Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fear (and relief)

It's January 12th, exactly one month after Esther was hospitalized for meningitis. Prior to actually experiencing meningitis, my only reference was that my friend Jen, a medical student and mom, would occasionally mention really scary childhood diseases in our mom talks. And she always mentioned meningitis. And she used the words "messy" and "scary". Well, it was Jen who strongly encouraged me that night to get into the ER (again). She thought this sounded like meningitis. Our pediatrician was saying the same thing in a different conversation Eric was having on his cell phone.

We had been out of town at a family Christmas gathering, so we had a two hour car ride back to downtown Minneapolis to the University Children's Hospital. And boy did I feel fear. My baby was riding next to me, with a fever pushing 104 degrees, a rash, and completely lethargic. I imagined her brain might be fried at the end of this ordeal. And the two people who's advice I was taking most seriously were talking meningitis, and not flippantly. And although I didn't know what meningitis was all about, those words "messy" and "scary" were lodged in my brain for such a time as this. I was so afraid that I felt like throwing up. I wanted to cry every time one of the other girls would ask me a question or Eric would ask me to give him directions. I wanted to sit silently and hold my baby to me.

Frankly, my fears quickly subsided when I got into the ER where they whisked us into a room and quickly began testing. Before they even had the tests back, Esther was started on an antibiotic IV and I felt strangely comforted that at least we were doing something for her. And her fever started to creep back down towards normal. The doctors didn't seem freaked out and gave a very optimistic forecast for her recovery.

Mercifully, her recovery was as fast and complete as we could have hoped for. We were allowed to leave the hospital as soon as was possible, and Esther went back to normal eating and sleeping patterns quickly. I was filled with gratitude to God for answering the prayers of our friends and family. I was filled with relief and thankfulness that this illness didn't take a bad turn. I was exhausted and grateful.

But, I should have known it would happen. Fear gradually crept back in. The doctors told me that there was about a 5% chance that Esther would experience hearing loss from this. They said it was unlikely, but that I should keep an eye on her developing verbal skills. They wouldn't do any testing unless I requested it, around 18 months. Well, I felt a tinge of fear when they told me that, but that little tingle in my tummy of fear has been growing over the last month. I have a hard time fighting the fear, having self-control to dismiss it and go on with life. I pray for Esther's complete healing, but I don't feel like that's enough. As a quite laid-back mom, I have grown ridiculously protective of my baby, the little, sweet one. Of course, she has sustained more bumps and "beatings" than either of the other two did, just by virtue of being the third born and loved by her sisters.

It is ridiculous, really. I've fought this battle before (and by God's grace, won it) when Eva was born with holes in her heart and when Hope was diagnosed with potentially life threatening allergies. But Emmanuel, God with us, has been with us. He graciously healed Eva's heart sometime around her third birthday. And He has kindly protected Hope from serious egg-eating-induced catastrophe. He is true, and He is faithfully with us.

The sick and frustrating thing about fear, is that it has a nasty habit of multiplying itself. You let it take hold for a moment, and suddenly there are many more things to fear. And fear manifests itself in the most surprising ways. I have given into fear about my baby, and suddenly I am also unable to manage my home. Unable to formulate a menu plan. Unable to fold laundry. Unable to roll with my two year old's ever-changing emotions. Unable to enjoy my husband. Fear gives Satan a stronghold, and tears down one's ability to function. Ugh.

I've been thinking on this for a good week now. I started thinking about it because the fear started to subside. In the last two weeks, Esther has had some significant developmental changes. She has some new "words", she can stand (supported) on her feet, she is examining her hands and finding things to do with them, her tummy time has improved a ton! So, my fears (particularly about her hearing) have started to depart, giving me space to actually examine them with objectivity. And giving me a few days of inspiration towards being normal again. I laughed with my two year old, and I made a new daily routine to help me be more effective in my home. Things are looking up, I think. So, today as I badgered the Lord with my frustrations, questions, disappointments, these two verses came to mind:

John 10:10b - I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Isaiah 41:10 - Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Although I know I will be tempted to fear again, by this and other unforeseen circumstances, I think I have some powerful ammunition. These two verses are a banner for me, and since we're at the start of a new year, these might be a weapon specific to this new year. I sense that this is God's gift to me for this year. Maybe I'll be coming back to these verses a lot, and I hope that the Holy Spirit will use them to transform my heart. I don't want to fear. I want to know instead that "Surely I will help you."
***I'm including these pictures since I hadn't posted any of the hospital stay yet, and because I like to remember. Yes, the good, the bad, and the ugly.***

But, I'm still saying no to fear. :)


Ellen said...

It's amazing how quickly we can give in to fear. For me right now, the battle is against anger. But I find most sins that are trying to strangle me to be debillitating to my work here at home with the boys and David. You're not alone, girl.

The Mrs. said...

I'm really blessed by that post!
I've dealt with fear so much in my life and I know those multiplying effects it can have. Surely the Lord is strong and faithful and he has shown himself to be that over and over and over.
I love you and will be praying for you to remain fear-free, in Jesus' name!

Ehlan said...

Thanks for sharing Becca--fear about our children can be paralyzing, especially when you have a close call with something particularly dangerous. We will be praying for you to be fear free, and for your children to be safe, sound, and happy! Esther is beautiful by the way!

Luke & Jen said...

Great post! Well said, and well renounced.

Heidi Brachle said...

Thanks for sharing this Becca! It's God's grace in your life that you aren't controlled by fear with all of the significant health issues that you have experienced with each girl. What a great testimony of God's faithfulness!! I'm praying that with the help of the Holy Spirit you can overcome fear once again.