I apologize for the delay. I haven't been writing lately at all – but I'm not giving up on these stories. Someone asked me a question awhile ago about how Beca feels about Bella's anxiety issues. This answers that question. Most of these one-shots have been cute and happy. I tried to work in some positive energy – but it's about panic attacks, so it's a little less light than the other one shots. Thanks for reading – enjoy!
Bella, Panic, and It's Going to be Okay
Beca didn't like to work on weekends, but sometimes it was unavoidable. To compensate for the lost time, she'd dragged herself out of bed early that morning, well before the rest of the family, so she could finish what needed to be done and return home relatively early. It was just after lunch on a gorgeous summer day when she pulled into the drive and walked to her front door. She was accosted as soon as she entered. Bella flew at her, hugging her waist. Beca, after bracing herself against the wall of the entry, detached her daughter and knelt down to her level.
"Hey, Bells," she said, offering her arms. She hugged the little girl close, concern flowing over her as she felt the child shaking. She rubbed a hand soothingly up and down the child's back. "What's wrong, kiddo? What happened?" Bella simply buried herself further in Beca's arms. She tried a few more times, but Bella wasn't talking.
"Where's your mom?" Beca asked. "And your sisters?"
"In the backyard," Bella eventually told her.
"Okay," Beca said, pulling away enough to stand up. "Let me say hi to your mom – and we'll go upstairs and snuggle for a while. Sound good?" Bella nodded, her eyes focused firmly on the floor. She held onto her mother until Beca got to the French doors that led to the deck and backyard. Bella let go and moved to sit on the stairs across the room. Beca motioned with a finger that she'd only be a minute – and walked out to the backyard. Chloe was sitting on a lounge chair near the pool, enjoying the sunshine and watching their two other daughters playing in the water.
Beca opened the gate to let herself in and walked over to sit on the edge of Chloe's chair. She kissed her wife's cheek and Chloe squeezed her hand in greeting. "Welcome home," she said.
"Having fun?" Beca asked.
Chloe shrugged. "Poppy and Vera are. I'm a little worried. Bella has been acting oddly all morning. She barely ate – she won't talk to me. She almost had a fit when I suggested we swim. She wouldn't put on her swimsuit. And then she sat out here and pouted until she heard your car. She won't tell me what's wrong."
"I'll see what I can figure out," Beca promised. They kissed gently and she blew kisses to her other daughters and they waved and greeted her happily.
Back in the house, Beca slipped out of her shoes and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator before walking over to the stairs and offering Bella her hand. The little girl took it, following her mother to her bedroom. Beca closed the door and pulled the desk chair over to Bella's reading chair before sitting. Bella was not thrilled with that turn of events and tugged at Beca's hand.
"We're going to talk first," Beca told her calmly, nodding to the reading chair. Bella reluctantly climbed into it, hugging the throw pillow close. "Love, what's wrong?"
Bella shook her head. "I don't know," she admitted in a small voice.
"Are you angry with someone?" The little girl shook her head. "Sad about something?" Another shake. Beca sighed. She slid to her knees on the floor so she was directly in front of Bella. "Love, I need you to help me here. Close your eyes." Bella did. "Can you tell me how you feel?"
Hesitantly, Bella told her. "My heart hurts. It hurts to breathe. My stomach hurts. My head is spinny." Beca closed her own eyes. A panic attack. Her nine-year-old daughter was suffering from a fucking panic attack. Beca had to bite back her emotions lest she ice the cake with her own attack.
"Oh, love, I'm so sorry. When did it start?"
Bella shrugged. "I woke up any my brain was really busy. I can't get it to stop," she admitted, her voice breaking. Tears pricked her eyes and threatened to spill.
Beca got her daughter settled in bed and kissed her forehead. "I have to grab an icepack from the kitchen. I'll be right back." Bella looked like she wanted to argue, but she let her mother go. Beca hurried to the kitchen and grabbed two of the soft, flexible icepacks from the freezer.
Chloe had come in for a refill on her iced tea and watched in question.
"She's having a panic attack," Beca told her wife, shaking her head.
"Seriously?" Chloe asked. "She's nine."
"It's a panic attack," Beca assured her, voice strained. "Can you see if you can make an appointment with Dr. Jo on Monday?" Chloe nodded and Beca hurried back up the stairs. Bella was curled into her favorite stuffed bear, big alligator tears streaming down her cheeks. "Oh, my love," Beca said softly. She climbed onto the bed and sat behind Bella, rubbing her shoulder. "It's going to be okay."
"I don't feel good," Bella hiccupped.
"I know, love. Let's see if we can help. Can you lay on your stomach for me?" Bella rolled to her stomach and Beca rubbed her back, feeling knots along her neck and shoulders. "I'm going to use ice, love. That might help." She placed the icepacks along Bella's shoulders and neck – and across her lower back. Bella sighed in relief when they were in place.
"Any better?" A nod. "Okay, kiddo, I need you to help me. We're going to play a game." Bella looked suspiciously at her mother, but was still listening. "I need you to tell me five things you can see. Including adjectives."
"Trust me," Beca said softly. "Five things you can see – tell me what they are."
Bella sighed. "The violet flowers," she said, looking at her nightstand. "The glass lamp. The soft carpet. The white closet door. The full bookshelf."
"Good job," Beca said. She was stroking Bella's hair, lightly massaging her scalp. "Now what are four things you can touch?"
"The soft bedspread. The thin sheets. The cold icepack. Rough denim," she said, petting Beca's jeans.
"Yep," Beca answered. "Good job. Now, three things you can hear."
There was silence as Bella listened. "Your voice – it's pretty. Poppy outside – she's loud. And birds calling."
"What are two things you can smell?"
"Eucalyptus and Spearmint," she said, indicating her shampoo. "And soft lavender."
"And what is one thing you can taste?"
"Minty toothpaste," Bella said. She blinked up at her mother. "Mama, why are we doing this?"
"Close your eyes and take a deep breath," Bella did. "How do you feel?"
"A little bit better," Bella said, amazed as she opened her eyes.
"Awesome," Beca responded, tapping her nose. "Good job. Let's try it again." They went through all five steps – three more times.
"Why does that work?" Bella asked, once they finished and she was breathing normally.
"I think what happened this morning – is that you had a panic attack. And one of the reasons that happens is because we're worried too much – and stuck inside our heads. That game gets your thoughts outside of your head."
The ice had melted, so Beca threw the icepacks on the floor and lay down next to Bella, rubbing her back. "Do you know what you were worried about?" She asked softly.
"Everything," Bella answered in a small voice. "I'm sorry," she said, tears pricking her eyes.
"Oh, love," Beca said, admonishing voice. "This is not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong." She took a deep breath. "You are perfect and beautiful and amazing. And you didn't do anything wrong," she repeated. "Do you hear me?" Bella nodded. She yawned, hiding her face against Beca's side as she did. "Sweetheart, you're exhausted. Close your eyes."
Bella looked immediately panicked, grabbing for Beca. "I'm not going anywhere," Beca reassured her. She resituated herself against the head board and pulled back the covers, making room for Bella to snuggle under them. Eventually, Bella was coaxed beneath the blankets – and fell asleep.
Becca, emotionally exhausted as she was, did not close her eyes right away. She texted Chloe, hatching the plan for what they were going to do once Bella woke up. After that was squared away, Beca did scoot down under the blankets and curl around her daughter, falling asleep herself.
She woke two hours later to find Chloe sitting in the rocking chair by the window, watching them. "How long did I sleep?"
"It's almost six," Chloe told her. "But there's no hurry on anything. Stacie came to take Poppy and Vera out to dinner and movie – they won't be back until almost 10. Beca nodded, running her hands through her hair as she sat up. She took several deep breaths, clearly calming and gathering herself.
"What are we going to do?"
"We'll get through this," Chloe told her. "It's going to be okay?"
"How can you know that?"
Chloe stood and crossed the room to sit beside Beca and pulled her into her arms, hugging her close. "Because I have you. And you have me. And we have three beautiful daughters. And these last nine years have taught me that's all we really need to make things work. Trust me on this."
Beca nodded, relaxing into her embrace. They sat together quietly until Bella woke up half an hour later.
Chloe smiled gently as she sat up. "How are you feeling, sweetie?"
"Okay," Bella said, with a non-committal shrug.
"You need to talk to us," Beca reminded her. "We can't help if you don't. How do you really feel?"
Bella shrugged. "Not as bad as before. But still kind of weird."
"What does weird feel like?" Chloe asked, trying to get more detail. She crawled over Beca to sit on Bella's other side so the child was sandwiched between her mothers.
"My chest is heavy," Bella said, her hand coming to rest over her heart. "And it's kind of still hard to breathe."
"Like before?" Beca asked.
"A little better," Bella replied.
"Let's try something. Why don't you try to tell us about all the things you're worried about? We'll write them all down and figure it out together. Can we try that?" Tears slipped from her eyes.
"Please," Beca said calmly. "Can we try? If we need to stop, we'll stop. But I think it might help."
Bella nodded. Chloe got up and disappeared, returning a few moments later with a large white board in a colorful picture frame that lived in her office, along with several colorful markers.
"You want to write?" Chloe asked her daughter. "Or do you want me to?"
"You can," Bella said. With lots of prompting from her mothers and breaks for crying and breathing exercises, she spilled everything bothering her. They talked through every worry in her cluttered head and by the time they stopped talking, Bella seemed calmer. They ate a quiet dinner and watched happy, cheer-up movies: Horton Hears a Who and Brave.
That night, after the girls were all in bed, Beca disappeared into her studio. She usually came to bed around 11. When she was still missing by midnight, Chloe went in search. She walked into the studio and stood against the mixing board, forcing Beca to look at her. The smaller woman removed her headphones and looked up at her wife. "I just have some things to finish – you can go to bed without me. Sorry, I should have told you that."
Chloe stood her ground, still studying her wife. "Beca, it can wait until tomorrow. It's been an exhausting day. Come to bed." Beca shook her head and stared into her computer. Chloe knelt in front of her chair, taking her hands, and pulling her so their eyes met. "Talk to me."
Beca shook her head again, pulling her hands away from Chloe so she could wipe the tears that began streaming from her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" Beca asked, her voice incredulous. "Chloe, our nine-year-old is having fucking panic attacks!" She cried.
"We're going to figure it out," Chloe reminded her calmly. "Together."
"This is my fault."
"What?" She took Beca's hands again and squeezed them. "Beca, this is not your fault."
"Anxiety is a learned behavior – I couldn't pull it together enough that she could avoid this – "
"Boiling it down to that is drastic," Chloe told her. "It is not your fault. Things happen – life is stressful. Bella has always been sensitive. And you deal with things beautifully, honey. The only people who even would suspect you struggle with anxiety are your closest friends and family." Beca continued to sniffle. "You are an amazing mom – this is not your fault."
Whether Beca believed her or just wanted Chloe to drop it, she nodded. She allowed Chloe to drag her to bed but didn't sleep much that night. The following weeks were full of doctor's appointments – first the pediatrician – then three child psychologists until they found one that Bella seemed to like. Who seemed to click.
Six weeks after the first panic attack, the Saturday morning was a glorious one. Beca sat on the back deck in sunglasses and a straw hat as she read her way through a book. Bella had been sitting beside her doing the same, but got up and walked towards the swing set where Poppy and Vera were playing. Beca said nothing, but watched as her daughter approaching joining in for the first time in weeks. To their credit, Vera and Poppy acts as though it were totally normal. Vera grabbed Bella's hand and dragged her to the jungle gym. Poppy followed them, hanging upside down over the blue bars as she chattered on about something Beca couldn't hear.
She was so focused that she didn't hear Chloe return from her run until her wife sat next to her, taking Bella's abandoned chair. Chloe smiled. "That's nice to see."
Beca nodded. Bella's laugh practically rang through the yard as a genuine one sounded for the first time in weeks. Beca wiped away a tear and let out a noise that was half sob and half laugh. "That's even better to hear."
"It's going to be okay," Beca said, as though suddenly realizing that. Life was moving on. Things were improving. There would still be bad days. But there would be good days. Like this. Amazing moments. Like the one they were in.
"Well, duh," Chloe teased, scooting her chair closer and wrapping an arm around her wife. "You should listen to me more often. It would save you a lot of worry." Beca laughed and turned to hide her face against Chloe as she sobbed. From pent-up anxiety and the relief that finally had washed over her.
"I love you."
"I love you."
Thanks so much for reading. I'm sorry for the delays. I haven't been writing much lately. But I had this almost done and wanted to get something out. I hope it was worth reading. I hope there was enough cheer to balance the anxiety and sadness. I tried – let me know how it worked.