Monday, June 23, 2014

Pregnant and Bedridden: The Psychological Strain Begins to Take a Toll

            By God’s mercy, I—and my cerclage—made it through the first month, and I managed to coerce Chris into decorating for Christmas.
            A shrieking horn and deep rumbling noise jolted me awake. The sound—emanating from the living room—grew steadily louder and louder.
            “What in the world is that?” I mumbled. Then I remembered the battery-operated aircraft carrier I’d ordered for Parker. and I smiled.
            It’s Christmas morning.
            The carrier must have been a hit since the blaring noise filled the house throughout most of the day. I almost regretted making the purchase! Luckily, (for Chris) I had shopped before Thanksgiving and mail-ordered the remainder of the toys so Chris was divested of any harried, last minute buying. Parker immersed himself in his bounty while I spent the day in bed, after managing to briefly and gingerly relocate myself to the living room couch for one brief hour of festivities.
            Most of that Christmas Day is a hazy memory, aside from Parker’s milestone of learning how to snap his fingers and pucker his lips for a perfect whistle. And he played until he dropped from exhaustion. Literally. By the afternoon, the countertop basketball game and Thomas Tank Engine toys littered my sleeping quarters so Parker could “entertain” me, “because Mommy didn’t get any toys for Christmas.”
            The holiday week swiftly disappeared, and Chris and Parker gathered in my room in front of the television to watch the New Year’s Tiffany ball drop in Times Square. Within an hour, Parker was asleep on the floor, and Chris snoozed next to me on the pullout bed, until I jiggled him awake for the big moment. So much for exciting events in the Owan house. At least we had the Rose Bowl game to look forward to later that day. Having both graduated from a Big Ten university, the game highlighted the collegiate football season for us, and we rarely missed the televised game.
            Chris stretched and yawned in accentuated boredom before kissing me goodnight, and then scooped Parker from the floor and packed him off to bed.
            Left alone in the dark, I prayed that the New Year brought joy—not familiar sorrow—to our family.


                                           I am weary with moaning;
                                                Every night I flood my bed with tears;
                                           I drench my couch with my weeping.
                                          My eyes waste away because of grief,
                                                they grow weak because of my foes (Psalm 6:6-7 NRSV).

            It was getting tougher by the day.
            On January 6, I started a journal. That daily ritual developed into a valuable catharsis for the release of my emotions. My journaling was initiated early that morning, at 2:30 AM to be exact, when I suffered my first full-blown panic attack, awakening abruptly with a terrifying and maddening impulse to leap from bed and sprint through the house. Overwhelming urges to flail my arms and legs and scream wildly for Chris escalated rapidly. I felt insane, desperately craving human companionship, some inane reassurance that I wasn’t utterly deserted.
            I was terrified.
            Claustrophobia engulfed my body as my heart rate soared and my lungs suffocated from hyperventilation. Cold sweat beads erupted on my forehead, and my pajamas clung to my dampened skin. My thoughts lashed around irrationally and uncontrollably. I knew I couldn’t stand it any longer; I was dying in that bed!
            Struggling to prop myself on one elbow, I battled hard to control my breathing, deliberately and instructively talking to myself and to God as I tried to sedate my raging, hyper-polarized nervous system. Simultaneously I reminded myself that if I absolutely had to—in an emergency—I could bolt from bed and get out of the house. My confinement to bed wasn’t permanent.
            Thank God!
            I thought once again of the quadriplegics who face a life of nearly complete immobility, as well as victims of body-wasting neuromuscular diseases who feel like prisoners in their own bodies. And how did prisoners of war, confined to tiny, solitary, bug, urine and feces-infested spaces—for months or years— survive psychologically, or physically? I started regarding their fortitude and circumstances with awe. I started feeling thankfulness for the reasons in which I had, essentially, elected this current confinement.  
            The reality settled in that no situations exist in which God cannot sustain and comfort us, where He cannot be our All-in-all, especially when we need the supernatural power to survive. There’s no wall He can’t penetrate, no evil He can’t conquer, no wasteland He can’t penetrate and revive.
            My flesh might have been prepared to wave the white flag exuberantly, but as Paul told Timothy in his second letter to him, “the spirit of God gave to us a spirit of power; not one of cowardice, but one of love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, italics mine).”
            Oh, how I needed that power. And I was finally realizing it. God was driving the point home. My spirit was so willing, but my flesh did feel so very weak, and vulnerable, and fragile.
            As the days wore on, I found myself searching and praying more frequently for that sustaining supernatural power; that power only God can provide. My sustenance requirement climbed exponentially with every passing day.
            And those passing days bled slowly into one another as I lost all sense of time.
            I wrote out a little calendar of dates, (I could have easily asked Chris to purchase one for me, but I needed the activity), which I kept propped aside my bed, to mark and celebrate when another week elapsed. The baby’s survival rate soared with each seven-day passing.
            And God and I were starting to get pretty close.


NEXT WEEK: It doesn’t get easier, spiritual attacks increase, and I rely more and more on God…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!



            When I experienced this first panic attack, I didn’t know what it was. I thought I might be having a heart attack. The terror accentuated the panic, and the snowball effect careened forward.
            Then I remembered a woman I’d encountered years earlier in a posh Santa Monica, California shopping mall.
            As I was approaching the parking garage elevator to enter the mall, a woman exited it. Two steps into the garage, she abruptly stopped and stared wild-eyed into the maze of cars, her head whipping from side to side as she tried to orientate herself.
            In a split second, she pivoted and reached for me, panicked words spilling from her lips like a water torrent. “Where am I? Where’s my car? I don’t know where I am! Oh, help, me!”
            Being young, self-centered and clueless, I thought she was nuts. What’s the big deal? I thought. Why can’t she just pull herself together? And how could you possibly forget where you parked your car?
            As I stepped toward her to help (I didn’t know what I was going to do), a security guard appeared out of nowhere. He carefully took her arm, focused on her eyes and spoke gently, soothingly, asking her what her car looked like and if he could help her find it. She calmed down enough to nod her head in a jerky manner and take shaky steps forward with him. I studied her for another couple of seconds and then pivoted and entered the elevator.
            I’m embarrassed to say I was not overcome with sympathy for her.
            Not then.
            Now I have buckets of sympathy for people who suffer panic attacks.
            And, as is so like God to do, He brought me full-force into their reality and disabling nature, just so I could develop that sympathy. 


For those of you who experience panic attacks and anxiety, please read my previous posts discussing these issues and how to overcome them.