I'm a worrier. My friends, family and especially my husband will tell you that's an almost laughable understatement. In the best of times, I lie awake in the wee hours of the morning, worrying about how I will manage to do all the wonderful things I've committed to doing. In the worst of times, the worrying extends both earlier and later, and I've been known to sleep not at all.
When you have a baby, there are exponentially more things to worry about. For some mothers, the anxiety starts before the offspring even arrives. I was surprisingly serene during my pregnancy despite the death of my dad and twenty weeks of all-day morning sickness. I think I somehow knew that my balanced well-being would benefit my baby. There were plenty of sleepless nights at the end, but that was more from swollen ankles and a bulging belly than nerves.
As mothers, we have to push our worries aside or we can't function at all. Let's face it, the world is a very scary place — as we are reminded every single night on network news. Abductions. School shootings. Hit and run drivers. Children-in-peril stories are constantly in the headlines. Here in the Boston area, we've had months of Baby Jane Doe, now known as Baby Bella, the poor little toddler whose body was left on a harbor island beach.
Popular culture doesn't help either. Besides the more realistic dramas like CSI, there are Zombie Apocalypses, Blood-Sucking Vampires, Sorority Serial Killers and even Shark Tornadoes. Now, do I really think that a vampire-zombie-shark is going to attack my daughter and her sorority sisters? No. But, still the atmosphere of doom and gloom, and reason to worry is palpable.
Of course, the less special effect-y worries started early. At just three days old, my daughter had an eye infection. ("I'm a horrible mother," I wailed.) A year or so later, we woke up to what sounded like a dog barking in her bedroom, and I ended up spending a good portion of the night with her out on our porch, wrapped in down comforters. Again, croup isn't exactly the stuff that horror films are made of, but it was horrible enough for me.
We've had it pretty easy, actually. Despite my daughter's predilection for jumping over logs on the back of a horse, we've had no broken bones yet and only a couple of "possible" concussions. She either failed or passed the concussion test by so slim a margin that the results were inconclusive.
These days, I worry less about equestrian accidents and more about my daughter's newfound — and much cherished — autonomy. She drives (carefully and with her phone on airplane mode, so she says) and she goes to concerts with friends out-of-town or even out-of-state. She stays up (and sometimes out) much later than I do. She has a whole life that I'm not a part of.
And, if I think too much about it, I'm going to worry myself to death.
So, I try not to. I remember my own adventures at eighteen. (Eighteen? OMG.) I think about the world and the odds and the fact that most people are good and kind and would help a couple of teenagers if their car broke down or they lost their wallets or ... or ... or ...
Mostly, I try not to think about it.
Having a child is the greatest act of faith you can commit. As Elizabeth Stone famously said, "It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
I've learned to count on my daughter's intelligence and good judgement. And I have to believe that the world is essentially a benign and benevolent place (zombies and vampires and flying sharks aside). I try not to lose too much sleep. Well, no more than I would lose otherwise.
Motherhood used to be a matter of vigilance. Now, I guess it's a matter of trust.
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