Euphoria and Terror

When we found out about Gabrielle’s congenital heart defect, we honestly took it in stride. Not really knowing how to react, I focused on the tiny things. She’ll have a scar on her chest, not She’ll have open heart surgery, but I focused on the scar. We’ll have to stay in Vancouver for a couple weeks in the spring, where are we going to stay? Not She’ll have to have open heart surgery. She may not be able to be with me right after her birth, not She’ll have to have open heart surgery. My brain just couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of what we were told. When I asked Marc “So, what do you think?” He just said, “Poor kid.”

In saying this, there was not a lot of fear associated with finding out about her heart condition. We chose to be thankful for what we had. Our baby was not going to die, the doctors discovered it before she was born. Our baby was is very capable hands. And we requested prayer and love and received it in such bountiful measure.

The next morning, at 6am, I woke up in my uncomfortable 9 month-pregnant state, and thought, “I didn’t find out I was pregnant until I was 8 weeks along. In the first 8 weeks is when the heart defect developes. And I drank some alcohol! I could have caused this heart problem! What kind of mother am I?” And I cried.

I got up to blow my nose and wipe my tears and decided right then, I was not going to do this to myself. We would never find out if it was because I unknowingly drank alcohol in her first weeks of life. We would never find out “Why” so it wasn’t right of me to carry guilt into her birth and her new life. We were blessed. Blessed to be able to have children on our own. Blessed that the pregnancy had been so void of complications. Blessed they hadn’t found anything else wrong with her that is often associated with Tetrology of Fallot. We were blessed.

Last night I had another moment of terror, is what I call it. I fed Gabrielle and I laid her beside me in bed, intending to calm her down so I could put her beside me in the bassinet. Then I woke up with a start and had fallen asleep and Gabrielle’s face had slipped between my breasts. I was terrified that she’d stopped breathing. I flipped her over, and without having a light on, trying to assess if she was alive. For 0.05 of a second, I questioned it. But she made a little squeak then a sigh and I knew she was alright. I couldn’t sleep after that and got out of bed. I changed her and fed her and sat in the little rocking chair in the living room, with her latched contentedly onto my breast, slowing my frantic heart.

I thought to myself, Is this motherhood? Euphoric with love for our new little one, and then moments of terror at the thought of her dependence on me? And I wondered what to do with this revelation. So here I am blogging about it. I thought that it was most important to share these moments of terror so that they diminish and do not grow into mind-monsters. I don’t want to carry around the guilt of raising a child where I wonder if I had only done something differently. I don’t want to raise my child in an atmosphere of fear. I mean, heck, we’re living on a boat after all! I want to be adventurous and allow my baby to discover the wide world! So I write about these moments publicly to air out the shadows in the closet.

I realize this is quite a bit more personal than most of my blog posts on keeping bees, and farming and boating. But some things must be shared to encourage others, to move past an experience, to learn and grow. I am determined to do these things. I hope you’ll share from time to time in this journey with me.

About Amanda

Living a simple quiet life on the Gulf Islands, BC.

7 Thoughts on “Euphoria and Terror

  1. Yep, parenting is a combo platter of euphoria and joy with a side of terror. When they are so small, every mom goes through the “are they breathing?” phase. Then they get bigger and you start to worry about other things- is she eating enough? pooping enough? etc.

    Then they get bigger still and you worry are you giving them too much freedom? Not enough? Will they do well in school? Will they ever learn to look both ways before crossing the street? And so on…

    You are doing a fantastic job- loving Gabrielle, trusting her to tell you what she needs and just enjoying her. The road ahead might be frightening, but it was always going to be frightening- even if your little sweet was born with a typical heart. Parenting is just scary!

    Hang in there. No journey into the unknown is without fear and it is fear that challenges us and makes us grow as people.

  2. Congrats! You have joined the ranks of all mothers – the warrior worriers. Even without a heart defect, I remember waking in that same panic, worried I had slept too long and he had stopped breathing while I was sleeping. He was always fine. :) There’s going to be a bajillion unknowns and panic attacks… but each time you realize your darling is just fine, you’ll relax just a little more. Then by the time you stop worrying they’ll become a teenager and the worry will start all over again.



  3. Many thoughts and prayers with you and sweet Gabrielle. Motherhood is such a roller coaster, for sure. You are a terrific mama and she is one blessed little girl.

  4. I still check to see if Zach is breathing when he sleeps and he is 6.5 years old! And even on round two with Naia I am starting all over (also had her slip while we slept and nursed and was convinced I smothered her), but at the same time there is no way I would have her sleep anywhere but on me/ next to me. Mama bear.
    Luckily Mother Nature was smart enough to give us women a powerful tool called instincts. Trust your gut, know your child and know that NOBODY, and I mean nobody knows your child like you do. Lead with love and the rest will fall in place.

  5. during these newborn days you will find yourself falling asleep beside the baby and that is OK; i’m positive if you were going to roll over her or if she was suffocating she’d cough and you’d wake up! it happened to me ALL THE TIME; i’d wake up with a startle, look at the clock and realized i’d been sleeping beside blaine for 2 hours :) . it still happens but not as often!

    but the heart condition thing definitely would have terrified me!!

    about the potty use, be patient! she is only 9 days and definitely will figure it out soon! :) when i first started i made a chart to make me feel better. i could graph poops and pees in the potty. i would find him going once every few days, then once a day, then multiple times a day, but no poops, then boom all poops but no pees, then both, then nothing, and it was / is still ever changing!!

  6. I don’t think you could have picked two better words. Euphoria AND terror. I’m going to have to copy you on this!

    Also wanted to say that I love your positive attitude about little Brie’s heart condition. Positivity will help you and her out so much as you care for her. She WILL be okay. She WILL get through this. I can’t wait to watch her grow.

  7. yes.

    I am a worrier by nature.

    and I have some health issues that made pregnancy an unlikelihood and full term pregnancy even more so…when my son was born at 33 weeks (water broke at 32 for unknown reasons drs think unrelated to my health issues) I kept thinking “did I do this?” “did my negative thinking do this?” and then I have to tell myself, I do not control the universe. despite the law of attraction and all that…and I just need to let him be.

    last week we went to see a light show and horror of horrors I let my son sit in the back of the car unbuckled…I had his grandmother gasping in shock, what if a cop sees you? what if you get in an accident? and I said well if we do, its meant to be and I won’t keep my son from living and experiencing the magic of life because I am afraid (and I am and was and feel silly about it) and he loved it and people had their kids hanging out of the cars, sitting on roofs, in the back of pickups and on flat beds…and for him, in addition to the lights he has the memory of sitting in the back of a car with his cousin and in the front seat on my lap (yes another no no!) and making the window go up and down up and down as he saw millions of lights and waved to people.

    that’s not to say I can read stories of children who get hurt and/or die without crying and knowing, I will, literally, die if my son does but…I try to keep my fears at a minimum so he can live his life. unfortunately, he is also turning out to be a worrier “is this show almost over” “is this going to be okay?” ah…have I done that to him too?

    I hope all goes well with your daughter.

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