Two weeks ago, Diva had her very first surgery with us. She’s had 3 other surgeries before, but we had never experienced the whole “my child is having surgery!” thing. It was not exceptionally risky, though three procedures were being done. We were jittery but otherwise okay, until we saw her post-op. Her lips quivering, eyes filled with tears… Frick. It felt like we had betrayed her, though I know surgery was the right decision. A day later, we left the hospital, and felt sweet relief of bringing her home.
Until the panic attacks started.
Every night, as I tried to sleep, my breath would catch. Nausea and stomach flipping and heart pumping hard in my ears and face and chest. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Tears.
I used to be really consumed with thinking about death. Not in this suicide way, but “What will happen to us?” and “What if death comes before we get to do XYZ?” I would only sort-of joke, “It could be worse – you could be dead.” Husband got to the point where anything remotely death-related would cause him to roll his eyes at me. It got better, though. I learned to be present. I learned to breathe. I found passions and interests and two-very-busy-children that kept me anchored here, in the present.
Until the surgery.
Two weeks of laying in bed, wondering if Diva will die – when, and where, and how. Two weeks of laying in bed, wondering if I will die before I’m ready, before she’s ready, before our family is ready. Uncertain of what will happen after-death, and afraid that it’s a sort-of permanent separation. Whatever it is — being with God, reincarnation, floating gently through the mists, or nothing at all — it’s not here. It’s not with Diva. It’s not with Little Man. It’s not me, and them, and Husband, laughing and crying and just getting so very messy in life.
No breath. No breath. No breath.
So, last night, I’m here, awake, on the couch. Again. Meds taken. Chapters read. Documentary on. Fear rising. Desperate. Suddenly, I hear Diva, again, as I have every night for the last two weeks. Tonight, though, she is not screaming. I don’t know what she’s doing. I walk into her room, and see her smiling, laughing, and flapping. I hear, “Aye! Aye! Aye!” and realize she is singing, yipping along, to her background music, “What does the fox say?”
Overwhelmed. I’m laughing. I can’t stop. It’s gleeful and maniacal and nothing but relief. It’s all so absurd. Consumed with fear, and here she is, in knee immobilizers and casts, uncomfortable and possibly pained, singing and dancing and laughing and just being amazing. Husband stumbles in behind me, and begins to laugh too. Little Man wakes up. He walks to find us, and gives a sleepy smile. “I’m almost sleep-walking!” He is proud of this, not really knowing what sleep-walking is, but assuming that walking while he’s sort-of still sleepy might be it.
Joy. A moment. Breath releases, and my lungs fill, but not just with air. They fill with everything in this moment, with family and friendship and bonds forged through fire and light and love. The whole thing strikes me as hilarious. I cry to the world – I see, I see… It’s going to be okay. It feels as if I am being caressed by the Universe, reassured, held. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know when or how or where or why. The panic may come and go in waves. Fear may clench at me at times. And, even then, it’s going to be okay.