My husband and I took my daughter to see a specialist on Wednesday. She has been ill and fatigued for much of the past month. Our family physician arranged for this exam by a specialist. As we sat in the waiting room prior to our appointment, I was so anxious. I sat absorbing all the sights and sounds around me. I watched a father giving an IV medication to his daughter who looked to be the same age as my daughter. It was clear this was a typical routine as he rooted through his bag pulling out syringes and alcohol pads to seal off the IV tubing when the medication was complete. I saw children of varying ages leave the office after the appointment knowing that soon it would be our turn. My daughter looked over at me from her seat and mouthed, “I’m nervous.” I mouthed back, “I know, it’s okay.” She smiled at me and returned to fiddling with the cellphone she received for her birthday two days prior. Then her name was called and we rose up and took our turn.
The doctor couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause of my daughter’s symptoms but through reviewing her lab results and his exam of her, he was able to rule out the more serious illnesses we were concerned about. He changed her medication regimen and wants to wait a few more weeks to see if her symptoms subside. Speaking in a bit of code because my daughter was in the room I told him that we were relieved by what he felt she didn’t have as much as his reassurances that it was something minor. He was optimistic and realistic at the same time. He told us that as a precaution if her symptoms didn’t improve in 3 weeks or so, there would be another round of tests and different specialists to see. For now I’m happy that she’s resting easier and getting her energy back. We weren’t given any guarantees but I know that my husband and I are doing the best we can to ensure our daughter’s well being. We left feeling more relieved than anxious.
In the ride home after the appointment I sat quietly, realizing how exhausted I was. I’ve spent much of this summer in an anxious, vigilant state. I dropped my son off at a 6-week summer program at the end of June. The first week he was gone my mind raced with thoughts about his safety. I felt as though I was holding my breath. I caught myself so many times with my fists clenched having to force myself to take a deep breath. In those first weeks of Merrick being away, I decided I wasn’t going to spend the six weeks he was gone tense and afraid while he was experiencing an adventure he was so excited about. I was going to borrow some of his excitement and learn to exhale and let go of some of my fears. I breathed in deeply and exhaled on the way home from the doctor’s appointment releasing some of the anxiety that was travelling with me.
I am still learning to exhale. I am learning that I want my children to live full lives even when it means they travel far from home. I am learning that even after one of my children dies my other children may get sick and I have to care for them and advocate for them; something I can’t do if I’m crouched in fear. I am learning that the quiet that envelops my home when my children are away is not a death knell, even though death has come to call. I am learning that grief takes so many forms and is not on any timetable. I am learning to feel what I’m feeling without fear that grief will destroy me. With my daughter’s illness this summer I’ve cried out of fear and from relief. I’m doing the best I can for my children. Merrick comes home today from his 6 week sojourn. It is a triumph for him, immersing himself in a pre-college program with such passion and dedication. It is a triumph for me that fear has not stopped me from allowing my children adventures. I am learning to exhale.