When CC was an infant I would sometimes wake in the night with my heart pounding out of my chest, overcome with the pure and undiluted anxiety that I imagine all mothers must taste at some point or another. Those were the times when I thanked goodness for the invention of our co-sleeper, a device that allowed my baby to remain within touching distance throughout the long nights of his infancy. I would reach out, lay my hand on his sleeping belly, wait breathlessly, and finally exhale when I was rewarded with some small sound or movement.
During the years I waited to become a mother there were countless emotions that I had come to expect. I knew I might feel inexplicably sad at times, and profoundly happy at others. I thought I might catch myself in moments of insecurity or even jealousy as I found my place in the world of parenthood. Of course I anticipated exhaustion and love, but there was one feeling I was surprised by. I had no idea how vulnerable being a mother would make me feel.
Here I was, having just gone through a seriously traumatic physical event and suddenly saddled with the enormous responsibility of caring for another human life - one that not only seemed unbelievably fragile, but also incomparably precious. I know mothers say this all the time, but I am yet to come up with a better comparison. It felt like my heart was suddenly living outside of my body. It wasn't just the baby who felt tiny and fragile, but me as well. I knew without a doubt that this child had the power to utterly destroy me. I couldn't imagine living without him. The fear that comes with that kind of love is a hard thing to learn to live with.
Even now, almost seventeen months after CC was born I still wake in the night, startled awake and instantly fearful of the reason. Some nights I can collect myself well enough to lay back down and close my eyes. Other times I indulge my anxiety by making a short trip on tiptoe from my bedroom to his. I lay my hand on his back, feel that warm rumble of his hot little body, stare at his sweet dreaming face, and finally exhale.
Fear is a powerful thing. While it can certainly help us to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe it can also work against us - robbing us of the joy we would experience in its absence. During my first trimester with CC I was told again and again by different doctors to prepare myself for his loss. They couldn't guarantee that he would make it so their best advice was for me to get ready for the worst. I took their advice and spent almost two weeks in utter misery. Dwelling in that fear - a fear of something I could do absolutely nothing about - left me depressed and riddled with anxiety. I felt like I couldn't enjoy being pregnant. I couldn't make plans. I couldn't daydream or look forward, or even hope my baby would be ok
I was trying to do the impossible - protect myself from the pain of losing a baby. Eventually I decided that there wasn't anything I could do to prepare for something that awful. Instead I chose to let that fear go (to the best of my ability) and assume that my baby would be OK. I daydreamed. I made plans. I looked forward. Lucky for us, that hard time passed and CC was born a happy and healthy, though very tiny.
Having at other times experienced loss despite having a positive outlook I don't believe my decision to let go of fear was what saved him. I think he was simply meant to make it. The outlook that I chose to keep throughout that pregnancy did make the whole thing much easier on me though, and when you are dealing with a high risk pregnancy I'm sure keeping mama's stress levels under control does help keep baby healthier too. I guess it's safe to say that we both benefited from a positive outlook.
After my miscarriage earlier this year and my Factor V diagnosis I am having to face that kind of fear once again. I've been struggling with it a lot, especially as we decide whether or not we are ready to being trying to have another baby. Right after my loss all I wanted was to be pregnant again - to move on. I think I expected a new pregnancy to save me from the heartache I was going through, but as soon as our first window opened up I found myself terrified to pull the trigger.
I suddenly started freaking out about book deadlines and career plans. I crunched numbers over hospital birth costs. I pulled out all of my old adoption information and started trying to figure out how we could make that work. I even started considering all the benefits CC might enjoy as an only child. I thought of just about every reason I could to NOT get pregnant again.
So here I go again, trying to protect myself from something that is just too painful to buffer. My instinct is to run away and just avoid the possibility of having to go through another loss. The problem with that plan is that I DO want another baby. I really do - and if that is ever going to happen I need to get a handle on my fear. I'm terrified to try again, but if I don't I am guaranteed to lose out on having another baby.
The funny thing is that if you think about it, every mother has to face this same fear every day anyway, right? Life is fragile, and we are all in danger of being crushed by loss every single day. We can choose to live obsessed with that frailty, constantly terrified of losing the ones we love, or we can decide to reject fear and live happily instead. If we don't, we'll spend every night of our lives sitting up in our beds scared for our children. Before we know it they will be too old to tiptoe over to, and then what?
Love comes at a price. The cost is the risk of its loss. The more we receive the more we stand to lose, but what would life we without that gamble?