Please note that I am not making light of PTSD; I’m merely using the most well-known and appropriate comparison to illustrate my point.
I’ve noticed a peculiar shift since little bear’s arrival. For one, little things can make me completely tense and freeze as though blinking might make a difference. Another occurrence is the ball of anxiety that now lives in my throat.
Our baby monitor has this handy feature so that you aren’t constantly hearing white noise: it simply clicks on when it detects a sound. When little bear is napping or asleep at night and the baby monitor clicks on, I freeze and become as stif as a statue. I hold my breath, not daring to even blink. When it clicks back off without any crying, mostly because it picked up the instrumental music we play while he’s sleeping, I find my heartbeat is so accelerated I must be burning calories while standing still. Before you get jealous, imagine having an elevated heartbeat and tense body at 3 a.m., when you’ve been peacefully sleeping, and now you can’t fall back asleep.
Other times, I’ll be getting ready for bed or prepping for the next day when I swear I hear him crying. I watch the monitor, waiting for the lights to flash as they do when it detects sound, fearing that if I blink he’ll wake up. But it’s all in my head– he’s silent, sound asleep (for the time being), and my fears are manifesting into phantom baby noises.
Now on to that rubber ball of anxiety that has taken up residence in my throat. As a laid-back person, I never thought I’d be one of those people who check on their baby three times before they can go to sleep. But now I find myself tip-toeing into his room, peering at the crib, and even once putting my hand on his back because it was too dark to see the steady rise and fall of his chest. I hear stories of terrible things happening to other families, car accidents and SIDS and horrors galore. Immediately I place my family in that situation, and I’m absolutely heartbroken. I’ve always been empathetic, but now I’m too much so to even read the newspaper.
It isn’t just tragedies that strike fear in my heart. Often J and little bear will be playing, and my mind knows that everything is fine, little one is giggling as J tosses him a little in the air. But I gasp. Audibly. I know if it wasn’t safe, J wouldn’t do it. I know if little bear was scared of felt endangered, he’d cry. Yet still my heart stops and I see every which way it could go wrong.
This is a side of parenting I wasn’t warned about. Even the most innocuous occurrences seem fraught with danger. I worry incessantly, and if it were an Olympic sport I would surely take the gold. But it’s a hindrance, and one I’m working to overcome. Yes, the world can be a dangerous and scary place. But I’m an adventurous spirit, and I refuse to let fear rule. I’ll still probably gasp too often, but that’s OK. Now if only the baby monitor would let me get some sleep.