Fear is a powerful currency.
In my experience, fear shows up most prominently in the moments when I bank on specific life expectations, and those expectations turn out to be a different trajectory than reality.
When Jude’s seizures started, I felt fear because my expectation was that we were meant to have healthy children. Other people had children with health issues, not us.
When Jude was admitted to the hospital, I felt fear because it meant something was wrong that I couldn’t fix. In my mind, the hospital made me look weak, helpless, and maybe even guilty of not doing something to help my child…because of my inaction, Jude was worse. I felt fear because I thought it was my fault.
Fear is a powerful currency because the line between the steady hand of the healthy version and the abyss of the unhealthy version is so easily crossed. Unhealthy fear becomes irrational, filling the mind with lies about who we are, what’s happening, and what terrible realities are awaiting us.
As we walked down the hallway at the children’s hospital in East Tennessee to Jude’s room, past the nurse’s station, pulsing monitors, and medical teams having hushed conversations, I was afraid. More afraid than I’d ever been in my entire life. I felt unprepared, completely out of my element, and like a foreigner in hostile territory.
Vulnerable doesn’t adequately describe this moment…I felt exposed, and my fear paralyzed me. I couldn’t talk to Jordana, I didn’t even know how to be with her or comfort Jude. As Jordana (who I’m sure also felt some fear) switched into fully-dedicated, bedside warrior mode, I faded out. In this moment that I should have stepped up to face this beside her, I stepped back. Fear told me I bore guilt for this moment…that I was failing as a man, husband, and father, and I better fix it…fast.
What fear didn’t tell me was that this sort of guilt gives way to desperation which leads to continued poor decision-making. I convinced myself that I had to be everything to everyone. So, that’s who I set out to be. But, as you and I both know, that’s an impossible task, and ultimately leads to damaged relationships that take years to heal, and in some cases, may not ever be the same again.
Despite all my internal turmoil, Jude’s medical emergency was worsening, and we had to find answers. The challenge in that moment was a medical staff who were at a loss, two exhausted parents who were at a loss, and tests that didn’t immediately reveal a diagnosis. Since no one knew exactly what kind of tests would provide the results we needed, they just decided to run all the tests. There’s nothing quite so haunting as hearing your five-month-old scream from down the hallway as he experiences a lumbar puncture. There’s nothing quite so horrifying as seeing your very sick baby son seize over and over and over, but none of the usual medications could slow them down.
There’s no other way to describe the first 72 hours in the hospital except dire. Fear and pain were throwing a terrifying party, with our baby Jude as the unwilling guest of honor, and Jordana and I as the helpless observers.
More than anything, I wanted to just shut it all down, and stop this nightmare in its tracks a la The Day the Earth Stood Still style (the 1951 version, not the Keanu Reaves version). If only there was some sort of magical phrase like, “Klaatu barada nikto,” to stop all this destruction and just bring some peace.
But, life just doesn’t work like that. We can’t snap our fingers like Mary Poppins and make it all go away.
Fear is a powerful currency, but it only retains its value if we allow it to. The moment we decide to push through and face whatever looms ahead is the moment the fear stock market begins to crash.
72 hours in a hospital without answers and a hurting child is an intimidating reality. But, we had to figure it out. Fortunately, Jude has the strongest mother on earth as his own. Fortunately, I have the strongest woman on earth as my spouse.
She’s the one who, in those dark moments, showed me what it looked like to sell all stock in fear and invest in bravery…invest in love.
There were things in me that were broken and exposed because of the situation we found ourselves in with Jude, but I’d have to figure those out later. Right now, I had to figure out how to just be Jude’s dad, no matter what was on the other side, or how it might alter our lives.
Fear is a powerful currency, but love is always more powerful.
Finally, after three days of unending tests and fruitless efforts, Jude’s neurologist called us in for a conference. She said she finally found something we needed to see.
Missed the previous post in this series? Read it here!
– Matthew Chambers, Co-Founder