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Stress While Family Building

Stress While Family Building

There is a quote I saw recently that said “Alert!  There is a silent killer among us….they call it Stress!”
Once upon a time I use to think stress visited me in my mind.   You know those times when you have much to think about, a huge to do list and way too many balls to juggle?  Stress does look like that but there is so much more and sometime so much less.   For the past 5 years I have learned some new things about stress.    My hope is by sharing my experience with you, stress will not sneak up on you and change your life forever the way it has for me.

Rewind 5 years ago.  At this point through our journey to parenthood we had been through countless cycles trying to conceive and a life threatening complication. We encountered three failed placements, one adoption scam and countless other setbacks and heart breaks. At this point in time we had adopted three beautiful children through designated agency adoption and we were licensed foster parents. We had fostered 7 children.  Two were short term sibling group placements and two were newborn placements.  One of the babies we thought we would get to adopt but things quickly changed as we approached the permancy hearing.  She went to Florida with her father in the end.   The two newborns were placed with us back to back. I cared for newborns almost one year straight.
article on stress brenda in the nicu stamped
On August 10th 2009 we received an amazing phone call. It was DCFS asking if we were interested in a baby just born. He was born 8 weeks early. They wondered if we wanted to be considered as an adoptive placement. Or course we did!!! We were so excited! We had to wait until the next day to find out if we were chosen by the placement committee. We felt very strongly this baby was meant to be ours so we were not surprised when we got the call on the 11th telling us we were chosen. We cried! Brad was struggling with a stomach virus so he couldn’t go with me to the hospital. We named our new baby boy Spencer Brigham and he ended up staying in the NICU for 3 weeks. It was an amazing, wonderful, crazy and stressful time. Worrying about our new baby in the hospital and worrying about all the kids who still needed us at home. With help from our neighbors we were able to make things work. It was during this time I started to have strange feelings in one of my legs. I was too busy to worry too much about it. Then a few weeks after we brought Spencer home from the hospital, H1N1 Flu hit our house. Brad took the week off of work to run the home. I was sick but not as sick as all the kids. Thanks to prayers and Tamiflu, Spencer was protected from the virus. It was after this stressful period my body decided to act out. My weird leg feeling turned into intense pain….pain so bad I couldn’t bear it and asked Brad to take me to the ER on two different occasions. Medication did nothing. All this time I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t sleep the moment I learned about Spencer….I had lots in my head to worry about. So I was going on almost zero sleep and was taking care of all 4 of my children’s needs and Spencer needed extra care…..more care than the average newborn. It was a wonderful time but as my body continued to spiral out of control I became very nervous. I started having hot sensations in various parts of my body. I couldn’t take a hot or even warm shower because I would become so week I could hardly get out of the shower. I had numbness in my feet and hands. I had strange sensations in my legs at times. It was really scary. I went to many doctors…..too many to count. No one knew what was going on. They told me I had to wait until it got worse to figure it out. I had two friends with MS and I knew the symptoms. My own doctor decided to send me to a neurologist. After many more tests and an MRI I was relieved to find out I did not have MS. So if it wasn’t MS then what was it? I went back to my primary doctor to ask her to help me solve this puzzle. What was my body trying to tell me? I prayed she would be guided in her diagnosis and there would be something to help me. Her words stopped me in my tracks. “Brenda, your body can’t handle stress anymore.” She went on to say “We need to do something to help you before this gets even worse.” I was put on anti-anxiety medication. Within a few days I could feel the difference. It took a while for it to kick in all the way but I was shocked how much it helped me. This was the beginning of learning how MY body tells me I am stressed. I don’t feel it in my mind anymore….it is all my body. One year after this diagnosis I was doing really well and was told I could go off my meds and to see how I feel. I slowly went off and I felt great. And then I had a very stressful event happen in my life. I mentally felt like I was doing ok. But then all of the sudden I started having what I called heart palpitations. They became severe and I ended up in the ER and diagnosed with PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions). My heart was fine. They had me wear a monitor for 24 hours to be sure, but all was well. Once again my body was the one giving me the signal. I was dealing with stress. They put me back on my medications and I have remained on them ever since. This past week this whole scenario repeated itself. Only this time I was driven to the ER in an ambulance. The PVCs were coming on every 10 seconds. After many months of caring for my 5 year old boy, from surgery, to casts on his legs to 3 viruses in a row with two ER trips and over 20 office visits my body was telling me it was stressed out. I needed to slow down. I needed to pay more attention. This whole time I thought I was handling it all well. Mentally I was ok. But physically my body was taking the beating.

After trying to family build for  15 years with all the ups and downs, stress we went through, all the volunteer time to further the cause of adoption, all the time and care I took to show our sweet Birth Mothers we love them and all the time and love I gave our foster babies….. My body decided it had been through too much and it kind of broke. So what have I learned through all of this?

  • I need to listen to my body every single day.
  • I need to say No a little more often.
  • I need to do something every week I enjoy outside of my family. A hobby, a book…some time just for me to connect with myself.
  • My body needs more water and sleep than I give it.
  • Providing my body with healthy fuelling throughout the day helps me feel stronger.
  • It is ok if I need to take a time out.
  • I don’t have to be perfect and I don’t have to please everyone.
  • I need to simplify my life and cut some things out of my life even if it is just for a little while.
  • I don’t need to compare my worst to another person’s best.
  • I’m ok just the way I am.

Probably my biggest lesson has been how our bodies can feel the stress in our lives even if our minds are not.   I didn’t realize how much my body was taking in.   During our years of family building when I dealing with tremendous grief I couldn’t shake, I sought counseling.  I took care of my mental health but I never knew I wasn’t caring for my body the way I should.  I’ve learned to listen a little better to those cues my body gives me which say “Hey…I’m having a little trouble here…slow down!”

Brenda Head Shot
Brenda Horrocks is a mother of four children through adoption.
She promotes adoption, foster care and Utah’s Safe Haven Law through blogging, public speaking and writing. She enjoys time with family, reading books, running, gardening and movies.

You can visit her blog here.

*Stress graphic provided by Flickr: Morton Fox