From the moment she heard she was pregnant she was terrified of the baby’s death. She immediately enrolled in a CPR course. She began researching cribs and bathtubs and everything she could find on infant death, causes, ways to avoid. She couldn’t seem to stop herself from seeing ways her child could die in her home, in a car seat, in a stroller. Reading about children around the world she began to put together a plan for how she would keep this child, her child, alive.
There was no sense to this fear. Her husband told her so, tried to convince her they lived in the most affluent country in the world, there was absolutely no reason why she wouldn’t have the very best care, her child wouldn’t receive the very best care, no reason whatsoever to believe anything bad could possibly happen to their baby. And she agreed, nodding, in his presence. She truly agreed. In his presence.
But when she was alone, when she was reading one of her endless supplies of baby books or putting together the baby registry her family insisted upon, then in those moments, when it was just her and this little being inside her, she became terrified again that it would die in her charge.
By now she’d learned not to say anything to anyone about her fear. Everyone, her husband, her doctor, her mother, they all looked at her askance when she said anything and asked her if she maybe wanted to see a therapist or go to some mommy and me groups now, in preparation. So she simply stopped talking about it. But the thoughts were there. She couldn’t stop them.
When the baby finally arrived, and why do they say that, by the way? It’s not like she just waited around watching Netflix until the doorbell rang, “oh, honey, look! The baby has arrived!” At any rate, when the magical day arrived, and it truly was magnificent, she looked upon her new baby and decided she had truly been a little insane. Nothing terrible was going to happen to this baby. Because she wouldn’t let it.
She determined that like one of the many tribes she’d read about, her baby would not be placed out of arms once in it’s entire first year. She also decided they would co-sleep as it was recommended by groups like La Leche League and was actually shown to decrease incidence of SIDS. She decided she would handle bath time personally as it was the one daily ritual with the highest incidence of associated death. And this was how it continued for the first two years.
And then she learned she was pregnant again.
Her arms were already in use with the first child, how would she keep a second child in arms for an entire year? Their bed was already full with them and the first child, how would they add another? Bath time. How could she possibly keep an eye on two heads at once? She babbled all this to her husband who stopped for a moment, looking deeply into her eyes before asking, “are you serious?”
To which she could only reply, “no,” and laugh, “no, of course not. I’m just so excited and so nervous…a new baby!” she said.
He laughed and smiled, too, but from then on she’d occasionally catch him looking at her, an odd expression on his face. And he became a bit more forceful in his requests to take over bath time every now and again. And she found herself running out of excuses for why he couldn’t.
By the time the second baby arrived, (pause Netflix to answer the door, surprise! Your new baby has arrived!), she’d convinced herself that after seven months the children didn’t really need her to hawkeye them the entire time they were in the tub. She could go pee in the toilet next to the tub, for example, glancing away to wipe, pull up her pants, flush, wash her hands. Of course she kept her eyes on them as much as possible and kept her ears especially open for any sounds indicating trouble, but the longer both kids remained alive and well, the more she began to realize she’d been perhaps a bit over the top in her concern.
Once she could safely pee with them in the tub, she began to think of other things she could safely do. And so a couple nights a week she’d put a basket of clean laundry in the bathroom for her to fold while the kids were bathing. She could keep her eyes mostly on the kids with an occasional glance down to pick up the next item or put the current item down. Once that was working smoothly she decided there was no reason she couldn’t clean the bathroom while the kids were in the tub. And so she started cleaning the sinks. And then one night cleaning the toilet. The mirrors on another night. Before she knew it she was getting some chores done smoothly and efficiently with no adverse affects to the children and feeling quite proud of her newfound sense of mommyhood. She was practically a pro.
As the kids got older and the youngest one got old enough to play games, the two would sit in the tub making up stories with their toys, or blowing bubbles in the bathwater, or taking turns holding their breath under water. This always terrified her, despite how calm she attempted to appear on the outside. She couldn’t help but tell them they must never play that game unless she was watching, to which they always gave her a funny look and said something along the lines of “but you’re always watching,” to which she’d blush a bit and nod.
One night, when they’d been playing at holding their breath for a very long time her nerves got the better of her and she finally had to tell them to stop. “It’s time to get out,” she said, attempting to put a bit of a singsong into her voice. This was met with all sorts of “ah, moms,” and cries of “five more minutes!” She sighed and aquiesced.
Remaining in her station sitting upon the toilet seat cover, she dropped her head in her hands for a moment to massage her scalp. She would figure this out. Maybe she would go see a therapist. That wasn’t such a taboo thing anymore, lots of people went to therapy, it had it’s own badge of honor now. Yes, that’s what she’d do, she thought.
“Look mom! Baby holds breath for a long time!” She heard.
Turning to look she saw the smaller form stationary under the water and shrieked. It wasn’t a scream, it wasn’t throaty and hearty, it was a shriek like seeing a mouse scurry across the floor. She dove towards the tub, her arms reaching in and under and grabbing the little form roughly, wrenching it out of the water. She threw the little body across her knees and began pressing the little chest, two fingers forced down, one two three. She turned the little body upside down and gave a small shake, flipping it back around and breathing gentle puffs into the perfect mouth.
Her husband had come running when she shrieked and seeing what was happening he was asking all the questions, his voice rising as she didn’t answer, too busy trying to give life to the little form a second time.
~~~That’s one hour~~~