What are we most afraid of? Pre-parenthood it could be spiders, heights, failure. Post-parenthood there is one thing that becomes our number one fear: losing our babies. The very thought is heart-clenchingly impossible.
Last week I took my son to a hospital appointment that could have gone one of two ways. One path was back to the normal everyday fears of crossing the road, putting on seatbelts and giving him his Vitamin pill. The other path was a dark road to hospital, operations, treatments and pain.
Three months earlier, a routine optician’s appointment had uncovered tortuous retinal vessels (wiggly veins) at the back of his eyes, which could either have been a genetic variation from normal, or could have been a symptom of pressure on the eyeball. I remained calm at the optician’s, but once home I googled it and was taken down an avenue of terror. Of course, google nearly any symptom and you get the C-word. Headaches, sore legs, itchy elbows, you name it, it’s a symptom of near-to-immediate death.
From that point on I was at the mercy of fear. Fear stalked me in the day and the night. Death seemed to rise like a spectre to haunt everything I heard and read. I told very few people because to acknowledge it was to make it a reality.
I began to ask my son leading questions: ‘Does your head hurt?’ Answer, ‘Erm, yes, a bit.’ TERROR. ‘Are you feeling sick?’ Answer, ‘Sort of, can I have something else to eat?’ PANIC. I took him to the GP, who examined him and told me he was fine. A month later I was back again due to son having severe cramp in the night for two nights in a row. The GP didn’t even look at him and gave me a counselling session.
Uncomforted, for three months I carried the weight of fear around with me.
At the hospital my son and I read side by side, in a companionable silence. The moment of truth was near, but strangely, the fear had gone and a quiet calm had taken its place. We were here at the point of no return, and in my heart of hearts I knew that wherever this moment would take us, we would be ok.
At the end of three hours my son was discharged, no follow up appointments needed. The wiggly veins were part of his beautiful uniqueness, nothing else. I felt lighter, but somehow wiser. In the clutches of fear I had lost my childish belief that everything always would be alright, but learnt, truly, that however irritating our charges may sometimes be, there is nothing like the fear of losing them to wake us up to their incalculable preciousness.