Monday, June 20, 2011

Walking Her Down The Aisle

A while ago, Kelvin and I attended a wedding. It was lovely. I love weddings.
The bride's father's speech went something like this: (Paraphrasing here)...

"When J was born, my wife asked if I wanted a boy or a girl. As a man, most would think that I wanted a boy. But I didnt. I wanted a girl. When my wife asked why, I explained that on the day of my daughter's wedding, I couldnt wait to be the man who got to walk her proudly down the aisle. I considered it an honour and a priviledge to have daughter that I could walk down the aisle."

I listened to this and my heart melted. I felt my husband reach for my hand and when I turned to look at him, his eyes were filled with tears.

He'll never get to do that.


I am a long time sufferer of anxiety, long before I lost my baby girl. I deal with anxiety constantly, and have done for a long time. It is debilitating for me, and difficult for those close me to understand and validate. I dont choose to be anxious, it is an innate facet of my personality. I dont choose it and I dont enjoy it. However, I also dont give in to it. Well, I try. I am not always successful. But I consciously work extremely hard to run my anxiety out of Dodge, and some times are more successful than others. I refuse to say this, though: "It is who I am. Deal with it." I refuse to let anxiety win. But it is two steps forward, one step back. Always.
Yes, anxiety is a huge part of me. But I constantly challenge it. It doesnt always seem like that to the outsider. But for me to physically manifest an overcoming of an anxious compulsion, it takes an incredible amount of work inside my mind first.
So, for someone like me, the experience of a stillbirth is so terribly unfair. Because now I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder too, and this manifests itself in a panicky fear for the wellbeing of my children. I am incredibly vigilant regarding the health and safety of my sons. I am perpetually fearful that one or both of them will die too.
Right now, a Whooping Cough epidemic rages in NSW. There is not much that I can really do about this, except vaccinate Archie on time (even early), restrict visitors who havent had a Pertussis booster, restrict Archie's trips outdoors, and when I do have to go out with him, cover him in the pram.
Many people think this is over the top. My own husband included. And my psychologist.
I have spent many years appraising my anxiety, calculating risk, cognitively assessing actual threat and deciding whether my anxiety was warranted. Many times it wasnt.

Not this time. This time it is valid.

I resent the fact that because I have a history of anxiety, I am now "tainted" as though "the boy who cried wolf." Anxiety was not something that I liked about myself. My fears, even though they seemed stupid to someone else, were very real to me. And as I slowly got better, I saw that my fears were silly. But now, when I am presented with a very real threat, and a viable risk, like Whooping Cough, I am treated again as if I am overreacting. It is thought that it is my anxiety disorder shining through.
Well, it isnt. Yes, I have anxiety. Yes, I see that my fears may have burdened you in the past. Yes, I take responsibility for the fact that you may not take me seriously now.

But I have a new baby. A new baby, born after a stillbirth. A new baby who spent 4 days in Neonatal Intensive Care with respiratory distress. A new baby who was hospitalised at 8 weeks old with Bronchiolitis.
My fears about Whooping Cough are valid. And realistic. I am a mother who will protect my children at any cost, even if it seems dumb to you. If you havent lost a baby...if you havent held your lifeless child in your arms...if you arent a wont get it.

If you urge me to take the cover off my pram "to challenge myself and see that nothing will happen"...I wont.
If you urge me to let a stranger hold my baby in a resturant...I wont.
If you are a selective vaccinator and think it is unneccessary that I got myself a Whooping Cough isnt.
If you think I am militant and fanatical...I am.

Because they are my children. And I cant lose another one.