Posted by: alegra22 | August 20, 2010

Fear of the Day

Tonight my daughter has been a small, ferocious animal seeking me out. Sitting at the computer at my in-laws’ house, I try to type fast enough to stay one thought ahead of the constant sound of Joaquin crying, the nudge nudge of my daughter shoving beneath my elbows as she climbs on my lap, the pull of another day being sucked toward a black hole of fatigue and deadlines that continue to spin away.

I hit ‘send’ again and again as I try to organize material for the new site Milk & Ink, a flare of anxiety each time because as my daughter turns in circles in my lap, tucking her knees and elbows and chin into a tight ball as if trying to once again be a part of me, I don’t have time to proofread. I don’t have time to second guess. I forget things I wanted to say. I leave sentences half-finished.  I close my eyes and pray my messages are received with generosity, love, and humor.  I take a deep breath. I let go.

I look down to see Zaviera’s eyes closing, her cheeks flushed. I shut off the computer and whisper to her, “Let’s go to bed, sweetheart. We’re really tired.” She murmurs in agreement. The wisps of hair around her neck cause something delicate in my chest to splinter, like a thin sheet of ice beneath a full moon. I am aware of Joaquin complaining and Dan pacing with him in his arms.

In bed, Zaviera insists on sleeping on top of me. I am the mattress. She is the princess.

Dan walks into the room holding Joaquin and says, “I’m going to take him back to the doctor.”

He’s been unable to take down more than 200 mils of liquid all day, barely one small bottle. He keeps vomiting if we give him more than 60 mils every hour.  It is because he is working so hard to breathe that he keeps swallowing air. We hear it in his tummy. His breath catches again and again. I don’t know how parents face children with serious illnesses. I don’t have that kind of strength.

Last night, for my birthday, I paced the hallways of the pediatric ward, my baby half-naked in my arms, his body full of heat, his chest an angry red. I was ready to go at someone with my teeth.

I sat for hours holding him, trying to keep my position just right, my feet propped up against the crib, my arms angled onto the chair,  to keep my muscles from aching so that I wouldn’t have to disturb him by changing positions. I watched his chest rise and fall. I stared at the white walls. I realized my life is no longer marked by another year passing. I live on a spectrum of time. It moves beneath me like a current.

“Yes,” I say to Dan. “He’s not settling. He’s not improving.”

I pretend it isn’t happening, but the adrenaline has started to course through my body.

All day I’ve been longing for sleep. All day I’ve been holding Joaquin, typing one-handed when I can, earplugs in my ears because the crying has not stopped. Now, curled up with my daughter, I can’t sleep.

An hour later, Dan’s mum comes in to the room to tell me that Dan’s back up at the hospital.

It is midnight. I get up out of bed because I find myself fighting tears. I think about things that I shouldn’t think about. He’ll be fine, my rational mind tells me. He’ll have to spend the night in the hospital just to be safe but it’s just the worse end of the bronchiolitis.

But the cold water is seeping up beneath that thin sheet of ice in my chest. I am sinking down.

I wonder what I feared before I became a parent. Did I fear anything? I don’t think I did. I don’t think I understood fear. Or love.

I try to make a list:

1. sharks

2. serial killers

3. unrealized dreams

4. drowning

5. not being loved

They all seem silly. The are not this:

Fear of losing my children.

Silence full of cold, cold absence.

Stillness that has nothing to do with peace.

I don’t know if it has been the way the last six weeks have sunk their teeth into us and shaken us around that leaves my mind so raw to these thoughts. Seeing Cezar’s small body, so still, so absent, stripped something between me and the rest of the world.

Two nights ago, I held Joaquin as he fussed, his breath catching, his hand reaching up to stroke my face, and proofread stories for hours. I stayed up for as long as I could, letting Dan get some sleep before we switched guard.

When I typed out a dedication at the end of Vigil of Clouds, the story written for our friend’s baby, Noah, who died of a heart defect, I had to do it one-handed. Typing each letter, “Until we meet on the other side of the clouds,”  was like knocking down walls in my heart until there it was: a night sky full of stars, a mound of fresh earth: my greatest fear.

I tell myself that Joaquin will be fine. But I think of Noah. Of how he struggled to breathe.

Joaquin will be fine. We’ve been here before, we’ll be here again.

But that fear is still there. Dark waters moving beneath that delicate sheet of ice I step on  every day I wake up and love my children.

Cracks so fine you  have to bend down and hold yourself very still to read them:

Fear of the day Sol no longer bends my ear with his spiraling questions.

Fear of the day when Joaquin does not reach out and stroke my face, staring into my eyes until we both fall asleep.

Fear of the day when my daughter’s small body can not fit on my lap.



  1. yes. yes. yes. oh you amazing woman, you. he will be fine. but oh, i get it. i get it.

    • (((love)))

  2. we dont know each other well, yet, but we will…i believe i was led to Nina because she is the North Star and in the travel I have met you and Jordan…and you all get me without even knowing it.

    Thank you, for this…my mother died 2 months after Deijah was diagnosed with Diabetes and all I could think about was how much I could still fit in my mothers lap…and how I wish I could give birth to Deijah just to be able to start time over again…..

    • Amy, I loved this.
      I am a big believer in kindred spirit connections – as you said, ‘getting one another without even knowing it’ – I think life is too big and bold and ferocious and devastating and beautiful to not reach out and claim those connections and hold on to them loyally

  3. speaking of kindred spirits, i apologize that i let my mountain of things to do get between me and reading your post. it is fresh water to my thirsty soul.
    as soon as you posted, my heart ran to read your blog – it is an addiction to me now. your writing is so beautiful it expresses my own heart in ways nobody else ever has.
    i’m so so glad to have found you!!!

    “you are Mother Earth” – the greatest compliment ever given to me – by a dog owner surrendering their “baby”, a little black and white “wriggling football” (as Patricia Cornwell describes a boston terrier) to me because they could no longer afford his care. he was itchy AND scratchy all the time no matter what he was fed or what drugs we gave him. his owners surrendered an entire bag of his clothes and all the medications they had tried thusfar to us (AZ Boston Terrier Rescue).
    from me, he went to a home that could sacrifice to afford his blood serum testing and treat him the rest of his little life for ALL the things he was allergic to – and could keep him an only dog as the prednisone had changed his brain chemistry making him aggressive with other dogs.
    he was cared for longer than his previous owners or i or the rescue could have. as far as i know he’s still alive and happy with his new people.

    i’ll never forget that day. i think of that feeling – that feeling that this giant burly warm bear of a man and his beautiful sweet wife could no longer care for this tiny little hot red, black and white ball of the creature of their affections. they loved him so much that bringing Romeo to us was the best they could do for him.

    when he got to my house with this little dog, she called him on the cell phone changing her mind and he then said to her, “Oh no, he’ll be so much happier here… any dog would. This is the perfect place for him. It’s dog heaven. It’s the only place for him that will be as good as our house.. She will love him… It’s perfect – dogs and cats and plants and rodent pets in every corner. … Yes, a big yard with trees and grass and a wooden deck and a covered porch and a mister system… Yes. She’s like Mother Earth. She does a great job caring for them all.”
    I’ll never forget that feeling – feeling like what i was doing was the right thing and doing it well.

    i felt like all my energy poured into the thing i loved most – my home and my pets – was making a difference in the world.
    that was 7 years ago – that was a lifetime ago.
    a 4 year old and 2 year old – 2 lifetimes ago…
    i miss who i was then. i miss that house and that yard. i miss all those little lives that were literally saved by being a part of mine. i miss walking through the shelters picking the ones who got to come home with me and seeing the delight in their new owners’ eyes when they met their little soulmates for the very first time. i miss seeing their stubby or curly little tails wagging furiously and those little tongues licking the cheeks of their new and forever protectors and best friends.

    i miss being “Mother Earth” and having a home that other people could actually come into.
    I miss having time to keep my dogs perfectly groomed and washing out my dog’s food bowls every day. i miss having decorations in my house. nice things. breakable things.

    i look around me.
    i see the house filled with signs of life.
    still seeing pugs and boston terriers and a lab and a cat draped over the top of open spots on the furniture and floor – furniture and floor strewn with toys and books and shoes and little people.
    my little people.
    my greatest blessings
    the family and the things i care about most.

    when i read your blog, it brings me a sense of connectedness… it brings me a sense of Mother Earth. it’s like you reach your arms (words) around the entire planet and hug the Mother Earth in me and tell her – “Hey, i’m still in here too – and if i can do this, so can you.”

    i’ll be 40 in October.
    i’ve decided i’m going to start wearing ONLY comfortable clothes that are beautiful and bright and make me feel beautiful and bright; ONLY eating what i enjoy, what i love and what makes me feel good.
    i’ve decided i’m going to write more, read more and ENJOY my kids while they’re little… the rest of my “to do” list be damned.

    i hope and pray your babies are healthy and well soon… playing and jumping and running around.

    i pray this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, long hot humid Arizona summer is over the very moment that your cold, drab, stuffy winter ends there.
    and when the cool wind blows here and your kids don their summer clothes and trade their warm socks and freezy toes for warm bare feet, that we can all go outside and enjoy rolling around in the fresh green grass, that we’ll both be able to take a deep breath and watch our kids playing – not hanging on to our bodies for their very breath, but running and jumping and playing freely on the playground without a care in the world, but for what they will do next.

    i pray that cezar reminds you daily, like an angel on your shoulder,
    that life is short …
    and God is good…
    all the time.

    prayers for your baby boy my friend.
    thank you for typing with one hand.
    you touch my heart and rock my inner Mother Earth!
    Stacy Kidd 🙂

    • Stacy,
      I absolutely loved this.
      What a gift your words are to me!
      Wear those comfortable clothes, eat that luxurious food!
      And yes, I know about mourning those parts of our self that transform with children but then realizing they haven’t gone away at all, they are still there becoming something better and more powerful.

  4. This was very beautifully written in spite of the circumstances. I extend my arms across the open seas and hold you close. I love you. mama

  5. Alegra:

    What a gorgeous piece. It’s now three days later. I hope your son is better.

    I have my own 4yo son & 11 yo daughter.

    They are still so vulnerable and small aren’t they? Especially the little ones. As I tuck him into his bed at night (usually he falls asleep w/ me due to the scary monsters–then I transfer him to his bed), I can’t help but marvel at his beautiful little perfect face and small but powerful body. Yet, still…

    I came to read you when your nephew went missing. I cried when he was found. I can’t imagine. Well. I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss.

    The intimacy and closeness we have with our children at this young age is so incredible and such a gift–we feel their hearts beat as surely as we feel our own. Their illnesses are terrifying.

    As they grow, it’s that separation from us that I find most interesting and find myself writing about. How we as parents evolve along with our kids.

    Best of luck with your children and family.

    • Rachel,
      The thoughts you describe about putting your son to sleep – I know those oh, so well. I often mourn the growth and separation even as I find the vulnerability and sheer energy expenditure their toddlerhood requires of us as parents. It is always a bittersweet tumbling into the future! But, as you said, I find that we grow with our children. We are prepared for the next leg of the journey.

  6. We’re holding lots of love for you my sweet. We know you are doing your best, holding on by the thinnest but tightest of threads.

    Just know that we are holding up everything we can over here and you don’t have to worry about us.

  7. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.

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