I wasn't really planning on blogging about this, but as usual, I find I do better after I'm able to get things out of my head on paper. Well, you know what I mean.
As a writer, specifically a writer of an action/adventure novel, I write a lot about fear. In fact, a good portion of my book talks a lot about my main character facing her fears, and in the second one, more things happen to challenge her in this way. I'm always looking for appropriate ways of describing this fear. Ice running through your veins. Your heart stopping, stomach churning, that sort of fear.
See, I thought I knew what fear was. When I was in labor with Elijah, during the middle of the night his heart rate plummeted and about half a dozen nurses rushed into the room barking orders at me and each other. Everything was fine, of course, but I didn't soon forget that rush of fear, and the helplessness I felt in that moment. Less than a month ago, when I found out my dad had cancer, I felt that fear too, but different this time. It was a slow burning fear, where all the what ifs drifted in and out of my consciousness day by day. Until finally I was able to convince myself everything would be okay.
On Saturday the kids and I were at a birthday party. Though a series of events, Sophia ended upstairs with some of the other grownups. To be honest I have a hard time even saying this, because I still fully blame myself. But it is what it is. I was sitting on the couch in the living room when I heard the commotion of one or several kids falling down the stairs. That was my first taste of fear, somehow I just knew. Sure enough, it was Sophia. I rushed to her side at the bottom of the stairs, at this point she was crying a little. But when I picked her up, she sucked in a deep breath like she was getting ready to wail loudly, but the sound never came. I was calling her name frantically now, and sat on the couch. When I finally got a good look at her I realized she was completely unconscious. I think I just stared dumbly at her for a full fifteen seconds before I realized I should check her breathing, part of me didn't want to, because what would I have done if she hadn't been breathing? I vaugely remember all the other people in the room at this point, someone is calling 911. Elijah is sitting beside me, though he didn't have clue what was going on. I put my hand on her chest and feel her heart beating. And when I lean over to listen, her breath is coming slow and shallow. It now occurs to me, like an idiot, that I'd better pray, because her eyes were still closed. So I do. I couldn't tell you the exact words if I tried, I'm sure there was some begging involved. I close my eyes. I opened them. So did she.
It wasn't until afterwards that the fear became real, my reaction visceral. She cried a little and I stood up. One of my friends from church came over and put her arms around me while I completely broke down, sobbing, "I thought she was dead," over and over again. Just thinking about it now makes me nauseous. I remember walking around the room, waving my arms frantically and thinking I was going to throw up. Everyone around me is in motion now, my friend who was hosting the party has her husband take Elijah and my car back to our place (about ten minutes away to pick up Matthew). They ask me if I still want the ambulance to come and I say yes. Sophia is extremely pale and acting lethargic. I feel deaf, blind and mute all the same time. The EMTs come and ask me a thousand questions. By now my fear has subsided and all I can think about is how horrible, overwhelmingly guilty I feel. How could I have let this happen.
We ride in the ambulance to the hospital, Yale Children's is just five minutes away. They take us into one of the trauma rooms that I've never seen before. About ten different people swarm into the room to tend to my baby. Matthew calls, he's five minutes away. I can't think about facing him, though I only want him to hurry. How was I going to explain this? And then it's over, one by one the nurses and doctors leave the room and it's only us and one other woman. They explain to me she was perfectly fine, she didn't even need a CT scan. However they want to monitor her for the next four hours just to be on the safe side. They tell me I can hold her now, which I hadn't been able to do since the EMTs arrived. I pick her up and sit down on the hospital bed, her head on my chest and she's quiet and calm for the first time in a while.
Holy giant exhale. Just like that. At some point it occurs to me to call Matthew back and tell him she's fine. They move us to a private room. Matthew shows up with Elijah. He takes her from me and I start to tell him my version of the story, which he had already mostly heard from our friend who drove him there. I'm just to the point where I break down again, trying to describe just how afraid I was, when social services walks in and asks me what happened. Again I'm afraid, even though I was certain nothing was suspicious to them, it was truly an accident.
For the next four hours we make phone calls to family members. I tell the story over and over again. But I can't seem to bring myself to face the fear that I truly felt. The one that I said to my friend when it was all over. What I really thought was happening. Even now, with the whole deal far behind us I can still remember how I felt exactly for those ten seconds when I thought she wasn't going to wake.
Riding in the ambulance I had one single though that pushed through all the others. Someone heard my prayer. Specifically, God heard my prayer, in that moment. Maybe she would have woken up anyway, I'll never know. But just that one time, I was sure someone was listening. And what a feeling that was. The total opposite of fear.