I often ponder if it’s possible that I may have an actual diagnosable mental condition. Or if the utterly ridiculous feelings and anxieties I experience every day are actually normal parental behaviour.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant, my ‘worst case scenario’ head was firmly screwed on, and unfortunately it’s still not loosened even a tiny bit 5 years later. As a hormonal Pregzilla, I was always in a panic. “It’s snowing… What if I fall and hurt the baby?”. “What if a small glass of champagne on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (the only alcoholic drink which passed my lips as an expectant Mum) causes some horrific birth defect?” I obsessed over statistics. Reading that 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage meant that we were too scared to tell anyone we were having a baby. A 1 in 4 chance that our little peanut wouldn’t make it- and we couldn’t risk putting more people through that than necessary. 1 in 160 chance of a stillborn child, 1 in 33 chance of a birth defect… I decided that if I constantly contemplated the worst, I couldn’t possibly be disappointed, a mantra which I struggle to shake off.
I remember going on maternity leave, before the baby came. I would be home alone, sitting on the nursery floor cradling my bump, sobbing my heart out, terrified at the thought that my precious boy wouldn’t make it. And then when it came to his time to make an appearance, a traumatic labour didn’t help much… The poor thing had his cord wrapped round his neck. But once he was born and the hoard of medical staff had attended to him on a resuscitation table, they passed him to me. And in that moment I felt overwhelmingly that everything was OK, because he was OK. I felt calm, still, and like I wanted to sleep, because for the first time in 8 months, I could sleep without worrying.
That gloriously euphoric feeling lasted for about 12 seconds, then came a whole new level of panic.
Everything changes when your baby is born. As a single non-parent, I used to watch fundraisers like Children In Need and while I comprehended that it was sad, I didn’t really feel anything. Fast forward a few years, and I had to go to bed in the middle of Stand Up To Cancer because I couldn’t bear watching the stories. I was beyond normal crying and into the headache-inducing, snotty wailing. I then couldn’t sleep for worrying about the fact that 1 in 2 people will get cancer in their lifetime, and I prayed (as a strict atheist that was a big deal) that it would be me and not my husband or my son. After an hour or so, I think I finally drifted off thanks to Googling symptoms of cancer in children and deciding that I probably didn’t have to worry quite so much just yet.
I see now how my general insanity has affected my boy. If I’m honest, he’s a bit of a pansy. But can I really be surprised? The poor lad can’t even break into a run without me telling him he’ll fracture all his limbs. He’s ended up in an ambulance or at least at A&E every time he has a cold. Now he’s 4, I finally reluctantly agreed to take down the baby gates, but still refuse to allow him in water and don’t want his stabilisers off for a good 5 years.
I can’t fathom the reasoning of the easygoing parents who say things like, “boys will be boys” and who think that falling in the park is good for them, rather than screaming bloody murder and dramatically sprinting to their rescue as if they had been hit by an artic lorry.
Unfortunately for my little one, I can’t change. I wish that I didn’t get a heart-wrenching feeling of dread every time I see a missed call from school. And I wish that on a lazy Sunday morning, I didn’t have to run to his bedroom to make sure his chest is moving up and down, just because he’s not awake by 8.00am. Sadly though, that’s just me. I will always be ridiculously over-protective.
So to my lovely son, I can only apologise for the wussiness. I accept full responsibility.