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I’m F.I.N.E. – Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional

“Will I get a poke?” he asked, lip trembling.

“Yes, honey. But it’s just one little poke. Very fast. It doesn’t hurt like a shot does.”

“I don’t WANT to get a poke!” he yelled, thrashing in his booster seat. “I don’t like them!”

getting a butterfly needle into a vein“I know you don’t like them. I know.” It was all I could do, just listen and let him be mad. I was mad too. We let him argue and cry as we drove. Once he settled a bit, I asked him about school, and he quickly forgot his tears.

He surprised me, staying calm when the hospital came into view, bouncing happily into the building. He was chatty and relaxed all through the checking in and the waiting. He climbed easily onto the platform and listened as the techs explained how their cameras would come in close but not touch him and that he needed to hold still.

He was his usual outgoing self right up until the second they pulled out the tiny butterfly needle. As soon as he saw it, he began screaming and thrashing. I told him to squeeze my hands as tight as he wanted, and Scott pinned his legs so he couldn’t kick anyone. The injection was over quickly, and he calmed down as soon as he saw that the needle was gone.

“No more pokes?” he asked, a tear still perched on his eyelashes.

“We’re all done. Just taking pictures now.”

He relaxed, eyes on the DVD player running Toy Story. We relaxed, too.

Until they turned on the camera. As soon the image appeared on the screen, we knew.

Tears burn, especially when you try to hold them back. They hovered just below my eyes as I watched the image on the screen and chatted with the nurses. Their answers to my questions only confirmed what we saw. The conversation turned to our children, and the tears spilled as we talked about Elli. We had heard those words, “There’s nothing we can do” in a room just a few dozen yards from where we stood.

“Where is the bathroom?” I asked, desperate for a moment to collect myself.

“Just behind you.” She pointed to the door.

Too close. I couldn’t let the sobs out so close to my son. I dabbed furiously at my face, yelling at myself in my mind. “Get it together, Joy. You can’t fall apart here.”

I yelled back at myself too (also in my mind, and yes, this probably makes me certifiable). “This SUCKS! I don’t want this for him. I don’t want another surgery. How will we tell him? How will we tell the other kids? They’ll be terrifed that he’s going to die just like Elli did. I’m terrified that he’ll die. I can’t bury another child. I just can’t.”

 Anger, grief, and fear wound into an all-too-familiar tornado in my gut… “Stress Stomach” – my secret to weight loss. I knew I had to walk back out there. I breathed deep, held wet paper towel on my eyes for a minute, pushed the tears and rage away, and walked back into the test room.

One of the techs looked at me. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

I am fine: “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional,” to quote Charlie Croker on “The Italian Job.”

The official test report confirmed our observation. The doctors have confirmed that we need to do something about it. More tests lie ahead to determine whether he needs major surgery or if we can cobble a fix together now to delay surgery a little longer. We should know in three months.

Three months. I have to figure out how to wait three months without going crazy. I’ve done it before — this is all too similar to the months between his in-utero diagnosis and his birth. I’m fighting the imagination that tries to take me through worst-case-scenarios and leaves me sobbing into my pillow as I envision another child’s tombstone in the cemetery and whether we could bury both kids close together. I cannot allow myself to go there. That is the path of insanity. I tell my imagination that’s a bridge we only cross if we must.

Meanwhile, I’m alternately annoyed with the boyishness of the boy, angered by his defiance, frightened by any little sign that something may be more amiss than we thought, and ashamed that I could feel anything but overwhelming love and affection for him no matter what.

I guess there’s a comfort in that — he’s still a little boy who acts like a little boy. And I’m still an imperfect human mother who sometimes cannot stand one more battle cry, whiny request, or tearful outburst. Focusing on handling these every day things better… that could be the secret to the waiting.

This post written and linked with Genevieve for “Emotions on Tuesdays” and with Heather of the EO’s Just Write. I’m intentionally vague to protect the privacy of my child, who may one day prefer that the blogosphere not know his medical history.


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  1. Beauty in the brokenness and the falling apart and falling into grace. My heart breaks for you as I read this – can’t imagine the kind of coming-apart you feel for your son, for your family, for yourself. Such fragility, such opportunity for me to recognise and acknowledge life in my own day-to-day walk. “Joy in this Journey” – let it be your war cry.

  2. I’m sorry for the news you heard and for the waiting you have to do. Life is so not fair!

    You did a great job writing about the juxtaposed feelings you are experiencing… when life is messy, it causes a mixture of emotions.

  3. Dad and Mom says:

    My heart and prayers go out to you in a very special way. Love you so very much, Mom

  4. My heart hurts for you, Joy. Imaginative worst-case scenarios are emotionally & spiritually destructive, as you alluded to. I will be praying specifically for indescribable peace over your imagination. {hugs}

  5. Amanda Lockyer says:

    I have a heavy heart about this for you both. I am so sorry and I don’t pretend to understand why. Prayers are going up…
    Todd and Amanda Lockyer

  6. praying for you, joy.

  7. Also praying, aching for you, with the others here. I know that wait. That otherworldliness of not knowing how to see your own child. You said it so well: “I’m alternately annoyed with the boyishness of the boy, angered by his defiance, frightened by any little sign that something may be more amiss than we thought, and ashamed that I could feel anything but overwhelming love and affection for him no matter what.” Praying that in everything you – that both of us – may be content in the original meaning of the word in Phil 4:11-12. It means to be strong enough, sufficient to the task… not just feeling okay about everything (which is just about impossible in some situations!) <3

  8. wow… I love the deep intensity of this yet you keep the privacy of your child the first thought, this is so full of deep emotions. I am sorry… the waiting is hard and the truth is harder. Many are praying.

  9. Praying with you in the waiting.
    I’ve never seen F.I.N.E. but thank you for sharing it.

  10. Beautifully written. I’ve been F.I.N.E. (I “sort of” wigged out in the middle of the night to a resident physician when my DS 6 was hospitalized…very humbling to have a complete emotional breakdown in front of a stranger) and could relate so much to the emotions in this piece.
    So powerful.

  11. Hi Joy,
    I don’t know how you face this, in honestly I think I would fall apart. Praying that Jesus gives you and your family and son strength to walk through the path before you with grace, hope and love. Do grasp these current moments and fill them with Christ if you can.

  12. Prayers going up for you right now, sweet sister. God is still in control and He’s in the details. Trust… and breathe. God is GOOD. Never, ever doubt that.

  13. ugh. i know that feeling. i’ve named it, too, actually. “freaxia.” that horrible combination of fear, dread, anxiety, and nausea. adj: freaxious.

    i came up with it to describe how i was feeling in the month leading up to my son’s second stage open heart surgery when he was 6 months old. and it came in handy again a year later when his heart was failing again and he needed a bonus OHS.

    now that he’s older, he’s done the surgical course. docs anticipate a heart transplant in the future, but not for a few years yet. for now, we just keep adjusting his pacemaker and waiting… waiting for… i don’t know what… waiting for him to get better? nope. because he won’t. waiting for him to grow up? he probably won’t. waiting… for his heart to fail so they can give him someone else’s? that’s what it is, but that can’t be what it is…

    i’m freaxious, i’m FINE, and i’m listening to him yelling at his brother and sister right now because he’s a bit overtired, and he’s coming up the stairs to tattle on them. sigh…

    you are Loved.

  14. Joy, I really wanted to keep reading. Perhaps someday you can share it all with us? In book form? 🙂

    I’m sorry for your struggles, and I will be keeping you in my prayers. I love how honest and down to earth you are in your writing.

    Hugs and prayers your way ….

  15. Oh, dear Joy. How hard this is. And how brave and strong you are. YES, brave and strong. Way stronger than you know or imagine. One foot, one step – there will be enough of you for this. There will be enough of God, too. Hang onto the hem with all you’ve got and let all of us who care about you and your family lift you to the throne. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

  16. I don’t know what is going on, but I will pray.

    Lamentations 3:33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.