Monday, July 13, 2009

Fear Is a Barnacle by Cara Tyrrell

Fear and Grief. They are a team. The worst kind - a tag team. They surrounded me when Emma died, consuming every part of my being. When one rested the other swept in, rejuvinated, more than able to keep me wading in a broken- unable to function - place.
My grief has morphed, evolved, shape-shifted. My life is filled with moments. Most of the time I can tell her story without crying. I can feel her presence without falling to the floor. I can love my angel baby without my heart repeatedly self-destructing. To support my growth, I take affirmative action to ensure the our daughter - our beautiful Emma Grace - is remembered always.
In a recent post I said I would, "go back", but the joke was on me. I didn't need to. My fears are still here, quiet - stealth like, but part of me forever. They took permanent residence within the marrow of my bones, waiting for their chance. They attacked on a Sunday morning.
The girls, all four of them, had gone to bed without any trouble - two in one room and two in another. Sure, I heard some talking. The youngest had to use the bathroom, get a quick drink of water, and "check" her sister's middle of the night flashlight to be sure it was working. But, all in all, a very smooth bedtime routine considering we had three additional kids in our house on a Saturday night.
The baby, after a very stimulating and napless afternoon, had passed out early. At 6:00 I snuggled him in, read a book, surrounded him with all his familiar bedtime paraphanlia and sang as I walked out my bedroom door. The monitor was on full blast. We never heard a peep. That boy was tired!
"Well" I said to my husband, who looked equally napless and wiped out after pulling four giggling girls on a sled around our rather large field multiple times, "He'll probably be up at the crack of dawn." We were quite mistaken.
At nine o'clock I tiptoed around the pack-n-play at the base of my bed. Snuggled down under the mountain of covers necessary in an old farm house in mid January, I listened. It felt so good to have a baby in our room again. He talks in his sleep, sometimes sings a little I think. For the first two hours, I was in and out of a light slumber. I tossed when he tossed. I turned when he turned. I lay still, listening to the rustle of flannel sheets moving against the mesh sides of the portable bed. And then, I slept - until 6am - (the formally referred to "crack of dawn"). Caroline's four-year-old elephant feet thumped down the stairs. Tip-toeing past the sleeping baby I stopped for just a moment to take in the sight. The peaceful slumber of a 1 year old is a sight to behold.
That's when my demons jumped out. You better check and see if he's breathing! I scoffed, Of course he's breathing. And yet, gripped by an irrational fear, I checked. The baby slept.

I peeled hard boiled eggs. The coffee maker buzzed.

The baby slept.

I made scrambled eggs. I drank my coffee.

The baby slept.

The girls pounded around on the hard wood floor, doing a morning rendition of our chicks moving in their tiny coop.

The baby slept.

I took out the "you can only play with these when the baby isn't here" toys for the girls.

And still, he slept.
Fear attacked again. I tried to fend off his advances, but he was too strong. He played dirty.
You better go check on him again. His head was tilted into his blanket, just a bit, wasn't it?
I'm sure he's fine. Had a long day. He's just tired!
You don't know that for sure, do you? I guess not.
What if you let him sleep and then it's too late? What if you get up there and he's still, beyond help. Oh Cara, It's bad enough that you let your baby die without taking action, but you may have killed someone else's. GO. GO CHECK NOW!
I ran up the stairs, panicked, a feeling of dread in the my chest that hadn't squeezed me for so long. I couldn't get there fast enough. I was now sure that there was something wrong - that I had missed my chance to save him. That our friends who are so particular with who they entrust to watch their children would feel the same fear and despair that I have for the rest of their lives. That they would never again be able to look at me with with any semblance of respect.
No longer caring about noise levels - I pushed the door open and, with fear looking over my right shoulder and grief on my left. I peered into the crib.He lay still - with eyes wide open. At the sight of me a huge grin grew on his perfect little face. "Aaaa" he said, not attempting to sit up, just smiling up at me. Brushing off my shoulders, I reached down to meet his upright arms.
He is fine. I am forever haunted.

1 comment:

The Garners said...

I cannot tell you how many times that fear comes over me. I am almost scared to check on my little sleeper because of what I might find, but in the back of my mind I know he's fine! It's so sad to me that I have these strong feelings of fear. I guess that is just what tragedy does to you.

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