The first few weeks of having Jonathan home are kind of a blur now. It was like all of the anxieties and worries you feel with a newborn were hyped up on steroids. It became rapidly clear how much I depended on the doctors and nurses while he was in the NICU. Hearing them tell me that he was okay was so reassuring. Not having them there to rely on was incredibly hard and it was something I didn’t see coming. Realizing that it was up to me to decide if he was okay or not, felt like a huge weight. Like I said, this didn’t feel like the three previous babies I had brought home. My anxiety level was increasing day by day. No longer did I have the monitors to tell me that his heart rate and oxygen levels were normal. I had to rely on my observation of him and that sent my stress level through the roof. I had a hard time sleeping, I was constantly checking on him, checking his breathing and trying to feel for a pulse to check his heart rate. During the day I was constantly on edge and worried that at any minute something would happen. I was worried that his oxygen levels would drop unexpectedly or his heart would start racing again. Day in and day out my mind would be flooded with all the things that could go wrong and my anxiety level got higher and higher.
Once he was home people would always say, ‘Don’t you just love having him home?’ or ‘I bet it’s so nice to have him out of the hospital.’ I felt horrible because there was a very big part of me that was struggling with having him home. Now don’t get me wrong, I was so incredibly thankful that I could see him for longer than three hours every day and that I could hold him to my heart’s content. But that didn’t change the fact that I was having some serious anxiety issues and that was tainting how I felt about having him home.
I didn’t like how I was feeling. I would often think, ’what is wrong with me? This is my FOURTH child, I shouldn’t be this nervous or paranoid.’ I don’t think it would have mattered if he was my fourth or ninth child. Having a baby in the NICU for that long brought out fears and worries I didn’t even know I had. I figured the best thing for me was to just get busy. Once my daughter’s started school I went in to hyper overdrive with the planning and organization. I made schedules for everything. I had a cleaning schedule, a personal scripture study schedule, each of my kids had a schedule. I was trying so hard to limit the amount of downtime I had each day because it was in those still quiet moments that my anxiety seemed too hard to bear. It worked, or so I thought. I wasn’t realizing at the time that eliminating those still quiet moments in my day was also eliminating opportunities for my Heavenly Father to communicate to me. I was so busy that I wasn’t allowing time for those peaceful reassuring moments that are so crucial. I wasn’t receiving the strength that I needed and that all became more than evident when I got really sick a few months after Jonathan came home.
Now I’ve been a mother for seven years and I’ve been sick plenty of times. Mothers get sick all the time and still take care of their kids. It had never been an issue for me in the past. As soon as I tested positive for strep my anxieties and worries seemed to crash over me like a massive wave. I was so paranoid that I would get Jonathan or my girls sick. Typing this now five months later, it seems so silly, but my anxiety levels were at an all time high. I quarantined myself for a few days until I was better. Once that had passed I was hoping to return to my ultra busy daily schedules to put my anxiety ridden thoughts in the back of my mind. Little did I know that my little bought with strep would start a six week stretch where someone in my house was sick. Not just a minor cough sick but major stomach bugs and nasty respiratory infections kind of sick. Never in all my years of parenting have I ever had to deal with so many sick bugs (that’s what we call them in my house).
I deep cleaned and sanitized my house so many times during November that I lost count. I was exhausted. On top of taking care of my sick girlies I was still stressing over Jonathan. Keeping him away from the all the sickness became my number one priority. Then in December, he caught a nasty respiratory bug. He was having a hard time breathing so we took him into the doctor and his oxygen levels were low. We were then introduced to the wonderful world of nebulizers and breathing treatments. All the stresses and anxieties that I had already been feeling about him went sky high. I stayed up through the night checking on his breathing, making sure he wasn’t breathing too fast and listening for any wheezing.
After about a week Jonathan was doing much better. I on the other hand went into some serious hibernation mode. Jonathan did not leave the four walls of our home and I became a sanitizing crazy lady. I would lay on the floor next to him to count his breaths per minute to make sure his respiratory rate was normal. I was still checking his heart rate to make sure his heart rate wasn’t racing (he was still on his heart medicine from the hospital). I was overly stressed and worried about this adorable little boy and it was starting to take its toll.
After Christmas I was on a downward trajectory. Stressing over Jonathan was taking up the majority of my brainpower but now other stresses started creeping in. Paying Jonathan’s bills was becoming pretty difficult. There were a number of times that it seemed things would work out where we would be able to pay off a big chunk here and there but they never panned out. That was getting frustrating. To add to that, while Jonathan was in the NICU and for a little bit after, I coped with some retail therapy. I had racked up quite a bit of credit card debt. To some people the amount of debt that I had acquired may not seem like a lot but for us it way more than we wanted. The fact that I was having to wait so long to bring my baby home from the hospital made me not want to wait for anything else. If there was something we needed or even wanted, I would buy it. No longer did I concern myself with our budget or mapping out a savings plan. I was in instant gratification mode and that seemed to help numb the pain of not being able to have my baby with me. It really shouldn’t be called retail ‘therapy’. Therapy is supposed to help and improve situations. This provided short term ‘feel good’ moments but it was followed by causing us to have some financial setbacks. I was racked with guilt and I felt embarrassed.
I felt like I was down a deep hole. I could feel the adversary working on me. I started to question if Heavenly Father and my Savior really cared for me. I remember one Sunday someone was making a comment in Relief Society and they said something along the lines of ‘Heavenly Father wants to bless us.’ As soon as I heard that my immediate thought was, ‘yeah right.’ That caught me off guard and kind of woke me up so to speak. I went home from church and I started really pondering what was happening to me. I found a notebook that I had kept while Jonathan was in the NICU and I read it. I was amazed at the insights and comments that I had written. I remembered thinking, ‘did I really write that?’ I was ashamed at how quickly I had forgotten all of the countless blessings I received. I was so caught up in stressing about Jonathan and bills that I was allowing Satan to take hold of my thoughts little by little. I decided I wanted to stop. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen anymore.
Over the next few weeks I tried so hard to keep my anxiety levels in check. I still felt like I was in a dark hole but now I could see the light above me. Even though I was working hard, Satan worked even harder. There were days that I would be so caught up my worries that I would just go to my closet to cry. One day Russ found me. He had already left for work, that was usually when the first wave of worries of the day would hit me. I could not get scary thoughts and worries out of my mind. It was a scary feeling, knowing where those thoughts and impressions were coming from and feeling like I wasn’t strong enough to get rid of them. I had gone upstairs and let the anxiety take over. I was sitting on the floor sobbing when he walked in looking for something he had left. Up until now, I didn’t let on too much to those around me how much pain I was in.
He saw me and immediately picked me up off the floor and embraced me. He let me cry for a little longer then asked what was wrong. I let everything out. For the first time I was verbalizing my fears. As soon as I was done talking I felt better than I had in months. My sweet husband assured me that he was there for me and he made extra efforts to make sure I took some quiet time for myself. That time that I desperately needed but was so terrified to take. A few more weeks went by and I was doing a little better, the light from inside my hole was getting a bit brighter.
As hard as I tried I still couldn’t shake my anxiety. I had increased my efforts with my personal prayers and scripture study but I still had some pretty rough days. I knew I needed some extra help. I asked Russ to give me a priesthood blessing. The blessing was beautiful and every word was exactly what I needed to hear. I was given very specific council on what I needed to do. Russ, gave me a hug after the blessing and said something that carried me through the next few weeks. While holding me close he said, ‘Don’t let those thoughts get to you, you know who they are from, and you are stronger than he is.” That night, for the first time in six months I slept peacefully.
February, was a better month. I still had my moments where anxiety-ridden thoughts would creep in and it would be incredibly hard not to entertain them. I had written down the council I received from my priesthood blessing and had heeded that council every day. Each day I followed the council that was given to me I was gaining strength to pull myself out of the darkness. It was hard but I determined to do it. I was no longer in my dark hole. I was out and was determined not to go back. I could finally focus on enjoying my baby. Keep in mind during my dark days, as I like to call them, that Jonathan was completely fine. He was a normal healthy baby boy progressing and growing at a rapid pace. My fears and anxiety had twisted me so much that I was just consumed with what could happen instead of enjoying the fact that my baby was perfectly fine.
I was finally able to play with him and enjoy his smile without stressing over the scary thoughts that would make their way into my mind. Day by day things were getting easier and I was feeling like my ‘normal’ self again. The fog slowly lifted. No longer did I fear those still quiet moments of the day. I was able to slow down my pace and take time for me, productive time, time that included meditating, pondering the scriptures, and heartfelt prayers to my Father in Heaven.