Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.
- Elizabeth Stone
I've been thinking about this for a long time. I think the first time I heard a form of this quote was probably while I was pregnant with Nicky. And I don't think I really understood it. Oh, I thought I did, but I didn't really.
When I finally brought Nicky home I think I had some PPD. Not nearly as bad as some, but I did have thoughts of hurting him. However they weren't what I expected when I'd heard about that as a symptom so I didn't immediately make the connection. I wasn't thinking of me deliberately hurting him. I would find myself staring into space imagining all the horrible things that could happen to my baby in this huge and now very scary world.
I didn't even notice it consciously until Tom mentioned taking him to St. Augustine beach for a day trip. Immediately I was picturing us at the beach: surf, sand, lots of sunscreen, and a baby hat of course. Pictured me standing with him in the waves, maybe in water up to my knees of course. And we'd look at the waves, the sunlight dancing on the water, the people playing in the water.
And then, unbidden came the horrible thought, what if I wasn't paying enough attention to him, what if a big wave came, and knocked me over, and I dropped him and the undertow pulled him away from me? Immediately I was terrified to take him to the beach.
We eventually went anyway, although not that day, and I was super-vigalent and only let the water get up to my ankles and we didn't set him down for even a second. But still, that was just once instance when immediately I thought of the danger in something that before I'd have just thought of as a fun family outing.
I started noticing my thought patterns more consciously after that, and then it got worse but was totally unrelated to Nicky or my parenting and was instead wrapped up with changes at my job. A few sessions with a therapist was all I needed to iron things out, but still...the world is a very scary place.
Everywhere I turn, it seems there are horrible things happening. Natural disasters, kidnappings, murders, accidents... I rarely watch TV. I pretty much only watch Disney movies, Caillou (which yes, it is irritating), Curious George, Martha Speaks, and maybe a little Sesame Street, Clifford, and Word World if I'm home on a weekday. But still, I run across stories online, sometimes involving people I know on the net, that just strike me down.
These just fan the flames of my well-hidden, shoved into a mental closet, terror. I have to keep it squelched in order to even leave the house. Sometimes I even convince myself that I'm not worried. I think in some ways folks might even think I'm pretty cavalier about Nicky's safety sometimes. I let him explore, even fall sometimes.
But honestly, even beyond the fears (which fears really just isn't a big enough word here) about what can happen to Nicky, there's an even larger fear. One I only discovered once he was about 7 months old or so. I remember it because we were already moved into this house. And that is the fear of what could happen to me, or to Tom, or (heaven-forbid) to both of us.
There have been a few things that have really driven this home to me. One blogger, Whymommy, that I follow who has fought amazing odds and beaten her breast cancer and has two little boys close in age to Nicky. Another blogger, Lisa, who is fighting her 3rd fight with cancer and has two tween-aged girls. And the recent dual-hospitalization of Tom and I.
I mean, I have my faith (well my own version of it) and do believe in something of an afterlife. I know with my whole heart that should something happen to someone I love, I will see them again and they will not be unhappy or in pain while waiting for me.
However, the thought of something happening to me, Tom, or both of us. The thought of leaving Nicky here, behind, to fend for himself, even with the amazing love he'd have from the rest of our family. I just can't even examine this feeling too closely for fear it would just swallow me up and I'd never leave the house again.
Sometimes I think that parenting must be the bravest thing a person can do.