My "Middle" Child

Being born 2 minutes after her sister and 3 3/4 years before her other sister, Kate is our family’s “middle” child.

Kate is by and large my hardest child to parent. She very sensitive; she thinks about things and worries; she needs more “Mama-time”; she struggles with anxiety, especially when it comes to separating from me.
And lately, her strong dislike of barfing (either for herself OR others) has ratcheted itself into a full-fledged phobia.
About a month ago, she had- literally- a panic attack when her tummy hurt a little and she thought she was going to throw up. It was intense and scary to see, not to mention disturbing and heartbreaking. I was suuuuuuper calm while it was happening and was able to get her to breath more slowly. I taught her to “breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth” and we talked about thinking good things when we breath in and breathing out the bad thoughts.
The whole thing lasted about 1/2 hour, at which point it was bedtime. Kate had calmed down and was breathing normally, but was still upset and clingy. David took over putting her to bed, as I needed to debrief from the whole thing.
At that time I decided not to seek professional help for her- for an isolated incident- as I didn’t want to slap a mental health label on my 7 year old child.
But on Monday, a child threw up in Kate’s classroom. Kate came home and cheerfully told me about it: how she heard the girl coughing and turned herself face the wall because she just knew the girl was going to throw up, how then she “can’t remember what happened next” but the next thing she knew she had peed her pants.
That’s right, my girl became so frightened that she can’t remember what happened AND she wet herself.

Though she was cheerful and matter-of-fact about it that afternoon, by the next morning she was a mess. She didn’t want to go to school (for fear of that child being there and puking again), she wouldn’t eat anything, and she cried through the entire morning routine.
For some reason, this time I’m very bothered by it all… more so than even the panic attack. I feel heartbroken for my girl, that she had to experience that away from home. I feel stupid- and like a novice mother- for not telling her teacher about her fear, for not having an adult in that school building that had any idea that she might need some help.
I feel like maybe we do need to look into some help for her.
Or maybe we don’t? Am I making a big deal out of something? Starting my girl down a path of drugs and shrinks and lobotomies and that she doesn’t need to be going down?
I’m too deep into this to have any kind perspective. I did talk to her teacher this morning, and that helped me feel much better. Her teacher is going to ask the school counselor what his advice is.
And this is why parenting doesn’t get any easier. Sure, there is less physical demands of a 7 year old- by god, I think she’s even wiping her own butt 100% of the time now- but these mental gymnastics and the worrying… The constantly having to watch what I say and how I react and how my attitude is effecting her….
Oh, you guys… I’m worried about my girl.

16 thoughts on “My "Middle" Child

  1. Oh, I’d be worried about her too. This does not sound like a good thing for your poor child to have to experience! Maybe it’s normal but I haven’t heard of many kids having such visceral reactions to things. If I were you I would start by just calling the pediatrician and asking for their opinion on the situation. Maybe they’ll say it’s fine and she’ll grow out of it, or maybe they’ll recommend you see someone, and you can go from there.

    Good luck!

  2. Oh, sweet baby! I’d be worried, too. Do not think you are overreacting. If she’s prone to be a bit more anxious, the last thing you need is for this incident to push her into being terrified of going to school. & let’s face it, people barf. It just happens. Do you think she’d react the same if it had been Marin while you all were at home? If nothing else, maybe you can get more tips on ways to help her calm herself to get through the anxiety times without a blackout and/or pants wetting.

    Can I come give hugs to you all? This post makes me so very sad.

  3. 😦 If it were me, I think I would schedule an appointment with her regular pediatrician/family doc and discuss this issue. They could tell you if it’s OK or they can refer you to a specialist. I would be worried too. Poor girl!

  4. Shelley- yes, she is terrified of barfing no matter who and/or where. If Marin was throwing up, she would be- at the very least- bawling. It’s just sadder is that happens when I can’t be there for her…

  5. While I think you should ask your pediatrician about it, I don’t think you need to be too worried yet. Phobias tend to come and go in kids. Usually it is “just a phase.” I remember being deathly afraid of sirens (police, fire, ambulances, etc) when I was 7 or 8. Like I would freeze and cry uncontrollably and couldn’t function, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I peed in my pants at some point. I can’t even tell you why I was afraid of the sirens, but I eventually outgrew it (don’t know how long it took – I should ask my mom). And no lobotomy needed! 🙂

    I think the best thing you can do is talk to her about how to deal with it when she is in the situation. She did a good job turning away. Maybe suggest she leave the room if she thinks someone is going to puke. Maybe close her eyes and practice the breathing if she can’t get away?

  6. Ha, ha, GET THIS YOU GUYS: her teacher just emailed me and ANOTHER child barfed today in class.

    Her teacher said Kate did fine; she held her breath and looked uncomfortable for awhile, but didn’t loose it. She asked if she needed and dry clothes and Kate insisted she was fine. She said Kate was laughing and back to herself a little while later. (Though this doesn’t mean she won’t be anxious about going to school tomorrow)…

    And just a few minutes ago, she had Kate send me an email. Couldn’t you just KISS that teacher?

    So, I’ll get the full story when Kate gets home, but SERIOUSLY, she doesn’t need THERAPY to get desensitized… she just needs SCHOOL! =)

  7. I wish I could offer advice! I understand your worry and I really respect how calm you stay in spite of her anxiety. I think talking to someone might help you and her, but I think she’s probably got a paranoia that manifests itself differently for a lot of kids.

    I had a friend in elementary school who was this way with blood. If a kid got hurt and was bleeding, she had to go home and she eventually out grew it but talking about it then probably would have helped her even more.

  8. No, no, I think you’re doing it PERFECT. After the first incident you were wait-and-see, and as soon as she had the second incident you sprang into action. One incident and I wouldn’t have talked to the teacher yet either. Two is, I think, EXACTLY the moment for bringing others into it.

    I don’t know for sure what I’d do. I’d be very eager to hear what the school counselor said, and I’d probably take his advice. …Actually, I guess if he suggested therapy I still wouldn’t start that. I think I’d first try dealing with it at home by talking about it daily and seeing if that helped, and by studying how the body works (i.e., why barfing happens), and so forth, and seeing if this helped. But that’s because I’m so worried about getting into The Therapy Track—the same way you’re worried, I think, where I feel as if taking my child to see a therapist will lead immediately to coma-inducing psych meds and electroshock treatments on the second visit!

  9. Should have read comments first! What a happy story from school today!

    Oh, also! Jennie’s comment reminded me that I have a parallel situation: one of my sons goes white and cold and faint if there’s blood or even too much TALKING about blood, and he once semi-passed-out at school when another child got a skinned knee on the playground. He didn’t quite remember how he got from the playground from the nurse’s office but said he remembered the teacher telling him to put his head down, and two grown-ups helping him walk. !!! He recently fell very, very hard, and before he even started crying he was shrieking, “IS THERE BLOOD???? IS THERE BLOOD???” and it was a horrifying-sounding shriek.

    So far we haven’t done anything about it except that at home we refer to blood as “The B Word,” and if there is a B-Word Incident we have William lie down and we put a blanket on him.

  10. I think a lot of people have made a good point in comparing it to blood phobias. There are a lot of people that freak the f out when they see blood, with Kate its puke. She doesn’t seem like she has a lot of irrational fears, just this one. And it seems like w/ her other anxieties and nervousness, if you can get her laughing before she totally stresses herself out, shes fine. She has such an awesome sense of humor. My humble opinion is don’t take her to a shrink, don’t get her on meds- I think she’ll be fine.

  11. I feel like i always say this, but as usual Swistle’s comment is dead-on! I think starting with the school counselor is a good way to go, especially since the teacher is already helping to make this situation better. I am also cautious about ramping up into Therapy Mode first thing — I think it has its place but there are lots of other paths to try first. You’re doing great and your daughters are so lucky to have you as their advocate and sounding board.

  12. OMG, I just blogged about this very phobia today. I have emetophobia, it stems from when I boy I went to school with in 3rd grade through up in our classroom. I can trace it back to that. Read my blog post from today. I am now 34 years old and I wish I had known (or my mom had known) how bad my fear was. To this day I think about what I will do if I’m on a train or a plane and I’m confined and someone pukes. It’s awful and it’s real. And I have zero other issues with anxiety but this one I can completely relate to. If she seems effected by today’s incident tomorrow (or at any other later date), I would suggest you seek some sort of help. Being a grown-up and having this phobia is horrible.

  13. After today’s puking & Kate getting through it, it seems like maybe less worrisome? But that poor kiddo. I don’t blame you for worrying, you don’t want your child to feel that kind of heart wrenching anxiety.

  14. I have to go and read Party of 5’s blog post after this because I too have this phobia, have had it my whole life. It was worse when I was younger (eg. My brother threw up in one of our two bathrooms growing up and I couldn’t use that bathroom for SEVERAL YEARS. I didn’t eat my mom’s meatloaf for OVER TEN YEARS after throwing it up once.) but it’s still bad (Having to deal with throw up is the only reason that I could ever come up with for NOT becoming a mother. For real.)

    I’ve spoken about this in therapy and each therapist says it has to do with being extremely sensitive to physical sensations, having a deeply empathic personality and fearing loss of control. It sounds like Kate could have some similar issues. The school counselor sounds like a great place to start but you teaching her deep breathing is HUGE. It also helps me to have a few mental tricks up my sleeve: I always close my eyes when someone is barfing near me (hard to do when one of the kids is barfing in the back seat while I’m driving…) and I always try to stay within myself, talking to myself about how it’s not me, it’s them.

    When I feel ill, I remind myself that it’s a passing thing, it will get better soon. I think it’s a great idea to acknowledge to her that losing control of your body IS scary, that barfing IS gross, but there are ways that she can calm herself that will serve her well in many, many circumstances.

    Oh, and when looking at puke, I tell myself that it’s cat food. Somehow that makes it easier to deal with.

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