Fear & Worry

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” ― H.P. Lovecraft

There have been a few conversations over the past couple weeks that have got me thinking.

Last week, Fynn had a dental appointment. It was there that this exchange with the dental hygienist took place:

“How old is the baby?” She pointed to Mia, who was asleep in her carrier.

“Three months old,” I said.

“What’s her name?”

“Mia.”

“Is she healthy?”

I kind of stared at her for a second. I’m never sure how to answer this question. At this moment in time, she’s very healthy. She has a minor heart murmur. Does having Down syndrome mean she’s unhealthy?

So I responded, awkwardly, “Well, she was born with Down syndrome, but she’s very healthy.” I smiled a big smile to signal all was well.

“Have they talked to you about her teeth, yet?” The hygienist had a grave look.

“No, but I’m sure they’ll get to it. She’s only 3 months old,” I said as I tried to put an end to what was happening and kicking myself for bringing it up. Why didn’t I just hand her Mia’s chromosome analysis while I was at it?

“Well, sometimes their teeth come in crooked or they don’t come in at all,” she said knowingly.

I tried to hold it in. She was trying to be kind, but I’d had my fill of this kind of nonsense.

“I’ve heard that,” I said, “but it is the last thing I’m going to worry about right now. Besides, I know plenty of people whose teeth have never come in or have come in crooked. Like all of them, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“Oh, okay. I suppose you’re right,” she said and went back to working on Fynn.

I know she was trying to be helpful, but what am I supposed to do with that information right now? Today? I can’t will her teeth to come in. Am I supposed to do some kind of “tooth rain dance?” Her teeth are going to be her teeth. Why is that something I need to worry about right now? There is nothing I can do about that at 3 months.

Thankfully for Mia and other people with Down syndrome, this is a highly studied population so we know what to look out for. However, sometimes there can be such a thing as too much information. Doctors don’t walk into every new mom’s room and hand her the Physician’s Desk Reference and say, “You should take a look at this, just so you know everything that could possibly go wrong.” Unfortunately, I got handed the manual of care for children with Down syndrome from birth to 22 years that the American Academy of Pediatrics puts out for DOCTORS by one of my pediatricians 24 hours after Mia was born. Well, thanks, I thought to myself, I’ll get right on figuring out how to talk to Mia about puberty. Good grief. That’s filed in the “unhelpful” category. It’s so much information to process. It’s great to be informed but some things can wait. Tell me what I need to know this week, this year, or even the first 3, but let’s hold off on dealing with birth control for a while, okay (and yes, that’s in there).

I want to be prepared, but constantly worrying about everything that could go wrong in the future could rob me of enjoying her today. Three months will turn into three years and then 3 decades so quickly, and I’ll have wasted my time with her worrying about the “what ifs” that may never ever happen.

At least I didn’t add her teeth to that list.

One other thing happened this week, and it hit me that I’ve been ridiculous. I was talking to Fynn’s OT about Mia. Fynn has a private OT and Mia works with Birth to 3 at the moment. It’s not that Fynn’s OT can’t handle Mia (she’d do great); it’s more of a cost thing. Right now, it’s more affordable for Mia to be in Birth to 3, especially as they add more services for her.

Well, I was talking to her about some of the great things that have happened – Mia rolling, her trying to scoot (that has mostly turned into her trying to roll both ways now), and just everything that has generally been going well – when I said, “She’s just been doing really great, but I know that one day she won’t be…” And I stopped.

Fynn’s OT was looking at me with a very serious look. “Why does there have to be a “but”? She asked me.

“I just want people to know that I understand that she, you know.” I stammered.

“Stop doing that,” she said. “From what you’ve said and from what I’ve seen here, she’s doing great. You have no idea what she’ll be able to do and neither does anyone else. Yes, it might take her longer to do things than other children, but that doesn’t mean she’ll never be able to do them. Believe in her.”

I smiled, “She’s doing great.”

“There you go,” she said.

I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. I was qualifying her success. I was ashamed. For all my talk about believing in her, I’d been selling her short and stealing her success. For crying out loud the CHILD IS CONSISTENTLY ROLLING OVER AT 3 MONTHS. She IS doing great. I couldn’t just be happy for her. I had to cloud it with my own worry and fear.

For all the things I can’t control in BOTH of my kids lives, I can control this. Both of my kids are doing great. They’re amazing. No “buts” or qualifications necessary.

It’s Friday, Nate’s home from traveling, and my kids are happy and healthy. I’m going to enjoy the weekend. Worry free, God willing.

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