Saturday, July 24, 2010

Burying my head in the sand

A defining element of motherhood for me has been the intense emotions that some from the "infant survival" instincts.  Any thought of harm coming to my baby, or anyone else's, sends my anxiety through the roof.  I experienced these emotions to an awful degree in the high-SIDS-risk months.   It's also what kept me in such a state of high anxiety--and depression--when I wasn't able to breastfeed my baby well in his first weeks.

Lately, it kicks in whenever I hear a news story about a tragedy involving a child.  For example, last night I watched a Dateline NBC show about a deranged woman who murdered a man after he ended a relationship with her.  The story was told from the perspective of the man's parents, who left their home to move closer to their son's killer and her baby, their only grandchild, born after the murder.  The show was filled with home movies and pictures of the baby, chubby and cherubic like Sam.  It ended in absolutely the worst way possible: a murder-suicide by the woman, stripping from the grandparents the one ray of hope in their lives and depriving an innocent child of his future. This morning I can't stop thinking about this poor child every time I look at Sam.

A few weeks ago, I found myself agonizing for days after listening to a radio interview with a female author of a memoir who discussed in detail aborting a baby in the fourth month of pregnancy after testing positive for a genetic disorder.

And last week, I read an article in Time magazine called "the only child myth," which discussed some things parents consider when deciding whether to have more than one child.  I thought, morbidly, that it did not mention the risk of child loss as a reason for having more than one.

Things like this rarely crossed my mind before I became a mother, and news stories certainly didn't send adrenaline coursing through my blood.   Of course, harm comes to children every day, and lots of it, because of humanity's imperfections.  Not long ago I read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which takes place in mid-century Africa, where women give birth to nine children in the hopes that two will survive to adulthood.  What are the mechanisms that allow people, especially mothers, to cope with the reality of children who suffer, and children who die?
Maybe it will get easier for me to face the truths of the world as Sam gets older. But for now, the only thing I can bring myself to do is turn off the radio and TV and bury my head in the sand.


  1. I get exactly what you're saying! Because of my work in social services before Aidan was born, I was aware of children in less-than-ideal (to put it nicely) circumstances, and I felt bad, but it was just a job. After Aidan was born, it tore my heart right out to be working with those kids. So many of them I wanted to take home with me . . . And articles on the news about kidnappings and murders of children -- those have brought me to tears of anger, sadness, and despair.

    As for your morbid thought of risk of losing your only child as a reason for having more than one -- don't feel alone, I thought it many times both before and after Kenny came along to keep Aidan company. I still have thoughts of somehow losing one or both of them, and would I be able to go on if that happened? My most morbid thought: when Kenyon was just a baby, he looked like Curious George. (That's not the morbid part!) One day I was listening to the radio when he was about 1 1/2, and the theme song from the Curious George movie ("Upside Down" by Jack Johnson) cane on the radio. I thought as I listened to it that that song personified Kenny -- all about being curious about how the world works -- but then at the end of the song the lyrics suddenly get sad (because in the movie all his animal friends go home with their moms, and he falls asleep in a tree by himself) and it asks "Is this how it's supposed to be?" And along comes my most morbid thought ever: If Kenny dies as a child, I want this song played at his funeral. CRIKEY!!! I was horrified at myself!!! To this day, every time I hear that song, memories of my morbid moment pop into my head. Kind of ruined the song for me.

    And does it get easier to face down that fear for your child's survival as they get older? No, I'm sorry Lynne -- as long as you're a mom, you're going to have those feelings, and they don't get any easier. On top of that, you will start to have to teach Sam those things, that people die, that there are people out there that hurt kids, that some kids just have terrible things happen to them. To teach that to you child, and to see the look in their eyes when they understand it -- that hurts.

    Where are you burying your head in the sand? I'd like to join you for a while, please! :-)

  2. I was an avid Law & Order fan, even the SVU's, but now? No way! I shun all crime-related shows, as most of them now incorporate some sickness of child torture, abuse, death, molestation, etc. It's so wrong. Yes, it happens, but I feel like media preys on females and moms and embellishes (?) it even more.

    I was a freak about SIDS the first time around, and in the beginning a bit with Karter. I would have to TOUCH Kian and feel the rise and fall of his chest before I could feel okay, and check it every time I woke up. But clearly got over that fast- as the Karter sleeps with blankets, since birth, and has stuffed animals in his crib since about 5-6 months =)

    Definitely somethings get easier the next time around, but not stories like that. It makes you seek out your kids immediately, kiss them and be so thankful they're okay.

    Tabitha is right, it changes. Now, we have to talk to Kian about animals being sick or dying, or even why Kevin's grandma is in the nursing home, etc. And with moving, it's a new sadness for him and confusion. Or when another child hurts him or he got in trouble at daycare for something he insists he didn't do, or that the teacher didn't see what another child did to him, it breaks your heart in a new way every time.

    The flip side of that tho, is your heart swells when you see your child using great manners, helping another child out, caring for a younger child/baby, being tender to an animal, wanting to help out those who hurt, are sick, etc. To know and see in action, the things you want to instill in your child, and that you CAN make a difference and raise a caring person--amazing.

    Try the disney channel, that's good for head-burying or PBS- (but never lifetime movies!) at least for an hour...sigh.

  3. It's wonderful to know I am not alone. I especially love the "flip side" part--I can use this to redirect negative thoughts. Thank you to my two best commenters for sharing your stories.