure out how to get off.

Where do you look when someone doesn’t have eyes?

8 Feb

“what you need and what you want aren’t the same things,”

― Cherise Sinclair, The Dom’s Dungeon

Three weeks after we took Oli to LA to get her first pair of conformers we took her back to get her second pair. She was very fortunate because her right eye (the empty socket) actually stretched a considerable amount. The ocularist was able to fit her with a conformer twice the size of the first one. Sometimes conformer therapy just doesn’t work and kids are never able to wear them.

“So. . .Mr. Haddad, when are you going to lose the awful pegs and put flat painted conformers in? Next month? A couple of months at most, right?” I am incredibly impatient.

“No. It will actually be 2-3 more months before I can put a flat conformer in that right eye. It’s just too small. I wouldn’t be able to get it in or out of her eye without that peg. And she will probably be close to her first birthday before we put painted ones in that look like real eyes.” He explains quietly.

“Oh. That long huh? I guess that’s okay.” I almost start crying.

I was screaming inside my head,

No. No. No! That’s is absolutely not okay. I want to look into her eyes! Fake or not. I should be able to look into her eyes!

Where do you look when you are speaking to someone if you can’t look into their eyes?

To me, eye contact was very important. It showed people that I was paying attention, interested in what they were saying, and respectful. I could gauge their feelings and reactions to what I was saying when I looked into their eyes.

I had to learn with Oli that I could still do all of these things with her, in a different way.

I learned the delicate map of her facial expressions. The raise of her eyebrows and the little bit of furrow between them when she was listening. Her toothless smile, scrunched up nose and the turn of her head when she was happy.

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Her tightly pursed lips turned down at the corners when she was sad.

I learned to look at her whole face and body language to gauge her reactions and feelings. I learned to read her without making eye contact, but with the complete confidence that I knew her emotions.

I learned that I really didn’t need to see her eyes to make a connection with her.

I learned all of this. . .but it never changed the fact that I wanted her to have eyes. Real eyes, fake eyes, glass eyes, plastic eyes. I didn’t care. I wanted her to have them.

OMG!! What Did You Stick In Her Eyes!!

5 Feb

“No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.”
― Bryant McGill

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Although talking with these moms helped me tremendously, no one could have prepared me for the calamities of conformer therapy. I described the evaluation as being “awful” so to find a word describing peg conformers is difficult.

Horrendous, horrific, saddening, a catastrophic emotional disaster for an already emotional mother walking a very fine line between a healthy dose of hope and normalicy and a very unhealthy obsession pretending what if…

Peg conformer therapy walked me through new trials and tribulations and reminded me frequently that I did not possess thick skin.

These conformers were not pretty.

It looked like I had shoved little glass sticks in my baby’s eyes.

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"What did you stick in her eyes?" I actually had someone say these words to me.

"OMG! What did you stick in her eyes? Poor baby!"

As she clutches her chest and looks at me like she is about to call child protective services.

“Nothing! Nothing. I didn't put those in her eyes. Well, technically I did I guess, but only to help her.”

I start spouting off unsolicited information about her eye condition. Letting this woman know that Oli was born without eyes and that I drive her to California every 3-4 weeks and actually pay a professional to put these ghastly things into her eyes.

I am giving her way too much information at this point and now she is looking at me like instead of calling CPS she is thinking of calling the local psych hospital.

Well, serves you right lady! Don't say things like that to me. I'm sensitive!

Who says things like that to people anyway? I would never…

I was taught very young "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you". Thank you Mr. Snell circa 1985-1990. He was my elementary school principle and always closed the morning announcements with that lesson. I frequently hear that phrase repeated in my head in Mr. Snell's deep friendly voice. More frequently now that Oli has been with me.

As for spouting off unsolicited information about Oli, I still do this.

I'm going to make her a T-shirt that says "I'm just fine, but my mommy has issues!"

And then….they just let me take her home.

25 Jan

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” -Robert Frost

Now I have answers to most of those questions.

No. She would never see her daddy’s face. But, she would see how beautiful his soul is every time he holds her close to his heart. Every time he fiercely protects his baby girl.

Her brain appeared to be normal but, they would have to do a MRI to be sure. This would not tell me anything about her cognitive function, however. I did not realize back then that the words “her brain appears to be normal structurally” did not mean she would have normal cognition. It turned out to be a blessing that I did not know that then.

Her kidneys were anatomically normal. Except for some extra fluid in them called hydronephrosis and something called vesicoureteral reflux.

What the heck is that?

Pertaining to her story, it was pretty insignificant. She ended up just having a few procedures and was required to take medication so she wouldn’t get a kidney infection. Although the procedure called a VCUG, to test for the reflux, was traumatic for her it was probably more traumatic for me. She eventually grew out of it by the age of 3.

The hearing screen result was a little hairy. The first screen they ran was normal in one ear and abnormal in the other the first time they did it.

You can imagine my reaction when the hearing screen person told us the results. I will never forget the look on her face as she tried to be as gentle as possible explaining that they would have to test her again.

She knew that Oli was blind and I could tell that she wanted nothing more than to tell me my baby would be able to hear me. She could see the look on my face as I silently pleaded with her to tell me the test was normal.

Please let her hearing be okay.

“We will have to run the test again tomorrow. This does happen sometimes. Sometimes we run the test too early after delivery and there is still fluid in the baby’s ears.” she told me as gently as possible.

She came back the next day and tested Oli again.

The results were normal.

She did hear all of my expressions of love.

She did hear me when I repeated “I am so sorry” over and over again.

She heard me when I vowed to do absolutely everything in my power to ensure she had the best life possible.

And then the nurse came in and told me I could take her home.

Just like any other baby. They told me to just take her home.

What was I supposed to do with her next?

They were going to let me just walk right out of the hospital with her?

Were they crazy?

I needed a few more days!

I need to prepare.

I needed a battle plan, an army of soldiers to protect her from the world.

I needed to erect some kind of force field around her.

Wasn’t there some sort of pamphlet they were supposed to give me providing detailed instructions?

Wasn’t someone going to tell me what the next step was?

I was absolutely terrified.

The hospital staff just assumed that I would know what to do?

Why?

Just because I was a NICU nurse?

I was not NOT a nurse at that point. I was a new mother and I needed support. I needed to know there was a path that I was supposed to follow. I wanted someone to direct me and tell me where to go.

I will let you in on a sad little secret of the special needs world. Most people do not tell us where to go for help. Nobody provides us with a list of all the services that our childrn can benefit from. The services our children are entitled to. I guess they think that when we get the diagnosis we automatically absorb this information through osmosis. By being in close proximity to other special needs parents.

What did he just tell me?

22 Jan

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Seth left the next afternoon to go pick up my son Kekoa (he was 18 months old) from his Grandma’s house where he had been staying. The pediatrician, who was supposed to come and look at Oli in the morning, still had not shown up. A little while after Seth left, the doctor walked through the door.

“I’m just here to take a look at your baby.”

I sit up in the hospital bed anxiously awaiting his assurance that everything is fine. “Ok. I’m kind of worried about her eyes because she hasn’t opened them yet. I think they’re just swollen, you know because I had been in pre term labor awhile and I’m sure that stressed her out and probably caused some swelling, but I’m sure she’ll open them soon. Maybe later today or tomorrow. Do you think? I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. They’re just swollen. Right?”

He just looks at me like he’s mildly bored and somewhat irritated because I am rambling at this point. I tend to ramble and talk really fast when I’m nervous.

“Are you going to look at her eyes?” I ask. I am quickly losing patience with his non-committal attitude.

He is looking everywhere else besides her eyes. Her feet, legs, tummy, arms, nose, mouth. Taking his sweet time at it too, I must say. I just wanted to scream at him “TELL ME NOTHING IS WRONG WITH HER EYES YOU BIG JERK!!”

Finally he tries to open her eyes. Oli starts screaming her head off like he is trying to rip her eyelids apart. Which is essentially exactly what he was doing because they were literally fused together. After trying this for a minute he puts the blanket back over her, straightens up, looks at me and says,

“Well, I think she has either really small eyes, or no eyes at all and she will be completely blind. Microphthalmia is what it is called. Do you have any questions?”

My mouth is now gaping open, tears are pooling in my eyes, and I’m looking back at him with a mixture of astonishment and offence. Do I have any questions? Well let me see… I guess I have two. Where did you get your medical license and where do you live so I can come rip your heart out while you are sleeping. Like you just ripped out mine.

Did I have any questions? What a dumb question. Of course I had questions but, at that point I couldn’t even remember my own name let alone think of a way to put together a question out of the millions of thoughts racing through my head.

“I don’t know. Have you ever seen this before?”

“Once. 15 years ago. A little boy that had Fraisers Syndrome. We’ll have to check her kidneys. She might not have any kidneys.” He answers with a blank, emotionless expression.

Again I am staring at him with my mouth open. Did he just say what I think he said? No kidneys? That means death right? I mean, I am a nurse and I’m pretty sure no kidneys means death. Did he just tell me she might die?

“Ok then. I’ll order some tests and we’ll let you know.”

With that he promptly walked out of my hospital room leaving me alone with my new baby that I now thought might die.

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