A case of the crazy.

22 Dec

Today, I took my daughter to the to the post office. As we stood in line waiting to buy our stamps, I noticed the guy behind me. He was fidgeting. He kept putting his hands in his pockets. What is he doing?  Does this man have a gun? Is he going to hold up the place? Isn’t there something about post offices and hostage situations? What’s my exit route? Will I be able to get out in time? I grabbed my phone and held it between my thumb and forefinger, keeping it close, in case I needed to secretly dial 911. I held my breath until we had finished our transaction and I was out the door and at a safe distance from the shop. The man behind me bought his stamps and went on his way.

***

Having a baby changes every single morsel of life; every single centimeter of who you once were and who you will become. It’s as if you become a parent and someone takes a hammer and shatters your self-portrait, and then you put it back together so that it kind of looks like you, but everything is slightly different than it once was, as things fit differently, shapes are shifted and cracks and fissures form where it was once smooth and pristine. But, I say this in the best possible way. Becoming a mother was the absolute, no question about it, best thing I have ever done. Being a mother is the peace in my heart and the joy in my life.

I cherish every single second with my daughter. I love her so much it knocks the wind out of me. She surprises me with new, amazing things nearly every hour. I am completely enveloped by my love and affection for her.

But, what happens when that all consuming love becomes a smothering, shattering, choking kind of feeling? What happens when you love your kid so much that it literally hurts?

***

When I began this journal, I did it to chronicle my memories, to share my funny anecdotes and, most of all, to speak honestly about the things that the other new mothers around me couldn’t bear to admit. I promised myself, and my readers, that I would share it all; I’ve shared my bliss, my excitement, my joy; I’ve shared my disappointments and my losses; I’ve shared so much. It wouldn’t be fair to stop now; I won’t hold back.

***

I’ve shared before the feelings I’ve had about motherhood making me feel a bit crazy at times. After all, the combination of sleep deprivation, surging hormones and a new, warm body to clothe/feed/change/love can be overwhelming. So overwhelming.

So new parents are stressed. And tired. And sometimes feel a bit loopy. Or loony. Or lost.

I sure did.

And then la la la, time goes on, things change, your baby develops her blood-brain-barrier and you no longer have to fear fevers and you’re ok again. You almost feel human again.

Almost.

Except, what happens when a little piece of that fear

of the cray cray crazy

lurks within you

and then returns, over a year after the postpartum hormones have waned, and many months after the breastfeeding hormones have dissipated….

For me, my fears have ebbed and flowed. They’ve grown with the questions I’ve feared asking my pediatrician, and faded with my daughter’s newest developments and the trust I’ve been able to place in her strength and solidity.

But lately, if I’m being honest,

I am feeling scared.

I love my daughter so much that I am scared that something bad will happen to us. To her.

I live in fear.

***

Last week, on vacation to my  happy place, I was able to live freely. It was wonderful.

The schedules that I so strictly adhere to seemed to wash away in the waves.

My daughter napped on the beach, and ate out for almost every meal and did not (GASP!) use a high chair cover or place mat.

And, miraculously, she was well rested and happy, flexible and wonderful, and she did not contract Ebola from a dirty high chair.

At least, I don’t think she did. I haven’t noticed any symptoms. Yet.

For the first time in a long time I was able to go with the flow. I was able to breathe.

But, although so many of my scary voices were quieted by the sounds of the sea,

they still haunted me. They crept up on me, sometimes so loudly that it was hard to hear anything else.

Like on our flight home, when the plane rocked back and forth in a bout of turbulence, and I felt so scared that I was literally shaking, teeth chattering and unable to move.

I was so scared of something bad happening. I felt so out of control. My instinct to protect my daughter was swallowing me whole, and I could barely breathe. I felt so guilty for putting her in harm’s way, so powerless and so afraid. In hindsight, I can see that by taking her on this vacation I gave her so, so much. I gave her sunshine and freedom and the ocean. But, in that moment on the airplane, I felt nothing but terror.

***

Today, I took my daughter to the post office. Today, I felt scared. Yesterday, I took her to have photos printed. I felt scared there, too. Why is that man looking at us? Does it want to kidnap her? Where is the exit door? Will I make it in time? What if he has a weapon?

And no, I am not exaggerating.

And no, it does not make me proud to share this with you. In fact, this is probably the most vulnerable I’ve felt in all of the hundreds and hundreds of posts I’ve shared. It’s one thing to joke about being crazy, but it’s another to feel, truly, as if my anxiety is taking control.

I know I am a great mother to my daughter. I just don’t want that to mean I have to be a scared mother.

So, my question is, how can I love her this much,

with the kind of love that gives me goosebumps, and overtakes me, so viscerally, that it’s as if I am experiencing life and adoration on a whole new plane of existence? Seriously, though. That is how I feel. Every single day.

I feel this incredible love for her when I hear her talking to her doll babies,

when she sings,

when she gives me eskimo kisses,

when she counts to ten and leaves out the number nine,

when she says “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” to strangers,

when she gives bear hugs,

when she plays her cute jokes that only I know about,

when she moves,

when she smiles,

when she breathes air.

Even now, I want to cry just writing about my love for her.

I want my love for her to consume me. I just don’t want it to choke me.

Most of all, I don’t want to teach her to be scared. I want her to continue to be the fearless spirit that she is,

chasing iguanas, dancing in public, defying me when even I can admit that she is right.

It is going to take all of my strength to overcome this.

Thank goodness I have a pretty darn good motivation.

***

Tomorrow, I will take my daughter out. I will try not to be scared. I will try to look at the smiles of strangers and know that they are admiring my sweet girl. I will try not to look for the scary. Or for the exit door.

I will try to overcome this one part of my parenting that does not make me proud. I’m hoping that writing about this problem so candidly will help me to be accountable, so that I can really work on changing. I know I can change for the better. I already have.

***

So my self-portrait does look a bit different than it once did. Perhaps my pieces are not put back together in the right order, but I am more right than I have ever been before in my life. In my crevasses are my stories, the things that I have overcome, the changes I have made and how much I have grown.

And as my portrait continues to morph and evolve, I hope that I can take a way a few worry lines,

add a few more sizes to my heart

and continue to wear the overwhelming love for my daughter right on my sleeve.

Wish me luck.

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7 Responses to “A case of the crazy.”

  1. Meredith B. December 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    If it makes you feel any better, I am not a mother (yet), but I have those same fears. I have to go to the post office for work several times a week, and I am always wary while waiting in line. Occasionally, homeless people wander in, or someone looks on edge or fidgety, and it always instills fear in my heart. I suppose that is something that I have come to accept, considering that I work in center city. I also live in the city as well, and walk to work. My greatest fear is that something bad will happen to me on my commute – I fear getting mugged, hit by a car, or even shot and killed. Well, I have survived being mugged. I have survived being hit by a car. (Luckily I haven’t been shot, and I pray to G-d I never will be.) I believe those two incidents have made me a much stronger person, because I faced my fears head on and survived. I hope you never have to face your fears, but if you do, you will survive and it will make you stronger. (Plus you will have an inspiring story to tell your daughter!) I guess the point of this ramble is to let you know that everyone has fears, however irrational they may be, and that you’re not alone. I hope that gives you some comfort. (Happy Hanukkah, by the way!)

    • Becca December 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

      Thank you SO much for sharing. It does make me feel better to know that I am not alone, and also to know that you are such a wonderful, together person who still can be overcome by anxieties (irrational/rational/anything!) I am amazed at the things you have had to deal with in your life and marvel at your strength. Thank you, again, for being so honest, it gives me such peace to know that you can relate. Happy Hanukkah to you, too! xoxo

  2. Lauren December 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    I know EXACTLY how you feel… And sometimes I think I’m crazy, too! At the gas station I think about what I would do if someone tried to steal my car–how will I get my baby out in time? How quickly can I pull her seat from the car? I’m at the mall and I think about someone grabbing the stroller out of my hand and stealing my baby girl. Just this week I had a nightmare where I turned my back for a second and some woman had stolen my daughter. She brought her back and I threatened her life. And it was so traumatic and terrifying that I woke up sobbing and my husband had to console me and assure me our daughter was safe and asleep in her crib. Motherhood truly shakes you to the core. I would give my life for her in a heartbeat, would do absolutely any thing for her… I love her so much I can hardly stand it. I think as mothers we’re all vulnerable–and you are brave enough to share that vulnerability. Thank you–your sweet words are touching and relatable and oh so true…

    • mommyeverafter December 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      Oh Lauren, THANK YOU. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry that I am not alone in these anxieties, but also glad to know that we can be a virtual support system for one another. Motherhood is so overwhelmingly amazing, but that “overwhelming” part also can make our senses function on overdrive. Ice cream tastes sweeter, laughter is more joyous and, unfortunately, our fears are so much more profound. I can relate to you so much, and I do think as our children grow, our anxieties will wane. Sending you love and strength, Happy Everything! xxx

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