Author Emily Vajda



Smoke, Ticks & Parenthood – How do you manage the fear?

Mar 19, 2021

My pregnancy with S was scary. With complete placenta previa, I was bleeding at the smallest things – dinner with friends, a short walk, a conversation on my cell phone…any sort of excitement, whether good or bad, had me bleeding. I had to be very careful. I wore a watch that could call 911 when my husband was away traveling – which was often during my pregnancy – in case I was in bed, or the bathroom, away from my cell phone and had the BIG BLEED that meant S was in danger and we needed to get me to the hospital ASAP. I’m really skirting the surface here. Not really delving into the depths of my fear. But suffice to say – I was terrified, teetering on this precipice, highly aware of my child’s mortality.

Now that S is Earth-bound, my anxiety is still vibrating at unreachable levels. The pandemic has obviously added to that awareness and fear. We moved back to the Bay Area to be close to family and friends, and then this past fire season was horrific. With thick blankets of smoke for air, we were trapped inside our home (for months), and even then, we weren’t untouched. The smoke came in through any crevice it could find, our air purifiers operating on bright red, alerting us that the air was dangerous. Smoke so thick in our own home that I could barely breathe. And if I couldn’t breathe – neither could S. One night, around midnight, when the air was close to 500 on the air quality report (500 being as high as it goes), after we’d moved S into our bedroom because the air seemed to be the best there, my eyes open in the dark, weighing the risks – flee to a friend’s house where the air was better (even though there was the risk of COVID), or remain asphyxiated in our own home. Because the air in our home was thick with smoke, even with all the doors and windows taped shut, the attic doors covered with cardboard and taped, the fireplace covered and taped…still, the smoke persisted.

We fled. And were welcomed by dear friends. And when we were away from our home, I clutched S’s blanket to my chest and smelled it and it smelled of a chimney, as though I’d thrown it in the ashes of a fire and rolled it around. That was my baby’s blanket. Which she slept with. I couldn’t imagine the air she’d actually inhaled into her tiny lungs.

Horrified, we set off to find somewhere to move to. Vowing never to go through fire season again.

And so we set our sights on the East Coast – particularly Connecticut, on the coast, an hour’s train ride into Manhattan.

But now it has dawned on me – ticks.

Ticks, ticks, ticks.

And being someone who has suffered from Lyme, the threat is debilitating. The thought that S might get Lyme has me panicked, fraught with anxiety – fucking terrified. Because I don’t want her to suffer an iota of what I’ve suffered with this damn disease. And I have – suffered.

So I feel stuck. So, so stuck. Yes – everywhere has something. And I know realistically that ticks are in the Bay Area because that’s where I contracted Lyme to begin with – I know, they’re here, they’re everywhere. But they seem to be on the East Coast more so than anywhere else. And part of me wonders if that’s because it originated there, so they are aware of it, and tracking it and the data exists. Whereas, if you ask some physicians on the West Coast, they don’t even believe it is here. But it is. Let me tell you – it is. And tick season is year round.

So I get that. I get that there is a risk anywhere. But…I feel immobilized.

So my question is this. In two parts…

  1. Those who live on the East Coast – how do you deal with the threat of ticks? Do children still play in their yards? I have this image of hundreds of them crawling all over a yard, waiting for their blood host to come outside and play. I’m…haunted. What is the reality there?
  2. And to other parents – how do you deal with the fear and anxiety of your child’s welfare and mortality? Constantly…I meditate. I breathe. I gather facts to counterbalance my emotions. But…what else?

Thanks, friends. Thanks for reading.