I could feel his heart pounding into my collarbone. His body is so lean there was nothing to buffer his racing pulse. I held onto him as firmly as possible trying to match his one armed grip on me. “Chase don’t watch,” I reminded him. “It’s almost over,” and in a minute it was—his first experience with a needle in sixteen years that didn’t completely unravel him.
To say my little boy hates shots is an understatement. He’s shot phobic. So much so that he meets the clinical criteria for trypanophobia which a pin-cushion like me can’t understand. Of course Chase can’t understand my irrational fear of bats either. Just saying the word can trigger a nightmare for me so I guess we’re even.
The good news for me is that life can be maneuvered around my phobia but an extreme fear of hypodermic needles makes getting a filling, an immunization, or a flu shot a nightmare—one that you’d have to see to believe. From birth to five years old I opted for as few shots as possible simply because it was so traumatic for Chase but when he almost died from the flu at age six, I had to choose torture over death. Before the flu mist came out that meant sedating him to get his annual shot and even then in five-point restraints he would put up a fight. Six nurses to one little boy and they were still outnumbered.
With this kind of history every well-check is a source of angst for me. I have the immunization schedule in my medical file and know what Chase is due for just so I can prepare myself emotionally. This week knowing it was time for a three shot series of immunizations I was really stressing it. I went out for a second prayer walk the day before his appointment to work through my dread before telling him and found 23 cents. My scripture for the day was James 1:2-4.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (The Message)
I was having a hard time with the idea that I should consider the hardship of dealing with Chase’s phobia a joy. A shot experience with him is like a date with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For one of the sweetest kids you could meet it’s hard to believe he can be so ugly. I love the verse though and know it to be true but I have PTSD when it comes to needles and Chase (Post-Traumatic Shot Disorder). Just the thought gives me my own anxiety attack. Where’s the joy in that?
With the 23 cents though I was able to remember Psalm 23 and took that as reminder that God would see me through whatever the next morning would bring. I talked to Chase after my walk and explained he needed to get a shot. This one would protect him against a cancer causing virus. I reminded him that a friend we are praying for was diagnosed with that cancer this year and had to have a radical surgery to get rid of it.
“Chase if there’s ever a time you need to be brave it’s right now,” I said.
“I know. I’ll do my best,” he said but I could see his fear. He immediately withdrew to the fantasy world he goes to when he’s stressed. All night long from my room I could hear him tossing and turning in his bed. He slept with his light on.
Knowing the extreme nature of Chase’s phobia his pediatrician and nurse avoided any mention of shots until the last possible moment and when the time finally came without any cue Chase announced, “I worried all night about this and today might be the worst day of my life but I know I have to get this shot. Don’t say anything. Let’s just get this over with.”
Everyone agreed but before the needle was brought in the room I still asked him if I was going to have to hold him down. He said no and then I surprised myself by asking, “How about if I hold you up instead?”
“That would be good,” he said nervously. He stood up, wrapped his arm around me, and without ANY drama took the shot like a man and learned something important. Leaning into a force that loves you is a lot easier than fighting it.
On the way home I thought about how many times God has had to use divine restraint with me while I fought back at what felt like the world crashing in on me. It must have frustrated Him that I couldn’t surrender. I can’t help but wonder if He said, like I have so many times, “This would be so much easier if you could just realize this is for your own good.”
It’s hard to consider it a gift when challenges come at you from every direction, and yet when we’re on the other side of the struggles we can see the maturity they’ve brought. I don’t know what clicked for Chase today but something did. I never believed this day was possible and God proved me wrong once again.
I like that about God. I like that He knows better. I might not ever be able to fully embrace the idea that it’s a gift to struggle, but I can find joy in the heights it can take me to. Today Chase measured-in taller than me literally and metaphorically which lifts my perspective and a better view is what l need, because in the daily storms of life some shots can really sting!