Sometimes, it feels as if I am hardwired for fear. When I start awake in the middle of the night, every slammed car door or clanking muffler or raised voice on the street is full of portent. I jump from bed, heart pounding, and pull aside the curtains, just a little. I scan the street, check for danger.
I hate that I do this, and I don’t know where it comes from, this fear. During the day, I laugh about it, make fun of myself to my friends. I talk myself out of it—the imagined threats, the real threats, the midnight specters. But then night falls again, and I am up, checking the window, checking on Stella, listening, vigilant.
What is this about? Am I really this scared? (I haven’t always been this way, or at least not to this degree.) Is this just the way anxiety about other aspects of my life has decided to present itself? Some kind of fear transference?
It could be, and if it is, I have an inkling about the true source of my fear. It’s been festering for a while now.
I’m scared of having another baby. I’m scared of another pregnancy, of what can go wrong.
When I stare at Stella long enough, I see two versions of her. One version is whimsical, different each day. This version stands on the porch, jumps up and down and shouts “Sweeper truck! Sweeper truck!” as a blue truck rolls down our street, its huge brushes churning and scattering leaves and dirt. This version becomes a whirling dervish when I put on salsa music. She says, “Mom, let’s dance.” This version loves “Joy to the World” and sings it daily, though it’s painfully out of season.
The other version of Stella is fixed. This version weighs less than three pounds and lies on a warming table under bright lights. Her legs are thin as sticks. Tubes and wires snake across her distended belly and into the stub of her umbilical cord. A ventilator tube covers her mouth, reaches its slender arm down her throat.
I cannot reconcile these two versions of my daughter, cannot wrap my mind around the fact that one became the other. I can’t shake how lucky we were, how lucky she was.
And this is my fear, that we will end up in the NICU a second time and that we won’t be as lucky.
The things that scare me most are those that I can control least: war, environmental toxins, whether or not I will get preeclampsia again. So, what to do with myself, with all this anxiety?
I have found that the only way to sleep, the only way to not make myself crazy with worry is to run. Four times a week, I sit on our front steps and slip on my running shoes. I fasten my watch and adjust the Velcro on my visor. Then I run. I don’t run very far or very fast, but still, there is something about pumping my arms and legs, about pounding the ground underfoot that helps me let go of my need to control everything. And I have found, in the last weeks, that admitting how little control I have over The Big Fears, has actually made me feel less scared. I’m calmer. I wake up less frequently.
Will I ever be completely cured of my desire to micro-manage the world? Will I be able to make it through a second pregnancy free of worry? Probably not, but when I really start to spiral, I now know that the best thing I can do for myself is to get outside and run, as far and as fast as I can.
Fearless Friday was inspired by Arianna Huffington – On Becoming Fearless. To read all the fearless blogger posts, visit MotherTalk.