Letting Go of Stress

1 May

If you would like to listen to the broadcast click here: http://tobtr.com/s/7568723

So much has happened this week in my life that could have caused debilitating stress, from emotional issues to health issues to the riots in Baltimore. I should have been incredibly stressed but other than being tired, it just gave me perspective on life and being grateful. I know that sounds weird, but I have a long relationship with stress and letting it go. It began when I was a child, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to understand how insidious stress can be. It can poison a relationship. It can result in saying awful things about those you love most. It can seem so real, but let me tell you that most of it is bs we make up in our minds, and it’s time to evict this squatter that gives so little and takes so much value from our lives. While spending eight weeks in the hospital waiting for my youngest child to be born, I learned some incredible lessons. I learned a lot about stress and the ways people express it. I saw several women come and go in my tenure in high risk obstetrics, and we all shared one thing, stress. Every single one of us was afraid of losing our child. How we expressed that stress varied widely, though. Some cried, a lot, and asked why God, Life or the Universe was doing this to them. Some got angry and took it out on the nurses and doctors. After a few days of being incredibly sick on the antibiotics that I was taking and begging for something different, I settled in for a two month stint at baby cooking central. I was taking steroids shots to develop my baby’s lungs, so I was pretty emotional, but I did everything I could not to take out my pain on those who were taking care of me. I knew why I was there; to have the healthiest baby possible. It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but since my water broke, I knew I had to stay there because my baby could come at any time, and it was too early for him to survive at that time. It took a few days to accept it, but once I did, I had one goal; to give my child the best shot at being born healthy.

I settled into a weird routine, waited for visitors and looked for things to pass the time. This was not in the days of unlimited TV stations and free Wi-Fi. There were a few stations and no Wi-Fi. Not everyone had a cell phone and no one was texting. I read books, watched TV, played solitaire and meditated. I did some crafts, including hooking a rug of Noah’s ark to frame and put in the baby’s room. Were there moments of stress? Of course there were; like the time one of the doctors yelled at me for not wanting to take insulin for the gestational diabetes I had developed. I have a husband with type 1 diabetes. I know the condition well. At the time I didn’t know much about gestational diabetes, and no one I knew had taken insulin for it. Most had been able to control it with diet, so I decided to do the same. One of the doctors from my practice took offense to that for some reason. She scolded me for not following her orders, and when I explained that I wanted to try controlling my condition with diet, she accused me of not caring about my baby enough to do the right thing for my baby’s health. If I hadn’t been in such shock that she would say such a thing and if I hadn’t been on steroids, I might have reacted differently. I might not have sat there in stunned silence just praying for her to leave. I might not have burst into tears as soon as she was out of the room. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have cried off and on, mostly on, for the next 12-24 hours like I did. It wasn’t until the next day, when my regular doctor was at the hospital, that I could say to her, “Who the hell does that woman think she is? Does she even have children? Doesn’t she know that if I didn’t care about this baby that I would be at home taking care of the children I know are missing me?” I found anger for the first time, and I guess what I said to my doctor must have gotten back to the other doctor because in the next six weeks, I never saw her again. Every time she was on call, she would not come to do rounds until late at night when I was asleep. Perhaps apologies were not her thing. Perhaps, she didn’t like being called out. Perhaps she felt she was right and was trying to avoid a conflict. I don’t know and I really don’t care, but I’ve been going to the same practice for about 30 years and in that time, she is the only doctor to have ever left the practice so maybe I wasn’t the only one that she added stress to rather than calmed it.

The interesting thing about being in a crisis situation is finding out what people are really like or at least how they deal with a crisis. Two friends I had known for years but hadn’t seen regularly since before our days of being married moms came to visit me at least once per week. I don’t know if they will ever know how grateful I was for their company. One even brought her son, her happy, smiling and incredibly entertaining son, with her in a stroller. I know they went out of their way to visit, and it touches my heart to this day that they did that for me. I also have a sister in law that came to visit me regularly. She would always have something to add to my day, whether it was stories about our incredibly big family, a book to read or maybe one with crosswords, or maybe even a plan for some fun at the hospital, including a Fat Tuesday party and birthday parties for my children so I wouldn’t’ miss out. I forged a wonderful relationship with her through those eight weeks that stands to this day. I will never be able to repay the love and kindness she showed me, but I will be thankful for the rest of my life for what she did. We’ve had many birthday and Fat Tuesday parties since then, but none mean more to me than the ones we celebrated in the year 2000 when I only got to see my boys for a few minutes every few days but got to see them just a few minutes more because of her. They are some of my most precious memories.

It was with that sister in law that I had an incredible conversation about stress. She was telling me about her sister in law and how stressed out her sister in law was because both of her sons decided to get married that summer, giving them less than six months to plan both weddings and wondering how they would make it all happen. My sister in law, who can truly tell a good story, stopped mid-sentence and looked at me. She said, “I guess this really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you considering what you’re going through.’ I told her I had learned something about stress being in the hospital. I learned that it doesn’t matter what the stress is, we all have the same reaction. The stress a teenager feels about a pimple on prom day, a future mother in law feels about two weddings in three months or a future mother feels about the health of her unborn child is the same. Yes, there are different levels, but that depends on the person. A teenager can blow the stress of a pimple up to rival the stress I felt on occasion about the health of my child. The situation doesn’t dictate the level of stress. We dictate the level of stress by how much we struggle against what is happening.

Think about this. When you have somewhere to go and you are prepared to leave early and actually leave early, you seem to make all of the traffic lights. Traffic seems to flow beautifully, for the most part. You rarely get into traffic jams, but be 10 minutes late getting out the door and see what happens. You seem to get behind every slowpoke in the state. Lights turn red just as you are getting to them, and your stress level rises. Maybe you lash out at other drivers and criticize them. It is amazing to me how many idiots and morons are on the road when I’m late. It’s even more amazing how many of them seem to be somewhere else when I am in no particular hurry to get somewhere. I do have one relative that seems to feel stress every time they get behind the wheel. Anyone who goes slower than the speed limit or sits too long at a traffic light that turns green gets, at minimum, a judgmental statement and often a frustrated honk of the horn. It got to the point where I stopped riding with that person because of the tirade against people they didn’t even know. I did remind that person one day that none of the people they were complaining about got up that morning determined to tick my relative off. It was a humorous but poignant moment and since then things have gotten better. They’re still not good, but they are better.

Back to my birthing story, though, the day of my child’s birth started with stress. We had an ultrasound at 9am to see if the baby was head down and if I would have to have a C-section. The baby was head down so we proceeded to the Pitocin drip. Everything was progressing normally, so we were all calm and relaxed, for the most part. At 4:16pm while checking my progress, the doctor said everything was progressing normally, but she could swear that she was feeling the foot of my baby where the head was supposed to be. At that moment, the baby’s heart rate began to drop. The doctor told me and my husband that they were moving me to an operating room, just in case the baby decided not to cooperate. They wheeled me out of the delivery room and as soon as we cleared the door, they began to run. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how bad things were. At the moment they began running and screaming, my heart rate went through the roof and I began to pray. I tried to say a Hail Mary, but I couldn’t remember the words to the prayer I had said thousands of times so I switched to the Lord’s Prayer. Every time I would get to the words “Thy will be done” I would burst into tears. I felt like I had done everything right and everything was going wrong. I couldn’t believe that after all of the waiting and doing what was best for the baby this was happening. Surrendering to the thought of this baby not being a part of our family was unthinkable, but there was the thought nonetheless. I might not get to meet my child and be that child’s mother. At that moment, I understood what surrender meant. I knew that to get through whatever came next, I truly did have to hand my will over as much as I could to others. I felt like I had done that so much with letting others raise my boys while I was in the hospital. I thought I had done that when I accepted that I might have to have a C-section. In that moment, though, I gave up more control of my life than I ever had. I had one prayer only; let my baby live. I thought that whatever came next I could face if my baby would just be born alive and healthy. He wasn’t. Three minutes after I was wheeled out of the labor and delivery room, my son came into this world feet first, wrapped in his cord and not breathing. Before he was born, they were calling out the falling heart rate; 55, 50, 45. You could feel the stress in the room as the Neonatal ICU staff untangled him and told him to breathe as I was praying for the same thing. The entire process probably only took a minute or two, but it felt like time was standing still waiting for a breath that might not happen, but it did. It was a quiet breath and a quiet cry. A preemie baby cries differently than a full term baby, even if his lungs are fully developed. My son sounded so far away and so pitiful, and in that moment, something happened. I was strapped down and couldn’t hold him, but they held him close so I could kiss his cheek before they took him away to the Intensive Care unit. I kissed him and silently promised to do everything I could to be the best mom possible for him. I had no idea the learning, growing and battles that were in front of us, but instead of a stress filled mom whining about why this was happening to me, I knew one thing. Because of my son, two warriors were born that day; one that would do whatever it took to help her son be the man he was born to become and one who would become that man. The job is not complete, and I sometimes have to remind myself about the stress and surrender of that day, but when I do, I remember that the stress is what you have to let go of to get to the next best place. Surrendering the stress is sometimes the strongest thing you can do, and although I don’t always remember to do it, when I do, magic happens and I transform into the next best version of myself and you can too. We can all let go of stress. When you surrender to what is instead of demanding life to be different, miracles happen. You become the person you were born to be. You evolve and become best self. You benefit and so does the Universe, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. Until next time, thanks for being you, especially the evolving you, and have a great day.


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