In my definition of a mother, next to nurturer and domestic engineer, is an unspoken but understood word called worry. Do you know a mother who doesn’t worry about her children? And there are oh so many things about which to worry. Add raising a medically fragile child to the mix and it’s a wonder we go out of the house at all.
Thanks to a Make-A-Wish dream vacation when my son was 3 years old, we did indeed get out of the house. My fear pushed aside for the chance to spend a week in Orlando exposing our son to a whole world he never knew existed. If you had told me then, we would eventually travel to the Smoky Mountains and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, I wouldn’t have believed it. But we did.
Did my tendancy to worry disappear? Or, did I “do it afraid?” I would like to say that worry left me after our Orlando vacation but it did not. Since nothing serious happened, the Make-A-Wish trip emboldened me to charge forward into the unknown. Being careful to pack everything we could possibly need and always checking for hospitals surrounding our destination, we set out on adventures I couldn’t have imagined when Samuel was in the hospital.
So this month we ventured out once more. This time driving over three thousand miles round trip to Cape Cod. My husband drove the miles while I was in the back seat with my son. Samuel’s every runny nose, sweaty forehead, and tear that flowed, reverberated through my body. My worry antennae constantly alert. The vacation days rolled on as I sought to enjoy the precious gift of travel without the unwanted baggage of worry.
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine, Elizabeth Blackburn, discovered in a study of chronically stressed mothers an average shortening of their life expectancy by 9 to 12 years. The University of California San Francisco biochemist studied mothers who had reared children with special needs for 15 years.*
Wanting to add and not subtract the aforementioned 9 to 12 years, how can I cope? Here are a couple of suggestions.
* REMEMBER: Though there have been times of extreme stress due to Samuel’s health issues, I need to remember not every runny nose results in a cold (more severe in a special needs child.)
* PRAY: Pray and ask for prayer from strategic prayer partners willing to lift you up at a moments notice. I have a core of six people I can text immediately. You can also join my Facebook group called On The Spot Prayer. https://www.facebook.com/groups/270149063098028
* MEMORIZE: Remember key Bible verses like Philippians 4:6a, “Be anxious for nothing…” and Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Bringing these verses to mind calms me.
* REST: Take time for yourself. For me, this is when my son is asleep at night. I read a good book or take a long shower or bath.
This short list is not to suggest I have arrived in overcoming my tendency to worry. Rather, I am speaking to myself and with the hopes of encouraging all mothers (both special needs mom and non-special needs) who struggle with the worry gene. How do you cope? Please share your ideas and tips.
Author, A Miracle In My Living Room