I have jumped out of bed, scared shitless, that something was wrong with my sleeping baby. Why did I think something was wrong? Because it was too quiet and I couldn't hear him breathing. I lived in fear of SIDS for the first year or so of his life. I am still afraid to have a pillow, blanket, or anything in his crib while he sleeps even though SIDS is no longer a risk. I do allow his soothing seahorse in the crib with him but that is it and I am still afraid he will crack his head open on it.
When Orion was about 8 months old I watched Million Dollar Baby for the first time. I would replay that climactic slow motion neck cracking scene over and over in my head starring Orion and every toy and surface in our house. Once I get an idea in my head, it is really hard for me to shake it off. Then I worry that if it were to actually happen it would be all my fault because the thought crossed my mind.
Last week we went for a boat ride and I saw my baby sinking like a stone to the bottom of the Potomac River. This did not happen of course and I was sure to keep my hands on him whenever he got near the edge of the boat. But the image, the thought, was so disturbing and I felt horrible for even thinking it that I felt sick to my stomach.
Every time I buckle Orion into his car seat I wonder if it is tight enough, am I doing this right, will he be safe. I have become a very cautious driver and adhere to the speed limit (ok maybe I go 5 mph over) and leave plenty of room between me and the car in front. This means I have become an extremely jumpy passenger and I don’t know how my husband puts up with me.
When I was pregnant I worried that something would be wrong with my baby. Maybe it is my experiences coupled with the fact that I have a chronic health issue but I always brace myself for the worst. I was also on a medication that was generally considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding but no one knew for sure. I did know that I need my medication (Copaxone for treating MS) and would not do well without it and I need to be as healthy as possible in order to carry my baby to term and to take care of my baby. So far, so good, but I still worry that down the line we will find out negative side effects of this medication. Or any of the number of things Orion comes in to contact with on a daily basis could end up being harmful. This is why I am very picky about what he eats and what I put on his skin.
I watched the film Temple Grandin during my pregnancy and had a big huge crying fest. What if my baby is autistic and won’t let me hug him? It was a severe breakdown and I knew I was getting worked up over a possibility. Then I realized that whatever happens, we will deal with it. Temple may not have hugged her mom but she did wonderfully amazing things including revolutionizing the cattle industry. When you are pregnant people ask if you want to have a boy or a girl and usually the answer it that it doesn’t matter as long as the baby is healthy. And what if it’s not?! As long as Orion is alive I will love him and care for him and any and every way he needs.
Will my irrational fears every go away? No, they won’t and I am sure they will get worse once Orion is driving or getting into the car of young drivers. I do not let these fears stop me from letting Orion explore his surroundings and grow. I allow the thought to cross my mind and then I try to move on even though it can take me awhile to shake the thought. Now that he is learning to walk, we have had more boo boos than ever but this is something he needs to learn.
The first time Orion bled, I was more upset than he was. We were at an indoor playground and he face planted on one of the few hard surfaces (inside a mirror cube) and split open his lip. He cried, I almost cried, and we were both covered in blood. The staff was really nice and gave me a cup of water and some paper towels and I cleaned him up and the bleeding stopped. In no time he was ready to play some more. When we came back the next week, he was happy to play in the same spot where the accident had occurred. He spent a lot of time in that mirror cube and I was too afraid to touch him while he was in it that I just let him go in and out on his own.
|The scene of the accident one week after he split his lip open.|
I really don’t need any reminder that children don’t always outlive their parents. In part because i can't handle them. You think pregnant women are emotional? I am way more emotional then I have ever been. I cry during movies more than ever and for the smallest thing. Any movie dealing with child loss I have to avoid entirely or I might flood my living room with tears. I think about it daily and I am sure that I will on most days for the rest of my life. Parents worry but I do not let my worry incapacitate me and hopefully I never will. I buried both of my parents and I hope Orion buries me.
I do not think I could survive the loss of a child and I hope I will never have to find out. But writing these words feels like tempting fate. Then I think that I have already been through enough in my 32 years that there really can’t be any tragedy left. My heart goes out to all those who have lost children. Whether that loss was while the child was in utero or when that child was 60, a parent burying their children is always a sad sad shame. These parents are the strongest people I know. I read this great blog post recently, if you know someone who has lost a child you may find it helpful.