A funny, and not so fun, thing happens when I take my kids to those dentist appointments where they put the silly-gas mask on their face. When I see them lying there with all these instruments and health professionals my chest gets tight, my heart aches all the way into my mouth, and this horrible sense of dread flashes through my body. In other words, I panic.
Today I am here with Noah, my youngest, for a simple but uncomfortable procedure. He is getting sealants on his molars, something I wish my mom had done to protect my teeth. So why the panic? The same experience happened a few years ago when Eric, my older one, went through this. (deep breaths here)
I hear him whimpering through the nasal mask, and I see his body squirming. I want to reach for him. I want to tell him I am sorry and that he will thank me later for protecting his beautiful, perfect teeth from the very decay I have to have drilled out and filled in my own teeth next week.
The panic, my panic is a post trauma reaction triggered by the environment and this yuck nasal mask! This simple, uncomfortable procedure is setting off memories and feelings I experienced in with Eric in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit over ten years ago.
Enough time has passed that the triggers are few and far between. Enough time has also passed for me to learn to recognize what is happening when the panic comes over me seemingly out of no where. I would however, be remiss in believing that it has been ONLY the passage of time that helps me today recognize it is not the dentist working on my son that I am panicking about.
Years of learning and working to understand the true nature of my feelings and eruptions has enabled me to see this. Seeing it then gives me options. I can acknowledge the feelings and memories in a knowing way. Knowing they are coming, remembering, and be grateful. Then I can come back to the present moment right here at the pediatrics dentist office, and see the good mom I am and, be the good mom telling him how proud I am of HIS courage to do this.