This is part of a new segment I’m calling “Eye on Stella: Strabismus Watch 2010.” Sorry. I just thought that was kind of funny. And I’m running with any humor I can find these days.
The ER, whose job it is to save lives and not provide conclusive diagnoses, called Stella’s condition “convergence spasms.” A quick google search on this term terrified me (apparently, in some cases it’s brought on by hysteria–Stella’s tantrums aren’t THAT bad), and thankfully led me in another direction. After some research, and due to the nature of what actually happens to Stella’s eyes on occasion, I’m convinced that they’re incorrect. My theory is that Stella has the treatable, relatively common condition known as intermittent strabmismus, known to flare up during times of stress, fatigue, or illness. Of course, last time I checked I was a stay-at-home mom and copywriter–not an ophthalmologist. Though, I did diagnose my husband with photography-induced crazy-eye. Nailed that one.
So, last Friday. It was:
The culmination of a week during which Stella barely ate and lost a whole pound of weight (at least), due to a bastard of a cold entailing massive congestion and a cough that could drown out a chainsaw.
The day Stella may have bumped her head on the window sill in the kitchen. I was making lunch, heard a scream, and only saw what happened out of the corner of my eye.
When her eyes rolled in severely, a total of ten times by 11pm for two to ten minutes per spell. When this happened, she couldn’t see remotely straight.
The evening we headed to her doctor’s office having snagged the last appointment of the day, waited as they paged neurology at Children’s, then headed to the ER, where they awaited our arrival and Stella was not allowed to eat or drink for several hours and underwent a head CT scan that showed “no acute abnormalities.”
Since that day, I’ve been carrying around a feeling that threatens to burst my chest. It ebbs and flows. It makes me cry, sometimes. It makes me think about what-if’s and the meaning of life. It makes me wonder, once again, if I’m strong enough to survive parenthood. But I can’t quite pinpoint it. It’s too vague and all-encompassing to grasp. So I keep wondering what it is. I don’t think it’s as simple as “anxiety” or “fear.” It’s something to do with those. But more do to with love. It is absolutely huge and it is always there, probably in every parent, but right now it’s much too close to the surface. Which makes it hard to function.
On the other hand, after unthinkable tumors and lesions and brain bleeding were ruled out, I am obviously extremely relieved that the issue appears to be isolated to her eyes–or more specifically the muscles that control her eyes. If I’m right and it’s strabismus, early intervention ensures an excellent prognosis, ideally achieved through vision therapy (eye exercises) and maybe a patch to strengthen the weaker eye (which seems to be her right one). But I’m having a hard time as we navigate the two weeks that separate us from her ophthalmology appointment at Children’s Hospital. Every time she cries or screams in frustration or stares off into space or rubs her eye or refuses to nap or has a tantrum, I feel a contained form of panic rise up and I’m gripped by a question that is more of an all-encompassing mentality: What is wrong? This is a terrible way to live, really. A mode of existence encouraged by the worst-case-scenario culture of the internet, where I spend too much time. It’s a way of being that I am familiar with, as a worrywart by nature and having gone through Stella’s feeding aversion with her, but it’s currently heightened. Maybe there’s a touch of PTSD-like trauma from our tube days. Following Friday’s scare, I jump too quickly to the idea of wrongness. But! There are also times in which I see more clearly and with more appreciation everything that is right. The contrast between the two is sharp. It makes me ache.
I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me, and the way I see–the world and myself. Why is this all so hard for me? Why am I so jumpy around Stella since Friday? Why does it sometimes feel as if I walk on eggshells through life and motherhood?
As I sit here, I’m afraid of the radiation of her CT scan (ugh, do I remember correctly that they had to run it twice? why didn’t they work with us to keep her still in order to get it right on the first try?) and of an admittedly imagined potential for vision loss (could this nebulous eye issue make life harder for Stella?). Since Friday, I’ve seen her right eye drift in very briefly a couple times, and it jolts my entire nervous system like an electrical current. I’m disturbed when I see her eyes misaligned, not because she is any less beautiful or sweet for it, but because it’s a signal that something is likely amiss with my baby–something I don’t understand. What’s causing it? What does it mean? How will it affect her? My mind fills in the blanks, creating scenarios and possibilities with whatever is lying around: fear, anxiety, hope, and love so strong I can hardly bear it sometimes.
Back when Stella wouldn’t eat, I always felt 100% convinced that in the end, she would be just fine. Beneath all the panic was a kernel of certainty. It’s still there.