I’m Not Crazy. I’m Just a Mother.
There’s so much talk about motherhood in the world, but people often forget to tell you – or remind you, as the case may be – this one thing when you’re about to have a baby: motherhood really messes with your head.
There’s the hormones that throw you into an emotional spin cycle in the immediate aftermath of childbirth, of course. And there’s the sleep deprivation that makes you feel just a bit loopy all the time. But the real killer — the thing that I have found only gets worse as your baby grows older — is the fear that one only knows when they love someone more than they could ever possibly imagine. In the first couple months of a child’s life all of those factors are in full swing and it leaves for one coo coo mama.
Before I had Lilly I remember my sister telling me of her repeated bouts with absolute panic when she would awake in the middle of the night convinced that her newborn son was drowning in a sea of blankets in her bed and she would desperately rip her bed sheets off looking for him. This was all much to her husband’s confusion since my nephew did not sleep in their bedroom, much less in their bed. But sleep deprivation and a mother’s love do crazy things to your mind – especially in the wee hours of the morning.
When I first heard this story, I empathized with my sister since I have had my fair share of odd middle-of-the-night behavior — just ask Elliott about my sleep-screaming habit — but mostly I found it funny. Since Lilly’s birth, it’s not funny, it’s life.
Whether it was the power of suggestion, genetics or a crazy little thing called love, I also found myself searching desperately for Lilly in my bed on several occasions while she slept soundly in her crib in another room. I have also spent too many nights to count reliving every minor injury amplifying my fear with what-ifs.
One of my biggest concerns about having a second child has been that another child would literally cripple me with fear. Doubling my kids would certainly mean a disproportionate increase in the number of what-ifs. Or, perhaps worse, maybe it would make me worry less – jaded by the sheer volume of concerns to process. Then what?
I dove into the abyss anyway, figuring there’s always psychotherapy. To my surprise, Henry’s arrival did not immediately send me into a fear-induced panic. Not immediately.
Yesterday, like so many days, I took the kids on a short excursion to Target, filling the little bit of cart space that remains once you put a carseat in the main part of the cart and two coats and a gargantuan diaper bag in the seat. We then returned to the car, unloaded our new goodies (aka diapers) into the trunk, the kids in the back, the cart in the cart corral, me in the driver’s seat. Halfway home I noticed both kids asleep and began fantasizing about all the things I could get done with two sleeping kids in the afternoon.
I pulled into the garage, moved Henry’s carseat into the house and prepped everything so that Lilly could make an easy transition to the couch in her napping state. I walked back to the car to get Lilly out of her seat. As I reached for her I glanced across the backseat and saw the empty car seat base on the other side and … lost…my…shit.
OH MY GOD WHERE’S HENRY?!?!?
The sight of that empty carseat base sent me to an ugly place. Panic and adrenalin pumped through my body. I frantically retraced my steps in my head:
We were at Target. He was in the cart. I swear I put him in the car! What if I didn’t?! What if he’s sitting in the cart? In the cart corral? In 40 degree weather! ALONE! OH MY GOD I’M THE WORST MOTHER EVER!! MY BABY! WHAT HAVE I DONE?!
While running through these panicked thoughts I ran to the backdoor thinking I just might have moved him inside already. And, lo and behold, there was Henry. Sleeping peacefully in his carseat just inside the door.
Oh, and did I mention the screaming? Yeah, that whole time I was screaming. Pacing my garage floor, screaming, “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” When I finally realized I was not the neglectful mother I had feared, but rather just crazy, the panic-induced blindness cleared and I also realized my screaming had woken up Lilly and she was staring at me with fear and confusion in her own eyes. I collapsed into her carseat hugging her, crying, apologizing and attempting to explain to a 3 year old what sleep deprivation can do to Mommy’s brain.
There was no simultaneous napping that day. But I did have my two children at home with me safe and sound.
You can imagine all of the what-if images that could clutter my mind after that incident. I certainly can. And I assure you they definitely would have kept me up all last night. That is, if I wasn’t already up all last night closely monitoring Henry’s breathing, convinced that he was suffering from Pertussis and cursing myself for taking him to the mall during the holidays, where he was most certainly infected.
Turns out it’s an ear infection. We live to worry another day.
The I’m Not Crazy. I’m Just a Mother. by MushBrain, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at mushbrain.net.