As I adjusted to the idea of being pregnant, I thought of what it would mean to have a baby. Up all night, reaching milestones, how our lives would change. I pictured visits to family, hanging out with friends. The preschool years. Even having other babies. What never occured to me was how aboslutely terrifying it would be to be someone’s mother.
There’s fear associated with being pregnant. You find out, usually pretty early, then the goal is to reach the 12 week mark. After 12 weeks, it is (usually) all good. Things move in small increments from there. Next step: the Big Ultrasound. This is the one where you can find out boy or girl, if you are so inclined. They determine if the necessary parts are all there. The anxiety leading up to this day is overwhelming. For me, it was a day of excitement. The first pictures of my child. My daughter. I knew it right away. It was the first thing we saw, those girly parts. The three lines. Soon after I saw her, I could feel her. New anxiety. Was she moving enough? Too much? Next step, 28 weeks, for bloodwork. (I skipped that one though). Then the appointments come every two weeks instead of once a month. Still monitoring movements, still worried the heartrate would be different, or worse, gone. Then, the appointments are every week. Still more anxiety. It is getting close, the Big Day. Anxiety turns to anticipation, then back to anxiety. There could still be problems, a surprise issue no one could predict. What if she has Downs? Or another genetic issue? What if I did something wrong? The Big Day comes. For me, there was no fear. I was so focused on what I was feeling physically and talking myself through it, I didn’t have room to be scared. She was born, and in my arms. Perfect. She was perfect. Still is, as a matter of fact.
Now there is a new terror, new fears. I love her. More than I ever thought was possible. Sometimes I lose control over my mind, my thoughts. Awful pictures pop into my head. Empty cribs, useless car seats. Sorting through baby clothes, each with a memory, no longer needed. How can I think such horrible thoughts? It is like a waking nightmare sometimes. But I am so afraid. What if something happens? How would I survive it? How would I go on if I didn’t have her? I try so hard to keep these thoughts away. They make me feel hollow, empty. They make me feel panic and terror. Then I look at her, and I feel whole and calm.
I don’t sleep much anymore. More than just the normal new baby in the house sleeplessness. I can’t. I can’t miss a second. Even if she’s in her bed, I need to be awake. Awake to check every few minutes. Just to look at her. Just to lay my hand over her little body and feel her breathe. For some reason, nights are worse. I can sleep after the sun comes up. Why does it feel like the sun prevents disaster?
I imagine this stuff will gradually get easier. She’ll get older, a little more solid. A little stronger. She’ll be all right. I know she will be, deep down. Until then, I guess I’ll keep up my late nights. I’ll let myself check on her over and over. To watch her breathe. To wait for her to wake up again so I can hold her, feed her, then lay her back down to start my vigil all over again. And I’ll wait for the sun to come up so I can sleep.