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Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Niki just finished a particularly painful infusion and cried herself to sleep. This is not the first time and it won't be the last. She has been dealing with unexplained vascular pain during her infusions for the last few years now. Some days she can deal and other days she can't. Today just so happened to be a day that she couldn't. 

During the infusion, I reminded her to breathe through the pain. We've had this talk many times before and it's always in the same tone of voice that I use when my patients complain of pain during their blood pressure checks. I can best describe it as a monotoned, but soft and encouraging voice. I'm have no outward reaction to her shrieks and cryingI prefer to panic internally for fear that any other external reaction will weaken her. Sometimes I let out just a hint of irritation and frustration when she forgets to do her breathing. She knows breathing helps and I'm usually exasperated when she doesn't do it. I know this all sounds cold and harsh, but when my parenting journey isn't as perfect as I'd like it to be, I go with what comes naturally.  I treat her like one of my patients because I hope it will empower her. I feel like babying her will make her feel the pain even more. I'm not her mom in this very  moment, I am her caregiver.

Nevertheless, no matter how many times I've coached myself to emotionally detach during times like this, the negative comments I've heard in the past (and present!) start to echo in my mind. Self-doubt rears its ugly head and I worry if I'm doing this "Mommy/Caregiver thing" right. Am harming her by not coddling her when she's in pain? Should I be gentler and more maternal? Can a "mind over matter" approach really teach a 7yo girl how to cope with physical pain for the long haul?! 

So many questions, but no answers. All I'm left to work with is an amalgam of my own beliefs and people's opinions -- both the good and the bad.  I'm in a constant state of trying to figure things out. The fear of the worst case scenario is always there. These fears quietly whisper  to come out if I'm not strong enough to to shush them away.  So what happens? I allow my moment of weakness to consume me and and let all my worries  flood my brain. Terrible, horrible thoughts take over...

The negative people are right. She truly is suffering because of her condition. What if I have another child die? What will that do to my family? My other kids are suffering because of their sick siblings. It was irresponsible for me to have children knowing I could pass along this condition. Why don't I just tie my tubes and stop trying to be so  optimistic all the same time? Get out of the cloud of happiness and face reality like a real woman! You're going about this mom thing all wrong. People are right to judge, Tiff.

I'm too hard on myself sometimes. I know it. I own it. That's just how I am.

As I stared at the tears drying on my sleeping babe's face, worrying about how much I'm screwing up as her mother, my mind drifted to a conversation that I had with my coworker earlier today.  My coworker is much older than I am and a hell of a lot more devout in her practice of the faith. She is probably one of the most content and kindest people I know. Unfortunately, she has been plagued with medical issues lately and she shared her distress and worries with me. She also expressed guilt for having those feelings. 

We talked about how hard it is to "let go and let God" sometimes. It takes a lot of strength to be able to completely cast your burdens upon Him 100% of the time. If our faith is supposed to be strong, then why do we still worry? It all feels so hypocritical. Shouldn't His presence be enough? How can one claim to have complete faith in God's plan, but still experience worry, fear, and anxiety during trials and tribulations?

During that conversation, we revisited how we believe that man has been created in His likeness. I went a little further and shared my belief that our flaws are an intentional part His creation. All of me -- the good and the bad -- was created by Him. This means that during our creation, the addition of an emotion like worry was just as intentional as the addition of contentment. I've always believed that it is a blessing to have things fear. It is a blessing to have the ability to worry and feel anxiety. It serves a purpose in our soul. Worrying helps renew our faith and reminds us to trust in God's plan. 

How many of us have bargained with the Lord during times of self-doubt or emotional distress? How many of us have ferociously prayed for guidance when something tough comes along and we don't know what to do next? Worry is there so we can reconnect with the Lord during our most vulnerable moments. Just like a child looks to her parents for comfort when she falls, we look to God for very same purpose. There is beauty to be found in the anxiety and stress of worrying. 

So here I am, several hours after that conversation, thinking about the beauty of His wonderful intentions. The downfall of being transparent and wearing my heart of my sleeve is it leaves me vulnerable. I've experienced unsolicited hurt and judgement from others along with the positive support, too. It is human for me to fear and worry about what other people think. It is human for me to have these visceral reactions to things that have potential to hurt my soul.

My heart was filled with anxiety and inadequacy earlier, but it is full of peace again. It's full because I've reconnected with God through the gift of worrying and self-doubt. I still don't have all the answers, but I find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone. Although I don't know what lies ahead for Niki, Noah, or any of my other Cubbies, I find solace in knowing that God is there for them in His perfection even when I'm flawed. Whatever it is, whatever may come, it is well with my soul. I won't worry for very long.