I want to preface this post with a very big I AM OKAY – because it (spoiler!) deals with some new-mom emotions. I am not depressed, please don’t worry, but we all have tough bits and this was one of mine. Okay? Onward!
If you’d asked me before last week what I was afraid of, you’d probably get an answer like “spiders.” You still might, really, because eeeeeech. But until last week I had never known fear like what I experienced when I saw “the face.”
Poor, wee Isaac had a nasty case of diaper rash, and to help sort it out, we were having some quality naked-baby time to air out his tush. And, as eventually happens with babies (naked or not), he peed. Except he ended up with fresh, hot urine on his burning, exposed rash (for those without kids, baby pee & poo, when combined, create a reaction that turns caustic and eats away at tender flesh – that’s diaper rash).
And that’s when he made “the face.”
He turned bright red, his eyes watered up and glazed over, he screamed in a way I’ve never heard before. Like Clarice’s lambs. My baby was in the throes of complete, utter and abject terror. He was really hurt and so very afraid.
Even getting his vaccinations, or when I’ve taken a small chunk out of his fingertip when trying to cut his nails, Isaac’s yelling and tears are more angry and indignant than afraid. They come by accident, or for his own good. And in any case, they’re quickly forgiven and forgotten, by both of us.
But this one’s different. Not for Isaac. He has (I hope) gotten over it the way he gets over most things. He was cleaned up, made comfortable and returned to his usual smiles.
For me though, that face haunts me. Seeing it again is what I’m afraid of.
And I am not a “soft mom” – I am pretty nonplussed by Isaac’s cries, because frankly he can be an impertinent asshole. It is also one of the few forms of communication available to him, so it’s what comes out when he’s over-tired, over-wet or over-hungry. We solve the problem and move on.
But those terrified shrieks and wails, as if he really believed his little life was in grave, imminent danger and going to end in a torturous, painful way, they broke me. They are what I see and hear in my imagination in dark moments when I’m extra tired or feeling sad. The fear that he will ever feel that way again just wrecks me. Especially knowing if it does, I may not be able to prevent or fix it.
Also, knowing that I would do anything, anything, for him to not feel like that.
I suppose you may already know this fear if you are particularly empathetic. But I strongly suspect this is what the nebulous “they” are talking about when they say you do not know how fiercely you can feel about another person until you’re a parent. And frankly, it’s as overwhelmingly frightening as it is overwhelmingly wonderful.