Thursday, May 14, 2015

breathless

It started as a sort of breathlessness.

A walk up the stairs...breathless.

A walk to the mailbox...breathless.

A normally bearable workout...extremely breathless.

Then it was what I thought was a panic attack on Christmas Eve. We went through a car wash. (Yes, on Christmas Eve...these are things we do.) The doors closed around us, and I felt trapped, panicked, and suddenly aware that I couldn't get out, even if I had to. I thought of the oxygen in the car and felt myself heaving to breathe in desperation. In a silent panic, I turned the heat in the car off as my body temperature rose in anxiety. I loosened my clothes and, realizing I was going to pass out if I didn't calm myself, I turned around to talk to Brecken, attempting to fake my way back to calm.

"Brecken, isn't this fun?" I looked around, trying to see the car wash as an adventure of colored foam and clean water.

Gradually, as I focused on him, my breath returned and slowed to a normal rate. Brad hadn't even noticed my craziness, and I hesitantly told him about it a few days after the fact, fearing that I would seem--well--crazy.

I couldn't figure out the source of my anxiety...yes, we are going through a crazy stressful adoption and yes, Christmas sometimes causes anxiety for thousands of families around the U.S. because there are just SO MANY things to do. But why this sudden panic?

I can always manage stress, although I don't always manage it well. I have been stressed before...Plenty of times before, actually. I spent approximately one entire decade in stress (due to my own disobedience/lack of full trust in God, truthfully). I usually handle stress well, or at least handle it, meaning I come up with lists of solutions and possible plans, sometimes followed by a quick cry or a run to get it out of my system. I have never had such an adverse reaction to stress or anxiety.

This was clearly different. Even after Christmas, I noticed a marked difference in my breathing. I was AWARE of breaths I was taking. As a little girl, I used to take deep breaths, as I sometimes worried I wasn't breathing enough. That childhood awkwardness was YEARS ago, and I haven't felt that sensation since.

Next, I started feeling stomach-gross. The stomach flu was going around my family, and when I began feeling icky I assumed the flu was coming for me. I spent a few extra minutes of my day lying around to make sure I had energy to fight the thing off. The full flu never came, yet my belly continued to disagree with me, not violently, but in a way that I knew it was dealing with something.

Meanwhile, our trip to New York was approaching, and I was worried I would experience another "panic attack" on the plane. I hate attention, and panic-attack-induced attention would have devastated and embarrassed me for months. I began thinking about whether or not I could take something to make me sleep--or at least relax--on the plane. My mom used to take Dramamine (the real stuff, not the non-drowsy version) for motion sickness on plane rides, so I thought that might be an option to make me so sleepy I wouldn't notice that the airplane was enclosed tightly with no escape.

Then I noticed some other symptoms, and as my belly continued to be upset with me and I continued to experience breathlessness, along with the new symptoms, it dawned on me that I might have something serious going on.

A pregnancy test confirmed.

Let me tell you... a positive pregnancy test is never a promise that I will have a baby nine months later. When you've experienced a couple of miscarriages and a super-premie, a positive pregnancy test leaves you with one feeling: breathlessness.

I told Brad about the test, and while we were amused and I was relieved to have a source of the symptoms, there was no sense of exuberance, nor was there a sense that we needed to dream of or plan for a future with another baby in our house (or possibly two additional babies, IF Sweet C comes home in 2015). Sure, we were happy about the possibility of a baby, but the excitement was restrained for the time being. I had several weeks (of first trimester semi-torture) before getting past the normal breaking point of pregnancy, and I've learned that it's best not to plan too far in advance when I'm pregnant. Planning ahead, dreaming of a baby, and listing possible names always have the possibility of lingering heartache in the end.

Clearly, I didn't take any sort of medicine for the plane ride to NYC, instead opting to make sure I listened to calming music and considering the many other flights I've taken without an anxious incident. While in NYC, I spent my time willing myself out of breathlessness, exhaustion and nausea while we rode and trudged through our days on the streets with some of the most putrid smells in America. I also tried to remember the subway routes back to our place so I could get home in a hurry in case of miscarriage.

We made it home without incident, where I tried to spend my days doing virtually nothing but catching up on laundry, watching Gilmore Girls, and keeping my belly stable. (Turns out I also had a sinus infection, which took me down hard and lingered for about three weeks until I finally begged for medicine.)

By the way, "moody" and "irritable" are words that are often used to describe the first few months of pregnancy. I believe those are the wrong words in my case. "Moodiness" implies a fluctuation between moods of joyful and unhappy. In reality, I see no fluctuation in mood. In my experience, "annoyed" and "irritated" are more accurate reflections of my constant state. I would also add "antisocial." Poor Brad. Poor Brody and Brecken. Poor everyone else in my life.

I finally made it past the first trimester and felt it again, that breathlessness. Not only in the physical sense, but also in the sense that, YES, we would have another baby. And YES, we would have four kids ages four and under. And YES, God was planning something great for our future, despite our lack of understanding, our hard months of waiting for Clementine, and our doubts about the road ahead. That, in and of itself, is enough to leave me breathless for several months and even years to come.