Last week, I got the fright of my life as one of my worst mom fears came true. I had just taken Lydia to the library for Mother Goose and was driving out to Portsmouth to visit two of my close friends for lunch at their office. I'm driving down 101 and Lydia starts crying from the back, and I know that I will at some point have to pull over. When I do, it goes from bad to worse and my anxiety was triggered.
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I stop the car at a truck stop on the side of the highway and grab a snack from the diaper bag to give Lydia, since I thought maybe she was hungry. I walk around to her side of the car, give her the snack and milk and hope that this will pass. After she had a few Trader Joe's rocket crackers and some milk, I took her out of the car seat and hugged her for a few minutes.
After giving her some snuggles for a few minutes, I figured it was time to put her back in her car seat. Well... Lydia had other ideas. She started freaking out. She was crying so hard that her face turned bright red and she looked like one of the mandrakes from the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie.
As she screamed her head off, I tried to reassure her that we would see our friends soon and she did the worst possible thing.
I WAS TRIGGERED!!
Fun fact about me, one of my anxiety triggers in vomit. Anything to do with it will push me into becoming a sweaty, shaky, useless blob of tears. So to be on the side of the highway alone with my daughter covered in puke was my worst nightmare come true.
The reason for the puke was because a.) she screamed so hard, b.) she had had a mucus-y cold for a few days and was a snotty mess. It was a lot and she had a lot going on, so this made sense after the fact, but my irrational brain needed a few minutes to process all of this.
All I had on me were her wipes, so I was using her wipes to clean her up in the car seat as she continued to scream. I tried calling Aaron twice and he didn't pick up, so I kept panicking. It took all I could muster to not completely lose it and have a full blown panic attack, so instead I just kept cry shouting "It's okay!!" at Lydia, mostly to help me attempt to calm down.
As you probably assumed, it did not help. I picked her up out of her car seat, took her shirt off, and tried to clean out the car seat and have her stand next to me and that was not her idea of fun either. So she kept freaking out and puked a little more on the pavement because THANK GOD I moved her in time so that she didn't puke on herself or me.
I eventually called my mom to just talk to someone and feel validated because I knew that if I couldn't calm down, Lydia would not calm down. My mom was able to bring me back from the brink and gave me her mom wisdom of hanging out with Lydia for a few minutes to get her calm and then put her back in the car. "Give her some snuggles for about fifteen minutes, then try again," she told me.
I put Lydia in the front seat and let her explore the front of the car. It took her mind off of what just happened and whatever made her upset (which was probably that the sun was in her eyes). She played with the vents and held onto a puppy stuffy that used to be mine and after a few minutes, seemed completely content.
By now you can assume that I already called one of my friends and gave her a clipped, anxious call about why I was not able to make it to lunch, mostly trying to come off like I was keeping it together. I am sure she was able to see through the veneer (sorry Cora!!).
I put Lydia in her car seat and she did fine on the drive back home, back in the cleaned up car seat with no top on. It was quite the site, let me tell you. She ended up falling asleep and I talked to my mom as well as listened to a podcast.
When we got home, I put her down for a nap and then watched dumb videos on YouTube to decompress. I definitely had a glass of wine that night. I definitely was already looking forward to processing this event in therapy the following week.
The rest of the day, Lydia was fine. She took a good long nap and I decompressed, did some tidying and packing (we were headed out for my cousin's wedding the following day) and called it a day.
The following night, she threw up while we were at the Airbnb in Maine because we put her down for bed in her pack n' play in a strange room that she was not used to and freaked out. She slept with Aaron that night, which I know sounds strange, but the Airbnb had one room with a queen that my parents slept in while the second room had a twin bed and a bunk bed (if you must know, I got the top bunk because I'm a 29-year-old child and wanted to relive my times on Youth Group retreats and being in the top bunk).
The other nights there, she was fine, which was a huge relief.
But guess what? Tonight, almost a week later, she was chewing on a silicone straw (nothing else made her happy), accidentally stuck it too far down her throat and puked a little again (guess who learned real quick to not let her do that anymore, these parents!).
What is there to glean from this story?
I learned that even though I had to live through one of my worst nightmares of being alone when Lydia pukes, I can get through it.
I learned that my anxiety does not dictate everything about my life and that I can overcome those feelings to take care of my child.
I am stronger than my anxiety.
When something scares you, sometimes you have to buck up and just get through it to help someone else. Did I want to just plop down on the pavement and cry until maybe someone could come to my rescue? Absolutely! Was that going to happen? NOPE.
Being a mom is the hardest but most wonderful role I have ever had. A day of having to deal with my daughter puking is better than any day without her.
The most important lesson I learned is that I am a good mom. I am a great mom. I overcame my fears and anxieties to be there for my kid because taking care of her was more important to me than giving into my fear and giving up.
As a parent, you are tested and the things you never want to happen can happen. You learn to role with the punches because you have no other choice. Your kid needs you to be the grown up and have it together, even when you want to break down.
Next time you feel like you can't handle a parenting situation, know that you are exactly the person your child needs you to be. They want your kindness and comfort, and you will be amazed at how strong you are.