We Don’t Need More Reasons To Be Afraid

I don’t watch scary movies. I don’t need to. My life has enough fear and drama. I don’t feel afraid for my safety or anything, but there is plenty of unpredictability and anxiety to go around – I don’t need someone else’s imagined fear adding to it.

For example, two weeks ago, I went to a routine OB appointment. Everything was fine, except I was measuring small. The doctor sent me to ultrasound for another look. Baby looked good during the ultrasound, and the doctor said she wouldn’t call unless there was a problem.

But the next day she called. I braced myself. “His kidneys were dilated…we want to get you seen by a specialist.” My doctor calmly explained the risk factors associated with dilated kidneys, and I scanned her tone to determine how anxious I should get. Then I did my own Google search, which is usually a terrible idea because you know you’re going to find out you’re terminal. But this time it brought me helpful news.

As I browsed the reputable-looking sites, I sought nourishment for the anxiety. But all I found were a handful of risk factors and low probability of catastrophe. Anxiety squelched.

As my appointment with the specialist approached, I knew there was nothing to worry about. My imagination, while quite the thespian, cannot be relied on for any sort of accuracy.

“It’s probably nothing,” I assured myself. “His kidneys are probably normal. I’m sure it was a fluke.”

But at the ultrasound Tuesday, his kidneys had not changed. It was not a fluke. And although he was in head-down position two weeks ago, he was now breech.

I tried to be one of those really calm moms who doesn’t worry too much about things, but I suck at it. I lay there on the ultrasound bed, my chest and muscles tight. The ultrasound tech asked if I was going to be sick. I wasn’t, but I sure failed at giving the “I’m chill” vibe.

The specialist told me his current symptoms did not warrant any changes to the delivery process. They just need to keep an eye on his parts before and after birth. Then she had to go and undo the peace she planted with words like possibility of “reflux”, “blockage”, “infection” and “increased risk of Down Syndrome”, tempered by, “We see these symptoms a lot in little boys.”

So can someone please tell me if I should panic here? 

When we left, I sat in the lobby with Josh and cried giant tears. He handed me his handkerchief, and I forgot to ask if maybe he was scared too. It felt like the doctor just told us our child would be disabled with life-long kidney problems. I figured I would survive it all, but I wouldn’t like it.

The more I thought about it, I discovered new reasons to hold onto peace. After all, risk factors can’t determine future history. They only give an indication of what could be.

And we are all well-acquainted with risk.

[Click photo for credit]
Every day we live on the wire, running risks of car accidents or plane crashes, risks of losing our jobs or health in a matter of seconds. Every night when we go to sleep, we risk our homes being broken into. When we start a new friendship or relationship, we risk our hearts being broken.

Yet we still fly and drive and sleep and date and play.

Why? Because risk is not a predictor. Risk is not fact. If it was, we would all stay home and wait for our own personal apocalypses. We all know risk doesn’t mean a diagnosis, but sometimes it feels like it does. Especially when you’re lying on the table in the doctor’s office. When the news is new, and we feel helpless. That’s when risk can feel like destiny.

Ah, but it’s only risk. It’s possibility. Potential. An educated guess at likelihood. And in my case, although the potential for health issues with my son increased from what I knew a few weeks ago, the risk is still low.

There is no diagnosis. No stamp of doom. Only risk.

In the face of these health risks and the real-life anxiety accompanying it, I am learning to tell myself the truth:

There is still a high risk that my son will be perfectly healthy.

My son is at risk for normal kidney function and a life without disability.

My son is at risk of changing positions from breech to vertex in preparation for a normal delivery.

I am at risk for being a delighted mother to a second baby boy who is perfect in every way.

Those are the biggest, most real risks at stake. And all I can do is celebrate them.

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2 thoughts on “We Don’t Need More Reasons To Be Afraid

  1. Praying for you, I’m sure I would have been a mess if I’d got news like that too. You don’t want to imagine your child having any additional hardships or health problems. God’s got him in His hands and knows the plans for that sweet little boy. And as hard as it is to imagine He loves your son even more than you do. Also if it helps at all, Sarah was breech for a long time and flipped before delivery.

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