Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother

Feb
17
2013

Fraught with Worry? Welcome to the Parenting Club

IF BABY DOESN'T KEEP YOU AWAKE, STRESS WILL

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I am awake doing what new parents do best — worry.

The baby has just let out a blood-curdling cry and fallen back to sleep.

Me? Well, I am not so lucky.

When his cry comes sounding through the baby monitor, it’s like getting zapped with a frightening blast of electricity.

So, I am awake.

Like really, really awake.

Tossing, turning and tossing some more.

And it’s at this otherwise peaceful hour that the haunting begins.

Truly what better time for those tucked away fears to rise from the depths of the subconscious mind to torture the hell out of a parent?

Of course the first thing I worry about is whether our baby is breathing.

Maybe that desperate cry was the only one he could muster because he’s stuck face down in the mattress unable to get air — a somewhat ridiculous notion as the SIDS monitor is sitting right beside me tick-tock ‘n’ away. Clearly the kid is breathing.

This of course doesn’t stop me from going into his room so I can see his chest rising and falling firsthand.

I'd love to tell you that this doesn’t happen often but I am an atrocious liar.

Surely we all have nights like these, non? You know, the ones when we reach down into the bottomless pit of parenthood fears, yank out a bunch and spend several hours grinding away at them like pit bulls on a bone, non?

Speaking of pit bulls, they scare the crap out of me. Sure, go ahead and tell me that the gentlest dog you ever knew was a pit bull but it won’t change a thing.

Given this fear, it only makes sense to plot a survival plan should one ever threaten our baby. Oh don’t worry, in this imagined scenario we escape unscathed by blasting our frothy-mouthed attacker with a hit of bear spray.  

See, the thing is, even if your baby isn’t ruining your sleep, there’s a good chance your anxiety is. 

Perhaps you can relate to the sampling below of nagging nighttime worries? Of course you can. You're a parent, after all, and naturally an unhealthy amount of stress comes with the job. 

 Baby has been sleeping a really long time. Something must be wrong. Better wake him up to check.

 Is he eating enough? Eating too much? Are his nutritional needs covered or is he lacking protein, iron and essential vitamins? And if so, how would I know?

 What about choking? Would I remember my infant CPR training if it happened? What if he’s in the care of someone else at the time? Then what?

 Is baby happy? Are we good parents? Or are we messing up big time? Will we be responsible for life-long therapy sessions?

 What if our children grow up to become people we don’t like very much? It happens sometimes. After all, criminal masterminds, evil dictators and Ann Coulter all have moms and dads. Shudder to think.

 What if they get bullied? Is it OK to go rangy on some little turd’s head? Are we expected to behave like grown-ups when the person we love more than life itself is being treated badly?

 And what about their beautiful hearts? They’re so open and trusting, what if their tender hearts get broken? Or they turn cynical? The very thought is heartbreaking.

 Oh, and let’s not forget baby kisses. Seriously, what is better than planting kisses on baby’s squishy cheeks, tiny nose and irresistible feet? But a day will come when they won’t want our kisses or — gasp — even our hugs! I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

 What if in the frantic pace of parenting it all goes by too quickly and our precious memories get lost in the shuffle?

 Then there’s their health — the most important thing of all. Please, please, please keep baby healthy. We’d give up anything — kidneys, livers and hearts if we could — for these small beings to flourish.

 On that note, what about germs? How much germ exposure is good anyway?

 Oh, and don’t get me started on pesticides, environmental contaminants, natural disasters, man-made threats, cellphone, TV and Internet exposure, drowning, house fires, airplane crashes, highway pileups, poisonous snake bites and the constant question, ‘is that poop normal?’ Was bringing a baby into this world a selfish thing to do?

And so it begins: A lifetime of fretting and sleepless nights. It is now 4:44 a.m. and I’ve exhausted myself senseless and I am wondering why the human brain doesn’t come with an off switch. I must sleep but before I do, I should check in on our little crumpet one last time … you know, just in case.