The Relationship Between Love and Worry

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For the last 24 hours, it’s been all hands on deck with E. And by all hands, I mean my own, all night long. High fever plus teething equals the kind of night that brings my anxiety to a boil. Holding her hot little body, watching her refuse bottle after bottle, I go to the worst place. In my mind I blame myself for her death, for every mistake I have made or will make or might make at some point. She’s not dead, of course, she’s sleeping in the next room with her arms stretched wide above her head like she’s just done something fancy in gymnastics. But she could die, from some overlooked symptom or under-treated illness. From not getting enough calories, from dehydration. And I will be responsible for all of it. I can’t believe I’m in charge of keeping these children alive.

At 2AM E. started in again with the crying. The pain cry. That high pitched loud one. When I’m not expecting it, that cry makes my heart race so fast that it’s hard to let down milk. Since she generally does a terrifying combination of both choking and throwing up from oral pain reliever, I have to go the anal suppository route to manage her fever. I administered the dose and looked away for just a moment to get a good glob of hand sanitizer. There it was, the suppository, back in the diaper. So I administered it again. And that’s when I started to freak out. What if that was the other one that I gave her last time and now she just had two at once? What if she overdoses? And then when people ask, how did she die, I’ll always have to think back about the anal suppository and how I wasn’t wearing my glasses and how I wasn’t exactly sure: was it one or was it two? And what are the symptoms of a Tylenol poisoning and should I just stay up to make sure that she’s okay?

I literally spent the time between 2-3:30AM like this. Worry pouring all over me. I was thick in it and I knew I was thick in it but I could not climb out. I’m not proud of this, but I’m not ashamed either. Sometimes this love has me meeting the criteria for all kinds of anxiety disorders.

At 3:30 I went and checked on her, and she looked peaceful and not strung out on anything. I made a decision at that point: she lived through it and so will I. I fell asleep easily after that. That is until A. woke me up at 6:30 howling, “I want Mommy to get me dressed. Mommy, I need you!” Which then woke one very salty and sad E.

And now I’m in the particular sleep-deprived mood where everything seems difficult and even the sunshine is an affront. It’s gorgeous out today, 63 degrees in March. The earth is muddy and melting and bright and I’m grumbling around, complaining like I’m hungover, except that I didn’t even have the pleasure of drinking last night. I’m trying to remember what I’m grateful about after another trip to the pediatrician with E. (for the high fevers). The doctor said he is not pleased with her weight gain, but that we can wait two more weeks before making the call about the feeding tube.

Nope, I wasn’t drinking last night. But maybe I should have been.

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