Looking down at my phone I notice a new text from my husband. “How soon do you think we can get our daughter a passport?” it says. I reread the text in confusion, unsure why our daughter, who is under two years old, would need a passport. I respond. “I’m not sure. Why do you ask?” I wait in anticipation as I see the little blips come across my phone. Finally the text arrives and I read the words, “Because I won! Turks and Caicos! I won the office trip!” I blink several times, trying to process the information. Since the birth of our daughter we’d managed to take small trips a mere three and a half hours away from our hometown, but never did I imagine we’d be flying out of the country. A trip to a warm, gorgeous paradise sounds more than inviting. I call my mother to tell her the news. I truly feel happy for approximately three hours, and then it set in– the cold wave of sobering anxiety I’d suffered since the loss of my father, and birth of my child.

Anxiety attacked my world in ways I hadn’t expected. I used to drive anywhere and everywhere on my own, didn’t think twice about hopping on a plane to Mexico, in fact, I enjoyed it; but lately I couldn’t shake the dark cloud of fear hovering over me since experiencing both an intense feeling of loss, and the ferocious desire to keep my most precious gift safe. Though I tried to hide it, the thought of traveling a distance with my child usually lead me to panic. I can’t do this. Something terrible is going to happen. I shook my head, thinking how upset my husband would be after telling him we simply cannot go.

I decide to look over the resort in hopes of gaining courage, and the more I look the worse I feel. I see the Sesame Street themed attractions, the waterpark for little children, the stunning atmosphere, and cannot believe myself. I can’t believe I’m going to deny my husband and daughter such an amazing experience. Even if my daughter is too young to remember the vacation later, it’s my fault she’s out. I feel like a pathetic excuse for a mom. I am a failure of a wife. The woman my husband married was fearless, not this person afraid of life. I think of others who won’t allow their children on airplanes or trips far away out of fear, and recall how I’d analyzed one’s inability to let a child experience the world based on their own distress. Look who’s joining the ranks of those I’ve critiqued. It’s another lesson on not being quick to judge.

My husband arrives to find me making stupid excuses for why we can’t go. I tell him how the trip will cost too much money, it’s too short notice, and our daughter is too young. My husband listens, and offers valid arguments to all my lame excuses until I can’t stop myself from breaking down into deep, sorrowful sobs. “I’m afraid we are going to die. I’m so scared. I don’t want anything bad to happen to our baby. I am so afraid traveling anywhere now, and I know that I was never like this before, but I can’t help it. I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad at me.” My husband’s face looks at me with a mixture of understanding and pity. He finally sees what’s plagued me, what the true problem is. He hugs me with all his might, rubbing my back until my sobbing stops. “I understand honey. It’s ok. We don’t have to go. I don’t want to go if you’re feeling this way. I just want you to be happy.” he says.

I should feel relief, but I don’t. I feel wretched. I’m denying my family something wonderful, because I need help. I need help. I look into my husband’s grey eyes and tell him, “No. We need to go. We can’t not go simply because I’m afraid. I need to fix this. This isn’t who I am. I don’t want our daughter to miss out on life because her mom has anxiety.” My husband tries to tell me that the vacation doesn’t matter, but I know I need to do this for me as much as for my family. The following day I make an appointment to see a therapist, and begin my journey back to health.

Two months later I step off the airplane, holding my daughter’s hand. She’s jumping up and down excitedly, dancing to the sound of welcoming Caribbean music. We don’t stop to unpack, but toss on our bathing attire and head to the beach. My daughter squeals as the water rushes toward her tiny feet, the golden sun making her blonde hair glow. I watch her smile, a smile so big it’s comical, as she looks up at my husband who follows her around the shoreline. I sit for a few moments, soaking up the scene, feeling as though I’m living in a beautiful dream. I run down to the water to join my daughter, and my husband returns to the blanket to dry off. As I walk hand in hand with my beautiful little human, my husband snaps photos from the beach blanket.

Later I sit looking at the photos, grinning at the obvious joy on our faces. I load one of the photos onto my social media account, and write, “What a gorgeous place after a long journey. Sometimes we win.” What many don’t know is the journey I was referring to wasn’t the three and a half hour plane ride, or simply winning this incredible vacation. It was the journey of healing and winning back the person I once was. I often look at the album I made of all the beauty captured on that trip and remember how close I came to missing out on the journey of a lifetime. Sometimes we need to face an intense challenge in order to become the best person/parent we can, and sometimes we win.

Marisa Svalstedt

Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, with her husband, and their daughter. She received her MA in English from Western Connecticut State. In addition to writing Marisa enjoys photography, modeling, and crochet.