Everything in life is about getting through that first twenty seconds.
Last week, I was booked in to have an MRI. Luckily, I knew all about photo-imaging and what to expect, thanks to my lengthy research through a well-documented, informative program called House. Sure, Hugh Laurie is just an actor, but he’s so witty and factual that I felt, after watching the whole eight seasons during my pregnancy, that I was fully equipped at any point to go into surgery/examinations/cynical, unhealthy long-term relationships.
So when I rocked up to my appointment, I felt nervous but quietly confident. The nurse walked me through the procedure, gave me the cannula (special needle to put the glowing dye into my bloodstream) and walked me into the room. So far, so good. I laid on the machine bed in my super-hip hospital gown, they covered my torso with a sheet then put a weighted blanket on me that would assist with the photography. They asked me to shut my eyes, breathe deep and the machine manoeuvred me inside. So what did I do? I opened my eyes. Yep, claustrophobia central. My heart raced, everything in my head screamed, pictures of coffins and small spaces flashed in my mind and hyperventilation was at an all-time high. GREGORY HOUSE HAD NOT PREPARED ME FOR THIS. I hit the emergency button, and the woman (who I would later dub The Patient Whisperer as many had before me) came and pulled me out.
She talked me through it, getting my breathing back to speed and affirmed that pretty much all patients go through what I had just experienced. I openly and honestly admitted that I wasn’t sure I could go ahead with the MRI. (Sure Kat, give birth but struggle with a 40 minute body scan.) Then she gave me this advice: “You just need to get through the first twenty seconds. It’s a psychological game that allows you to think that you can never come through the other side, but then after that first twenty seconds, you breathe, and you come through the other end. I’ll hold your hand until your breathing is back to regular pace. Let’s give it a go.”
And you know what? She was right. I went back in, and the hyperventilation started again. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t open your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t think about the machine. Breathe in, breathe out. And before the twenty seconds had passed, my body resumed its original form. All fear was gone, all battles won.
Cut to today. Today was an emotional day with my seven week old baby. Nothing extravagant or out of control; just a baby, with painful reflux, and me, wanting to throw it all in for a 12-hour sleep. Emotions get a hold of you when you least expect it; for me, today it was around 6.00pm after the constant, steady battle of a child that won’t sleep because the acidity and wind is painfully and increasingly real. Then I start not only thinking for now, I start thinking for tonight. How will Andrew and I get through the night? Then how will we get through tomorrow on such little sleep tonight? Then how do we keep doing this until it finally ends at some un-predetermined time? I know mothers have gone before me, with worse, some far, far worse. How do we best prepare ourselves for the worst? And on it goes until suddenly I haven’t moved for half an hour because I’ve been staring at a wall asking all of these questions, and it’s time to feed again.
So then today I’m reminded of the Patient Whisperer. “You just need to get through the first twenty seconds.” Here it is: Stop thinking about the daunting night ahead, about the future challenges, stop trying to resolve problems that haven’t arisen yet. There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for each and every unpredictable moment, so just deal with your current life. Motherhood for me so far has been just getting through the first twenty seconds, every minute, every day. First feed, first burping, first cranky fight, first sleep, first disturbance, first pram rocking, first five minute breather. Then the second. Second feed, second burping, second battle for settling… It’s the same with pain, with hard relationships, with exhaustion, with work, with exercise, with challenging situations that arise. We all have our own battles here.
We’re not made to process everything at once.
Even moreso, we’re not designed to predict every possible scenario of our lives and be prepared for all of them. We can only process this moment, and this moment is our first twenty seconds. Breathe. Take it that first twenty seconds at a time, push through and take the next twenty seconds when it gets here. It’s not easy, it’s not always enjoyable, it’s not ideal and sometimes, it’s just not fair.
But you will come through the other side, twenty seconds at a time. Breathe. You’ve got this
Kat lives in Perth, Western Australia and is pretty happy with her dandy life of 30 years. She is married to Andrew, who is a freelance graphic designer, all-around cool guy and now dad to their ridiculously adorable little boy.
Kat is a manager of a cafe, with a background that looks like a bag of assorted mixed lollies – administration, finance, selling yoghurt, image consulting, making coffee, and account managing. She loves Jesus, reading, drinking a decent cup of coffee, writing and cooking.