Carry On Tuesday -“Spend all your time waiting for that second chance”

Linney sat on the reclining chair and abruptly slammed down the phone, in tears. For f***s sake, she thought, didn’t anyone understand? She shook her head from side to side and the tears that were streaming down her face went flying but she paid no attention to that. “Whas the madda Mama?” asked a sweet voiced little girl, her daughter, Amelia, age 5 who had been drawing at the table. “Oh honey, I’m sorry, Mama just got a little upset about the phone call but I’m fine now” she said. “Why” asked Amelia,  “why you uspet?” Linney  picked her up and held her close and started dancing to a song that Amelia loved by Colby Collait, the title she thought was “Bubbly.” They sang the song together and danced around the room until Amelia got distracted and Linney was relieved that she didn’t have to answer any more questions about the damn phone call again.

The woman on the other end of the phone was the doctor in a fertility clinic where she and her husband Greg had been trying for over three years now to conceive another child.They desperately wanted another child, well she certainly did.  Some of the things people said, when she told them about Amelia, were just horrifying. Things like: “You are lucky to have one child, why feel you want another when some of us have NO children?” or “You have one child, what’s your problem?” The PROBLEM, she wanted to scream to them is that she needed, she longed for Amelia to have a sibling and that she, desperately wanted another baby, boy or girl. She felt incomplete with just one child and could think of nothing else but getting pregnant again. She had miscarried twice  and each time the doctor just shrugged his shoulders and said “it happens” or “it wasn’t meant to be.” After that, she went to a specialist who didn’t just have pat answers and started Linney on different medications. The phone call that she had just answered was the result of another negative pregnancy test. She had failed. Again. She wasn’t pregnant.

Of course she appreciated Amelia, she adored her and she and Greg were grateful for her every day. Why didn’t anyone understand that her wanting another child didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate having Amelia? It just felt that her left arm, secure and wrapped in a warm, soft red velvet shirt was complete and beautiful but that she was missing her right arm completely. Her other half was missing and she knew she wouldn’t feel complete until they had another baby. Greg said she was getting obsessed; Linney felt he was turning on her too. Even her girlfriends didn’t seem as sensitive as they used to be, her mom and sister, the same. She didn’t care, she would continue. She would have this baby, no matter what.

A year and a half passed and there was no luck, she had not gotten pregnant again. The doctors were not coming up with any reasons and that was the most frustrating thing of all. The doctors said there was nothing further they could do, even her newest doctor told her the same thing. She grieved for a long time, Amelia asked why she was always crying. Linney was depressed and stayed home, in bed, talked as little as possible.  Finally, after being on antidepressants for six months she felt better, she gave up and decided to try and forget that dream. She folded the onesies that she bought long ago for the new baby, in neutral colors. She folded the crib sheets that Amelia had grown out of and she gave them to her friend who was pregnant and due any week.

Linney went back to work full-time while Amelia was in school and Linney threw herself back into her Public Relations job that she had before she was even pregnant with Amelia. She had worked free-lance for them once in a while when she had free time, when Amelia went to nursery school or on long play dates with her new best girl friend, Maude. Amelia would beg to sleep over at her friends’ houses as often as her parents would let her; but she never invited the girls to sleep over at her house. Of course, it was always more fun at her friend’s house, even Linney remembered that.

One night, after Amelia was asleep and Linney and Greg had dinner and watched the news they cleaned up and dragged themselves upstairs. They changed into their pajamas, brushed their teeth and as usual, went together to kiss Amelia good-night. The bed was lumpy and looked odd, they immediately called her name, uncovered the blanket but she wasn’t there. Linney screamed and Greg called the police, it felt surreal; it is every parent’s worst nightmare. “Where is she?” Linney screamed, “Who took my baby?”  The police came over quickly they were at the house in under four minutes, inspecting, taking down information, Linney sobbed the whole time, she was hysterical and angry. “Why did this happen to them, why did all these bad things have to happen to them?”

Greg talked to the police and they went through the house together. The police noticed there was no forced entry, no window was broken, no lock had been touched. The officer tried to calm Linney down because they needed all the information to try and find Amelia. They wanted favorite places she went to, hiding places, names of her best friends, places she loved to go. All of a sudden Linney remembered Amelia’s best friend Maude and how sometimes she would beg to go over there and stay. “Please, please let me stay at Maudies, I love it over there,” Amelia would cry. They called and Maude’s mom answered the phone sleepily: “Hello? What? No, of course not. She’s didn’t come here. What? I’m sure. Well…..let me check and I will call you right back.”

Maude’s mom had said good-night to her daughter, tucked her in and kissed her good-night, she was in her own bed, she didn’t see anyone else and besides, Amelia was always welcome why would they sneak around?  Sue, Maud’s mom went in and turned on the light in Maud’s room and woke her up. “Maudey, Maudey, Wake up, NOW” As soon as her daughter sat up and Sue looked in her eyes, her heart plummeted to her stomach. Guilty. She saw it in her eyes, on her face and she knew. “Where is Amelia and tell me the truth NOW!”

Maud sighed and whispered “but I promised not to tell.” Her mom told her that Amelia’s mom and the police had called. Maud got really scared and started crying, she showed her mom the hiding place in the attic where Amelia was sleeping. Maud woke up and came down and they all sat in Amelia’s room AFTER Sue called Amelia and said she was fine and that she wanted to talk to the girls but they could pick her up in half an hour.

Sue sat between the two girls on the bed and said “Amelia, honey, you know you are welcome here any time. Why did you have to run away? Amelia started crying, first quietly and then she sobbed and gulped trying to get words out “My mom doesn’t love me. She only wanted to love a new baby, she never loved me, never.” Now she could barely speak but she choked out these last words: “she spent all her time waiting for that second chance of having a new baby and she never paid attention to me, the baby was all she talked about, my little sister or brother.” Sue knew all about Linney’s obsession for another baby, everyone knew but she didn’t know how it had affected poor Amelia. All she could do is hold her and stroke her hair and tell her that her mom, of course, loved her so much.  Amelia was having none of it and asked if she HAD to go home. “Yes, honey, you do, you need to talk to your parents and talk this out, but not tonight. Tomorrow is time enough sweetie.

The bell rang, once, twice, three times. It was Amelia’s parents with a police officer. Amelia clutched on to Sue’s arm as they walked slowly to the door.  Amelia just stared at her mother and when her mother tried to hug her, she pulled away. She hugged her father and wouldn’t say a word to her mom. There were no words spoken, just looks, back and forth; Amelia walked out of Maud’s house with her dad’s arm tightly around her shoulders and her mom, trailing behind her, not knowing for a minute, what had just happened.

Fibro Frights And Fatal Fantasies

 

anxiety

Image by FlickrJunkie via Flickr

 

I messed up and didn’t realize that the PFAM’s ( Patients For A Moment) blog carnival deadline was by midnight tonight. The subject was fear. I’m wondering if deep inside I just didn’t feel up to writing, competing, finishing or if I was dissassocating myself from the project. I was going to talk about the web of anxiety and how it feels when it starts to swell in my stomach. It always starts in my stomach beginning with a slight twinge, quickly advancing to panic and anxiety. My arms and legs feel tingly and somehow not connected to my body, I am alternately hot and cold or both together.

The first time that queasy sensation started was the summer before my freshmen year at college.  I was eating dinner with my family in a fancy Italian restaurant in Queens, NY.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, it was the first time I had ever felt anxious and I remember calling it “cold dread.” How could I explain this new, horrible feeling when I had never experienced it before? How do you name something you do not know?

Those fearful sensations in my body became like a close cousin to me. We lived as if we were conjoined; I could not separate reality from frightful fantasies. It was something that I have learned to live with and deal with.  I started with a tiny germ of truth and blew it up out of proportion. There was no stopping my obsessive worrying, nothing helped: warm milk, hot baths, reading a book, distraction.  I remember a time when I was sitting in the trolley in Boston and thought what I had whispered to my friend was overheard by someone else and I became overwhelmed and frightened. What if? What if? It became a wakeful nightmare for me.  I did a lot of catastrophizing back then and even now, once in a while, it still tries to creep into my brain. I need to forcefully push it away, as if an intruder was about to enter and I had to slam the door hard, with brute force.  Sometimes that is enough, sometimes it isn’t.

My cousin’s stomach ache could be pancreatic cancer,  my sister’s low throaty voice could mean she was manic, my narrow-angled glaucoma could make me blind in a second.  I worked with a hot-headed, explosive employee that I thought, for sure, would bring a gun to a grievance meeting and shoot us all. I remember strategically seating myself closest to the door, just in case. I lived in a world of tragedy, of horrendous outcomes, death, madness, cancer, stroke, coma, terrorist attacks, murder, mayhem and more. “Health and welfare” is what I worry about as I tried to succinctly wrap it up like an adorned Christmas present, perfect silver wrapping with a tight red bow.

The truth of the matter is that now we DO live in a fearful world and something COULD happen.  Fear perpetuates fear and even while  I am writing this down I feel the first fingers of anxiety like a gray mouse with darting eyes. I take deep cleansing breathes. I ask myself questions: “what are the odds of that happening?” The media doesn’t help: “Don’t go to public places when you are traveling in Europe” What? Of course we would go to public  places if we were in Europe. Is too much information just too much?  I refuse to watch the news on TV before I go to sleep.  The only thing we can do is try to push the worry aside and live as normally as we can; even if it takes enormous strength and effort. Carpe Diem as they said at Boston College where I worked: Seize The Day, as best as you can.