7 May 2014

Traumas of a parent - one from the vault

Here I am again, trying to catch up and clear out the my draft folder, or the vault as I like to call it. The post remains untouched from when I last edited it, over a month ago. Just because it's taken me 6 weeks to edit 6 photos doesn't mean the thoughts should have to be updated too. It's my bad for being so slack. You'll see below that, for at least a time, I had good reason to take my time.

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I'm behind again. 17 days ago I had grand plans for joining in on the ten on ten* photo project by Rebekah over at A Bit of Sunshine to keep the ball rolling with advances in my photography 'skills'. I'd discovered this project thanks to Jodi during my contributions to the 52 project and thought it would be a really interesting experiment. I love the idea of finding new ways of looking at my everyday. Things that, on first impression, may appear dull and monotonous - at least to me.

Still. On this particular day it wasn't to be. Instead all I could see what the ugly truth of parenting. The hard, heartbreaking fact that parenting and loving a child can be painful and scary and traumatic.

So instead of my first ten on ten below you will find a mish-mash of thoughts and images collected since the moment our lives felt like it was turned upside down. A collection of real-time and post-event thoughts and ramblings of a terrified parent.

*I finally did it, see my first ten on ten here.

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Expressing my thoughts using words is a skill I have come to struggle with more and more as I progress through the journey of motherhood. Words fail me constantly and I usually find it easier to express myself through other peoples' words or through images but sometimes, like today, I have neither. Just a burning desire to share, to express and make sense of the last 24 hours.

Parenthood is never static. As though influenced by lunar activity, families move through cycle after cycle, they evolve and grow and become acclimatised to change. No one day is the same when you have a child, even if many of them feel that way. So you would be forgiven for thinking that this would make you well prepared for sudden changes, like how quickly a child can fall sick.

One moment you are living life in real-time, not having any perception for what may come and the next you are faced with sudden trauma.

The last 24 hours have shook our world. The juxtaposition between yesterday afternoon and the last 15 or so hours that have passed since is unfathomable. One minute life is right here, right now. It is safe and secure and comfortable and the next you are faced with your biggest fears, fears so big you have never ever, for a moment, considered how you would react if ever faced with them. And then they come and you react badly. You panic, you scream. Your heart races.

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At around 5.30pm last night, we faced our biggest challenge to date as parents as our son fell into a spontaneous seizure that saw him fighting to breath, go blue in the lips and foaming at the mouth. And at that moment we crumbled. We completely failed our son by way of severe lack of preparation for such an event. And while I'm left with a definite need to improve my first aid skills, it is the emotional impact on witnessing such an event that's left us feeling different. Traumatised.

How is a parent supposed to react when their child stops breathing? When you can see the oxygen leaving his body and turning his lips blue? When he is choking on his own saliva? F*ck me. I'll tell you what we did, we panicked and screamed and shouted. Thank heavens for strangers, kind and helpful strangers who obviously have some knowledge or experience of the ordeal laying itself out before us.

You know you've lost it as a parent when a stranger has to remove your child from your arms to help them because you are doing nothing but screaming and shouting. Thank you lady. Thank you.

So what happened? Good question. We don't exactly know. But a trip to A&E in the back of an ambulance and a night, not sleeping, in hospital tells us that Chuck had an epileptic seizure. Or an afebrile convulsion; that is a seizure not caused by a high temperature, which is a fairly common - but still disturbing - occurrence in infants. My sister used to suffer from febrile convulsions when she was a toddler so when the paramedic told us his temperature was normal I knew instantly what it meant. And the doctors confirmed at least half my fears, that this could happen again, with no warning [unlike a febrile convulsion which can at least be part managed by monitoring your child's temperature]. This could be epilepsy, that was my first and lasting thought. I was immediately thinking about how my son would manage living with a condition such as epilepsy, what effect it would have on his life and education. Could we have more children if we need to care for a child with this condition? All these questions were running through my mind as I sat in a hospital ward with my exhausted son, trying so hard to sleep, in my lap.

It could be epilepsy but the good news is that the doctors don't think our son shows any of the risks associated with epilepsy. That is; a family history, brain damage caused by problems during pregnancy or childbirth and meningitis. So the doctors were happy to send us home the next morning with only information on what to do if he has another seizure. A truly terrifying prospect but he has not had any further seizures, so far. And, yup, we're praying to someone that it doesn't happen again. That is not a moment we ever want to revisit.

I can tell you now that I have an idea what it might be like to experience trauma. I now understand how someone can be affected by an event after it has happened, how that trauma leaves its mark. Every pause, every linger, every time he holds his arm or hand in a strange position, every time he lays down suddenly our hearts stop and our breath is taken away. Just for a second.

We are moving forward now and the effects of the trauma are slowly fading and retreating to the back of our minds while our little boy carries on regardless, unharmed and unscathed by the event. Bigger and brighter than ever. His strength and resilience is something I really admire in him. The places that the strength he has inside of him can take him to...His possibilities are endless, even if he does develop epilepsy. I have come to realise this and I know it would not define him and this, I have come to accept.

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I won't go into the sickness bug that followed this event. All I need to say is that bringing a sickness bug home from hospital after an event like that was not what we needed. Any of us. We are well again but we are still reeling from the exhaustion caused by those 7 days and this is why I had disappeared into the background and had failed to continue my contributions to the project I have vowed to be a continual part of. The thought of cameras, computers and finding words to express the last few weeks was too much to bear in my fragile and tired state. Finding the words and energy for this post were not easy but as I promised to portray an honest account of parenting, here it is. Warts and all. So please, forgive my absence and I'll see you next week and on the 10th April - the month my son turns TWO! Woohaa.

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2 comments

  1. You poor things. That sounds terrible. Lets hope that it was an awful one-off, not to be repeated experience. I can only imagine how terrifying it was.
    Your photo of the hospital (I think that's what it might be?) is really atmospheric. I love it. Thanks for stopping by to catch up on what we've been doing, too xx

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Lou. Thankfully there has been no recurrence as yet. We're hoping the longer he goes the less likely it is that it will happen again. I'm terrified of it happening again but I do feel like I'd handle it a bit better. x

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