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A mom’s daily adrenaline moment…

August 18th, 2003 · No Comments

Here’s my adrenaline moment today as a mom….I took the girls to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center , more than an hours drive from our home. I don’t do many road trips, and this one seemed to take a long time. It’s a lot of slower driving on two-lane highways through woods, farmland and coast. A sign had just promised Port Townsend in 14 miles when from the back seat Abigail screamed that she had a bloody nose: “There’s blood all over my fingers”. Looking in the rear view mirror I saw my panicked daughter with her hands pressed against her face. The adrenaline rush began.

All I wanted to do was stop the van but I didn’t know how or where I would do it. We were in woods, no easy stop to be seen, not even a shoulder on the narrow highway. I turned off at the first road I could see, to Anderson Lake, and then pulled off onto a gravel shoulder. Although uphill and near some surveyors in the road, it was the first place I could find.

I stopped the van and ran to the back, grabbing napkins from my bag of snacks. Abigail got her first nosebleed on her first birthday, and after four years, she has gotten quite experienced at catching and cleaning up. Summer season and dry winter nights seem to aggravate her nose. But it always seems to take a while for the bleeding to stop, whether we’re in the bathroom at 3 in the morning, or at the side of the road somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula on an August afternoon. I felt overwhelmed. I was concerned about my daughter, concerned for the new van upholstery, and concerned about my driving since I felt a bit tired and lost.

As I stood in the back helping Abigail with her nosebleed, I realized that we could be stopped there for a while. The engine was still running – a waste. So I reached up and turned the ignition off before returning to my daughter.

Immediately, the van began rolling down the hill backwards. I must have forgotten to set the brake or put the van in an unusual gear! This time I ran up towards the drivers seat and extended my closest limb – my left arm, to activate the emergency brake pedal. The van stopped. I thanked God and sat down to catch my breath.

Soon we were on the road again, Abigail with her napkin-covered nose in view from my mirror. It took a while to get to Port Townsend, perhaps because I was exhausted by my adrenaline rush, my emergency moment of motherhood. We moms all have those moments – stopping our children before they stumble down the stairs, catching them as they climb on the playground, running into the road to rescue them from coming cars. It’s part of our job.

Once (…upon a time, before children, in another life, it seems), I used to study stress hormones. As a research assistant, I explored the effect of stress on the immune response and the accompanying chemical cascades, using viral models as a challenge. We conducted experiments with hundreds of mice to test our hypotheses about psychoneuroimmunology . But now I don’t need a lab coat, cages or test tubes. I simply live out my experiments in my life as a mom.

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