I remember the days I was afraid to be alone with my kids. The moment I realize my husband would be away for several hours, anxiety would set in.I’d call his phone periodically to check in, hoping he’d tell me he was on his way.
Once, I even called a neighbor to come sit with me for a few minutes. She looked at me strangely when she came through the door. I wasn’t brave enough to tell her I was afraid to be alone. So I ignored her judgement as I entertained her with small talk until my anxiety went away.
I didn’t know how to handle them and myself — my thoughts and my needs. I didn’t know how to get alone time and silence in the midst of mother goose club and snack requests. I was afraid of the things I couldn’t control. The things they’d do that would ruin my day — like pouring syrup all over our suede couch. Or making a huge mess after I’d just cleaned up.
I was afraid I’d do something wrong. Or fail to complete all things on my mental to-do list. I thought I’d get overwhelmed — and one day; which led to me sitting in the back of an ambulance on a Sunday afternoon.
My husband had been gone for about 6 hours. I was so tired I could barely keep my thoughts together. I hadn’t eaten all day but instead drank two cups of coffee to keep me awake and alive enough to care for my kids — who spent majority of their time climbing all over me and jumping on my bed. After several attempts to watch Hollywood Reporter alone, I decided to take them outside — they clearly weren’t going to leave me alone.
I was pushing my son in the swing when I looked over and saw my daughters bike out in the grass, being ridden by a little girl.
Did someone steal her bike? I thought.
It looked like her bike. DID SOMEONE STEAL HER BIKE?? I began to breathe heavily. I could feel myself losing balance and sat down on the park bench to settle myself.
“It’s time to go.” I told Brooke. I grabbed my son and we trotted back to the house, just us three, no bike. The more we walked, the more I panted, slowly losing breath, slowly losing sight. We got in and I began to breathe heavily.
I text my husband to ask if he would be able to come home early but I got no response. I was breathing, but it was short. The kids were surrounding me, climbing into my lap, asking for juice; and I was ignoring them, trying hard to maintain my breathing.
I called a friend who lived nearby but got no answer. I called another, same response.
I knew something was wrong. It was getting worse, this feeling of panic was creeping up on me like a vine from Jumanji and I was losing it.
I went and stood in the living room. The kids in tow, following me around like little ducklings. I called my friends again. This time, one of them picked up.
“Can you come over please? I don’t know what’s wrong.”
She was over within 3 minutes and we both stood there, in the living room, me barely breathing, her with a slightly panicked look on her face.
My chest began to tighten and my hands went numb. I was losing blood circulation in my body and I started to panic. Malik came near me to climb onto my lap and I gently pushed him away. I needed space. He fell onto the floor and looked at me confused before he started whining.
My friend called 911 and spent the next three minutes repeating my address over and over again to the operator. All I could think about was losing my kids. Dying in front of them. I was afraid, so I prayed.
“God, please help me. God please help me.”
Over and over again I said these words until I was no longer speaking English. Within seconds I was speaking — and then shouting in tongues. Yes, tongues. It was an unexpected turn of events that changed everything. Within five seconds I was up on my feet, pacing the house, speaking in tongues, slowly regaining feeling in my hands and arms.
Within 60 seconds, I was able to shake my hands, and my breathing was back to normal. Another sixty seconds later, the ambulance showed up. The EMT’s checked my vital signs and reported everything was normal. They looked at us as if we’d prank called them as we tried to explain that literally two minutes earlier, I felt paralyzed.
I opted to take a trip to the emergency room to “make sure I was okay.” To be honest, I just wanted to be alone for a moment, even if that meant going to a hospital room to do it.
I sat in the back of the ambulance with tears rolling down my face. Devastated at the state I was in. Tired. Fatigued. And wishing things were different.
I didn’t know what I needed to change or how but I knew it needed to happen immediately. Watching the panic in my children’s eyes was enough to show me that it was time to get this anxiety under control, and not just for my children. I needed to change my life, for myself.
I look at them now as we’re going on 10 hours alone together. I’ve fed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve taken a trip to the city and back. Ive gotten 6 hours of work done in between them climbing all over me and complaining about wanting more food. I’ve given them snacks and taken them outside to play for 30 minutes. And in a few minutes, I’ll make dinner, give them baths and clean up their room before putting them down for bed.
I still have days where I have to rev myself up to go into mommy mode. I have to tell myself it’s okay and remind myself that I’m the mom. I am capable of doing all the things I need to do.
“I birthed them” remember? I’d say to myself. I carried them in my womb and literally pushed them out. I have the tools of “good job” and “here’s your juice” and “it’s nap time” in my arsenal of mommy responses. I have my candles and outside time and if all else fails, I can lay on the couch with them while we all watched Trolls together for the 15th time.
I still have those questions. What if I get overwhelmed or what if they do something to ruin my day. And many days, those moments happen — what has changed is my response. I breathe and relax into the reality that all I have to do is, be. I don’t have to push or force anything to happen that does not want to happen. I don’t have to run myself crazy trying to complete tasks that are not a good fit for the moment.
As I write this, I’ve just finished baths and called it quits on cleaning the kids room after looking under the bed to find about 100 colorful balls from the ball pit my mother bought them. The balls will stay there because who’s looking under there anyway?
My husband walked in around 8:00pm right after I’d climbed into bed; tired, but very proud of myself.
It’s all an evolution of time and experience and knowing who you are and what you’re capable of. It’s about knowing you’re fully allowed to say no when you just can’t do anything more than sit still on the couch and drink wine.
It’s been over a year since I sat in the back of that ambulance crying and embarassed that I couldn’t even handle a day alone with my kids. It is still, and likely always will be, a process.
To any other parent or person in the world who is afraid of what the day may bring — as Glennon Doyle would say, you can do hard things.
Previously published on medium
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Photo credit: by Ifie Natasha Brandon