Anxiety & Miracles
Everett is one today. ONE! I can't believe it! It's crazy to think how fast time has gone. Like really fast. It's also crazy to think how much our lives have changed so seamlessly over the last year... to think about how far we've come and how much we have learned.
I think the thing that I like to reflect on the most is Everett's insane birth story... which you can read about here. Whether you have heard about it or read about it, there is a huge missing piece to this story that I would like to share, (as if the story wasn't long enough already). I have been wanting to share this for a while and only recently built up the courage to write about it now. It is one of the more personal things in my life and something that has made me who I am, but I feel like it's time for me to share this missing piece to the story. To give a little background, let's begin at the end of my high school years. My whole life I always had a tendency to be more anxious about things. I've always known that about myself and it was something I had come to terms with. However, at the end of my senior year my general anxiety about things had become increasingly worse. Over my senior year of high school what was merely being generally anxious turned into extreme stress and being constantly nervous. I remember times when I would walk into the school that last year and have an overwhelming sense of nerves. It drove me nuts. Despite my constant nerves and extreme stress, I went on doing what I always did. However, over the period of a few months it became harder and harder to do what I always did, which was getting things done.I felt tired and depressed.
I knew things weren't perfect with my health at the time but it didn't hit me how bad they were until I had my first mini anxiety attack. I will never forget it. It was one simple event that created cause for many more years of irrational fear. I was sitting in sacrament meeting at my church when all of the sudden I started to feel a little nervous. My heart started pounding, my face felt flush, and my arms began to tingle down to my finger tips. I started to tremble and felt like all eyes were on me. It's hard to explain exactly how it felt, especially because it all stems from a mental source, but it was very real and awful. There is something that needs to be understood when it comes to anxiety that a lot of people have a hard time understanding. Anxiety attacks can occur at any time in any place, for any reason with a simple trigger. It's stress built up over time, like a ticking time bomb, just waiting to go off. It is a mental problem with very real physical symptoms. Because of this, many times with anxiety attacks, they can create cause for even more anxiety induced problems. This is because the mind subconsciously goes off with a trigger, which can be anything, thinking you are in danger even when you are not, presenting you with all of the symptoms of someone who is in danger; the rapid heartbeat, the adrenaline rush, the flushed face, ect. Triggers can vary and are different for everyone. My trigger was sitting in sacrament meeting. Every time I went to church it set something off in my mind. It seems random and irrational, and it is, but it was because of that first anxiety attack. My subconscious was telling my mind I should be nervous because of that first event. It was a very frustrating situation and it took a lot of courage for me to show up and participate in church every week.
My anxiety had been off and on with varying degrees ever since. It was something I learned to accept and tried to push through. Although I felt I had a decent grasp on things, they started to fall apart just before our move to Vermont. Now, here is where we get to the missing piece of the birth story. Right before we moved to Vermont I found out I was pregnant. When we got to Vermont my anxiety became worse. I would pray and pray for answers hoping it would just be taken away. I felt like I had tried everything. I remember one night thinking about all the problems my anxiety caused and getting intercepted by a profound feeling that my soon to be born baby would be exactly what I needed. That because of him, I would finally be healed after years of struggle. It didn't make any sense to me at the time because all I could think about was how much more anxiety a baby would produce.
Despite my concerns, I made a choice that night; I decided to continue to trust in Heavenly Father and that things would turn out okay. I remembered the scripture that had always helped me throughout that trial, Ether 12:27:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
My pregnancy is a hard one to explain. My anxiety had become so severe it felt debilitating at times. I was so frustrated that I felt like I couldn't look anyone in the eye or get anything done. I had the hardest time teaching my Sunday school class, I felt flushed talking to anyone, and worst of all I was having panic attacks almost every Sunday. I began to dread Sundays. However, I pushed on. I needed to push on. I promised myself I would NEVER let my anxiety take me away from what I needed the most, which was church, the Sacrament. Although I was determined to not let it defeat me, I was so torn apart. I was so depressed that I couldn't kick my constant nerves. I felt like my fears were eating me alive and it didn't make any sense.
My anxiety was miserable, but my pregnancy saved me. That's the hard part to explain. Although I was going through an extremely hard situation, my pregnancy went so smooth. I was rarely uncomfortable, I never got sick, and I just LOVED being pregnant. While I was pregnant I had to be home alone a lot because Steve was in school. Being alone didn't help the anxiety, but those times when I felt like I was getting super depressed and anxious, Everett would kick. It was like he was reminding me that he was there and that there was so much to look forward to and be grateful for. That my weakness would become strength. It was such a blessing! I don't think I could've pulled through so well if my pregnancy were difficult while I was struggling with the worst anxiety I had ever experienced. My pregnancy got me through it, but things were still really, really hard. Everyone in my family could tell too, even though they were miles away. They could hear it in my voice when I called... plus the fact that I am an open book and spoke about it often. My mom and dad were a little concerned and knew how hard things were. They felt impressed that my mom should come a little earlier to Vermont, before Everett was born, to focus on me and getting the help I needed. She would then go back home and then come back to Vermont for Everett's birth at the end of February.
Everett was due March 2nd. I was secretly hoping he would come a little early, just because I was so excited to meet him, but I didn't feel anywhere close to having him. My mom got to Vermont on Wednesday, January 29th, and I told her I felt like I would end up having Everett late. The next day, we went to the doctor's office, (not baby related), to see if I could get a counselor and if I could take any medication for anxiety and depression while I was in my last month of pregnancy. It felt really good to finally get things taken care of. It was hard to admit that I needed a counselor at first and we only ended up meeting one time, but talking to her helped a lot. She explained to me that with anxiety I just needed to let it happen and not let the fear of fear make things worse. My doctor explained to me that I could choose to take a certain anxiety medication but that there were some low risks. I was in such a difficult place at the time, so nervous about everything, I had really been counting on being able to take a medication with no possible complications. I didn't want to risk it though. I decided that with counseling, the support of those around me, and the Lord I would be able to make it through without it for that last month. I won't go into all the details of the birth, because they are all written down in my original birth story post, but basically Sunday came and I was officially 36 weeks along. After church that day, everyone around me was telling me that maybe I should go to the hospital because of certain symptoms I was having, just in case. Due to my anxiety I was SO SO SO nervous to call and ask if I should go in. It took my husband and mom about 30 minutes to convince me to work up the courage to call. Finally, I went into a separate room and tried to keep my thoughts straight as I attempted to explain I could possibly be in labor, but probably not. Well, the doctor on the phone agreed. She didn't think I was in labor at all and you could tell she was maybe a little annoyed. After all, it was super bowl Sunday. She said to come in anyways and that she would check me. After we hung up, I came out of my room to my mom and husband who were eagerly awaiting for me to tell them what the doctor said. Trying not to break into tears, due to the traumatizing event of calling and being shut down, I explained that the doctor said to come in, but I wasn't going to. I really did not want to go anymore. I was humiliated and nervous. My mom and husband insisted that I needed to go. I tried to argue saying there was no way I was in labor anyways. I wasn't sure I was even having contractions and it would be so embarrassing if I wasn't.
Despite my attempts of denying it, part of me was curious, and felt like maybe I should go to the hospital to be safe. So, we went. On the drive there I remember getting a distinct feeling that the Lord KNEW I needed my baby boy right now. I started to feel emotional, but quickly pushed the thought aside knowing that the result of the evening would be me not even being close to labor and coming home embarrassed. We then arrived and checked in to the hospital and they sent us upstairs. We got up to the birthing center and I later found out that all the nurses were talking to each other saying things like, "this girl is not in labor at all!", and I didn't blame them for thinking that at all... I was even thinking that! I got hooked up to the machine and was a little nervous. I kept laughing through my nerves, saying to my mom and husband that I finally felt a contraction. At least I had one so I wouldn't feel stupid. I was totally reading the contraction monitor wrong though and didn't realize what was really going on. After about an hour the doctor came in and told me that my water had not broken. Great. I knew that was the case. She said she would check to see if I was dilated at all and then I would be on my way. The doctor didn't say much as she was checking me, but as she got done, she turned around with a sigh, took off her gloves and said, "she's a nine". Yes. A nine. The number that makes my insane story so insane. But it is the same number that makes me feel it is so important to share the other side of this story - I was not just "one of the lucky ones". As they sent me into the delivery room I could not stop shaking. The nurses tried to give me blankets but it wasn't working. I was SO nervous. And I was so scared I was going to have a panic attack and not be able to push my baby out. I informed my L&D nurse about my situation with anxiety and panic attacks and she assured me everything would be just fine and that she would be there with me the whole time. She was my an angel that Heavenly Father knew I needed!
She talked to me, my mom, and my husband while we were waiting for me to progress and my nerves just disappeared. I wasn't in any pain yet and so I decided not to get the epidural. After I had my water broken the pain began. It was excruciating. I was beside myself. That sweet, sweet nurse was totally there for me though. I was in so much pain however, that the rest of the time was a little blurry, but my husband and mom tell me that I wouldn't listen to anyone but my angel nurse. It was just her and me as she was telling me that I could do it. Then Tanya, the L&D nurse in my ward at the time, walked in. She had been giving me childbirth classes and had even given me one earlier that morning. She had become a great friend and it was SO nice to have her there. Very quickly it came time to push and my angel nurse was still there by my side, along with my mom, my husband, my kind friend, and the other kind nurses. She was telling me how amazing my baby would be and talked about baby feet but most importantly, that I was made to do this. I was made to do this. Despite all of my trials, despite all of my fears, the Lord had always been there for me, and having one of his sweet, precious children was something I was meant and made to do. Although the doctor may have been a little cranky at first, she ended up being really nice. She told me to feel Everett's head that had just emerged. As I felt his sweet head I said "Oh, Everett!" I knew right then, he was there to help me. He was a gift from Heavenly Father for me. And there he was. This perfect spirit I had been carrying around with me for the past almost nine months. The same sweet spirit that kept me going through one of the most difficult and yet most wonderful times of my life. After a few more minutes of pushing he was there. After the dust had settled, the nurse who had been with me the whole time looked me in the eyes and said, "Now remember, after this, you can do anything. Whether it's anxiety, or anything else, you can conquer anything." What she said hit me. It was true. I could do anything. Not necessarily on my own, just as I couldn't have given birth on my own, but with the Lord, I could do anything. And I really do feel like I was blessed with the nurses I had... as if Heavenly Father was reminding me that he was there with me, through them. My whole stay in the hospital was such a unique experience. I was one of the only patients there my whole stay and each and every one of my nurses were incredible. Each one will always hold a special place in my heart. We had one nurse who was the essence of sweetness. She was so kind to Everett and kept telling my husband and I how nice it was to see a young, loving, family. She also told us how her grandpa's name was Everett and how it was special to her to be able to hear that name again. Before her shift was over, she picked out a handmade baby hat for Everett. She was so kind, and I was so thankful. I needed her, I needed all of those nurses.
Looking back at how everything has come together from before and throughout this whole year, I KNOW that the Lord knew what I was going through and knew what I could and could not handle. After going to the doctor and being a little discouraged earlier, the week before Everett was born, it was so necessary for me to have Everett RIGHT when I did. I was a little skeptical right at first, but after the first couple of weeks we got into a groove and I loved taking care of Everett. He was, and still is, such an amazing baby! I was able to start taking my medication right away. It took a while and I didn't go to church for a few weeks because of recovery. I was really scared to go back because I hadn't been in what felt like a really long time. However, when I did go back to church I didn't have a panic attack. I was still nervous, but there was no panic attack. It slowly led to a recovery that was truly miraculous. I was so busy with Everett and being in love with him during the week days, I didn't have time to be super anxious or nervous. Week after week, I got less and less nervous. My fears began to dissipate. I began to feel that peace I had been aching for, for so long! Now I can say I have been anxiety attack free for a whole year! I don't knowexactly how it all worked, but I do know that somehow it did. I know each and every piece of my story from the last year and half has all added up for a reason. I know Everett is my angel because I needed one, I needed him. When Steve blessed him when he was first born, I will never forget him saying that Everett was meant to come at this particular time to help people. I knew at that moment it meant me and I knew it meant everyone around him. He is such a light. He loves and smiles at everyone he meets and makes them feel special. I like to think of it as him giving others a piece of the happiness and light he has given me over the last year. I am so grateful. SO grateful... even for my anxiety. I know I was meant to have that trial and I am so grateful for all that it has taught me and for the better person it has made me. Most importantly, I KNOW Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are real. I know the atonement is real. I know it better than I know anything. I know that He loves His children and that everything happens for a reason. I owe all of my blessings to Heavenly Father. I am so grateful He allowed me to take care of such a special child. He knew I needed Everett, and he has been the best miracle of my life.
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.
Doctrine & Covenants 6:36