My house is my safe place.
It’s messy and chaotic in its own right with the constant buzz of children but at least things are predictable. I can control things here; I do the washing in between my baby’s naps. I know exactly which toys to use to distract my toddler during her tantrums.
But outside my front door it’s a war zone. I don’t know what’s coming for me, or where to duck for cover if – heaven forbid – my children turn feral.
Yesterday I had to go to my obstetrician for a post c-section check up. I had put it off far too long because I was simply too scared to drive the 45mins to his office with my gassy, refluxy newborn in the backseat.
It came to the stage where I could not procrastinate any longer. I took a big, deep breath and crossed my fingers as I strapped my son into the carseat.
His crying started instantly. I gritted my teeth, clicked on my seatbelt and pulled away from the curb. As I took off, so too did my son. His crying reached epic proportions and I cringed at traffic lights thinking every pedestrian was disturbed by the noise being omitted from my Saab.
Every red light made my body temperature rise. I screamed internal expletives whilst externally I used my calm voice to placate my hysterical child. (To no effect, I’m afraid).
Anxiety makes me see the worse in everything. I was convinced my child would stop breathing. I willed the traffic off the road, the lights to turn green, my baby to stop crying…. But I had absolutely no control over any of these things. And when I am not in control, I panic.
By the time I arrived at the doctors, I was as distressed as my son. The receptionist and I had developed a lovely relationship during my pregnancy, and she took me in her arms and let me cry. You see, by that point I didn’t even have control over my tears. I couldn’t pretend I was ok… I had just waged an internal battle inside my brain and my body decided to collapse.
This trip reminded me of the panic I felt with my first born every time we left the house. She had ear problems that weren’t diagnosed for 18months. Consequently, she was irritable for 18months. Every journey was an epic effort for me.
My teeth were damaged from grinding them all the time.
My heart was damaged from pretending all the time.
Pretending I was ok.
Pretending I didn’t feel like the world’s worst mum.
I gave up driving. I rarely left the house unless it was somewhere I had been to previously or was planned well in advance. Embarrassingly, I would be so scared about driving anywhere new that I would plan out the exact spots where I would change lanes before I got on the road… Somehow, planning all these minute little details helped calm me and make the journey possible.
I am scared I’m going to go through all this again. That I might be developing an irrational fear of leaving my home (agoraphobia, if we want to get all clinical about it).
It was this behaviour that led me to a psychologist for help with my last child. It took me a long time to admit defeat. It won’t take me so long this time.
My son is a beautiful baby boy who happens to have mild reflux and potentially colic. (Note: I never believed colic was a “thing” until now… Don’t judge it until you’ve lived it, I say!) My bub seems to be getting better each day as his tummy matures, and I am SO grateful to all the gods in all the heavens that this isn’t a life threatening illness and will definitely pass with time.
My practical brain reminds me “this pain is just temporary”. That some babies cry more than others and it’s not a reflection of poor parenting.
But in my moments of apprehension and panic I forget all this. When his body is planking as he feeds, or his legs are pumping and face bright red from gas, or he is kicking-off in the pram/carseat/rocker/sling, I get lost in the NOW. It feels like forever.
Sometimes, you need the arms of a great receptionist around you to give you back your perspective and optimism. To remind you that you’re doing your damned best and that your child is lucky to have a mum who loves him so much that seeing him cry makes her do the same.
A MOMENT OF GRATITUDE
In a recent attempt to spend more time devoted to seeing the positive and to helping manage my own anxiety, I have decided to add a moment of gratitude to the end of all my posts. It helps me to focus my energies on the good. The happy. The non-stressful. The blissful.
Here is what I am happy for today… A boy who smiled at me and made me forget about the car, the laundry, our finances, putting on dinner. It was a moment of pure perfection – indescribable.
Sure – this might be a bit “cheesy” (mum cooing over her newborn) but it truly, really can be the highlight of a Mother’s day. It was the highlight of mine.