When someone dies, it is usually a (harsh) reminder of the preciousness of life.
Conversely, I have found that through becoming a parent, the preciousness of life is a reminder of death.
It happens almost instantly: Mother births baby, mother names baby, mother begins to fear all the ways she will lose baby.
I have never been an optimist, but I certainly have never considered myself to be a doom-and-gloom type. Yet since having my children, I have become shockingly morbid. Grotesquely morbid.
For example, it used to be we would go to a restaurant, order dinner, eat our meal and then leave.
Now, I walk into a restaurant and immediately start picturing the ways my children could die or become seriously injured there. The first step is to look for anyone who could be considered a threat to my child: rambunctious teenagers, clumsy servers, pedophiles (Side note: Being a parent will bring out a very harsh, stereotyping side you never thought you had).
I scour the floors for puddles on which I could slip and inadvertently throw my 1-year-old in the air then helplessly watch as she lands million-dollar-baby-style on the back of a chair. Once I have ascertained the floors are free of tragedy-inducing objects, my eyes dart around for the other hazards: open electrical sockets, steak knives, extra-pointy forks, hot plates.
There is no such thing as enjoying the meal because there is the constant threat of a child choking. Even if everything is going well during dinner, I have one eye on my children, just waiting for their happy little faces to turn blue. If we all survive dinner, there is, of course, the treacherous ride home in which we seemingly encounter every idiot who has ever been granted a driver’s license.
You would think that the crazy-mommy-brain could rest once the kids are tucked safely into bed, but that is when the insanity is kicked into high gear. Probably once a week, if not more, I have trouble going to sleep because my mind is just ticking off the list of things that could kill my kids:
“What if Monster’s cough is actually the start of pneumonia? Despite all of our medical advances, people still die from that. Eliza has been so fussy lately. What if she is having headaches brought on by a brain tumor we have yet to discover? I really need to get an indoor air quality specialist in here to check out ductwork. That article I read about foreign particles infecting our lungs was terrifying. If my son complains one more time about his tummy hurting I have got to get him to a specialist. Gastrointestinal issues are nothing to fool around with, according to my friend’s blog about her son’s battle with something yet to be diagnosed. They are both sleeping so soundly tonight, but maybe that’s because they are actually dead. I should wake them up just to be sure.”
I shake my husband awake. He asks what’s wrong, and this is what comes out of my mouth:
“Well, the kids are fine. Extremely happy and healthy, actually. Our life is pretty close to perfect. But I keep thinking about the kids dying or becoming sick or hurt. I can’t sleep.”
Even as I say it, I realize how ridiculous it is.
David reminds me that worrying is useless, and that I’m simply doing my duty as a mother. “Think of it as a lioness protecting her cubs,” he says as he goes back to sleep.
I smile and finally close my eyes. A lioness sounds much better than a total nut job.