Becoming a parent brings with it a whole heap of emotions and feelings. There’s love, pride, amazement, worry, guilt and every parent’s favourite, self-doubt.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the fear. When I say fear, I mean heart simultaneously stopping, dropping down to your stomach, then, bouncing back up into your mouth fear. The kind of fear that leaves you momentarily frozen to the spot and unsure as to whether you might crap your pants or throw up in your mouth a little. And it’s not always a logical fear. It stems from ‘thinking the worst’ and it is the result of many many purchases of Garnier Nutrisse (other hair dye brands are available!) to hide those Grey hairs.
These heart stopping moments start before you’ve had a chance to catch your breath from birthing your life changing bundle of joy. The husband had his first heart stopping moment the day after we brought our first-born home. We had just done the first bath time (terrifying experience in itself), husband was getting the baby dressed when he stopped in his tracks, went very pale and in a very panicked voice said to me “he’s got six toes” (on the one foot). He doesn’t, he has the designated five, and no more. Husband counted three times, and each time he somehow came up with six?! In his defense, he was at that time a very inexperienced and very very sleep deprived parent.
However, experience and sleep doesn’t stop the heart stopping fear. I don’t think anything ever will.
Now I’m not talking children’s dreams here. I’m talking about the first few weeks with a newborn. The nights are long, hard and exhausting. You finally settle the baby and tip toe back into bed. You are asleep before your head touches the pillow. Then suddenly you are awake, sitting bolt upright in bed, your heart racing, gasping for breath, saying “where’s the baby?”. The baby is of course fast asleep in their crib where you left them. This happened to me so many times with both my children when they were tiny. The husband experienced the same thing, so if I wasn’t waking myself up in blind panic, he was doing it for me. I know, I am aware we sound bat shit crazy. But from talking to other parents we are not the only ones. Really. It’s not just us. Honest.
The First Time Your Baby Sleeps Through:
I know, I know, it’s a cause for absolute celebration. It’s the happiest of all occasions. It’s the answer to all your prayers, wishes and down on your knees pleas. Except for the first time. The first time it happens, your baby will sleep blissfully through the night, but you won’t. There’s not a cat in hell chance. You will wake at around midnight and start calculating how many more zeds you can catch before the next feed. From then on, you will awake with the same heart stopping fear every 20 minutes wondering why your baby hasn’t stirred. You will check on them, and worry, and toss and turn. until you eventually get back to sleep, only to repeat this cycle. All. Night. Long. In the morning your husband, who also had the pleasure of sleeping through the night, will question your grumpiness and need for caffeine when the baby slept so well.
When the baby is not where you left them:
Ever walk into the nursery to get your baby from their cot and have a heart attack because you can’t see them? Yeah that. They have not only managed to wiggle themselves down to the foot of the cot, but they are also horizontal. Therefore momentarily out of sight and not where you left them.
The first time they bump their head:
I say first because it definitely won’t be the last. But the first time is horrible. One minute they are sitting cleverly all by themselves and the next they aren’t. These heart stopping moments never stop. You become an expert at recognising the ‘pain scream’. Your heart will stop every time. Even when it’s not your child screaming!
When they wake you up:
Once children make the transition from cot to bed their own free will comes into play. They no longer have to wait for you to come get them when they wake up. Instead they can creep ninja like into your bedroom to wake you. And when I say wake you, I don’t mean a gentle rousing from your slumber. No, the preferred method to wake a sleeping parent is to physically open their eyes for them by peeling back their eyelids with two small fingers. You wake with a scream. The child then screams. Your husband then wakes with a scream. The child then screams again. You get the picture.
When They make a run for it:
You’ve given up trying to wrestle your child into the buggy and accepted that your child might actually be physically stronger than you. Seriously getting a toddler into a buggy could be used to train people for crocodile wresting (if that’s your kind of thing). You are now walking everywhere (and having to leave half an hour earlier to get there). It’s all going well until they decide to break free of your hand and run. You start calmly calling for them to stop, then you start shouting. Then the road gets closer, the heart stopping fear kicks in, and you run. The toddler thinks this is a hilarious game and ups their speed. You catch them before they come to any harm but you might now be having an actual heart attack. Geez kids are fast.
That sentence never starts in the privacy of your own home. The end of that sentence never bodes well for you. Your heart will plummet and you will hold your breath until the sentence is complete. If you’re lucky it will be “Mummy said I can have an ice-lolly”, but let’s be honest, it’s far more likely to be “Mummy said you are the noisiest neighbours ever” or “Mummy said my willy will fall off if I keep playing with it”. Mummy should remember there’s always little ears around.
You and the husband are curled up on the sofa watching TV. The kids are tucked up in bed fast asleep. Everything is calm and peaceful. You are savoring the moment before the chaos begins again in the morning. Then suddenly you hear a creepy voice singing a song about ABC’s and your husband has to peel you down from the ceiling. Toys that suddenly come to life of their own accord should be disposed of. Do you not remember Chucky?
What heart stopping moments of parenthood have you endured?
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