This morning I had to tell my daughter to put her shoes on 378 times – approximately. After I raised my voice because we were going to be late for school/work, I felt guilty. I mean I should feel lucky that I have a preschooler who is too lazy to put her shoes on on a Friday morning. I try to give myself the grace to feel frustrated in parenting moments, but then the guilt creeps back in. I know so many who would give anything to have a little one to be frustrated with. I mean isn’t this what I prayed and prayed for after we lost our son? How dare I not enjoy every single second with this sweet girl I get to call my daughter.
I drove her to school and then felt guilty that I was leaving her at preschool while I went to work. How can I ever trust someone else to watch my child when I trusted doctors and nurses to watch and protect my son and then he died…in their care. I remind myself how much she loves school and her friends and how much I know her teachers adore her and try to take a deep breath. I still drive by the preschool on my lunch break. You know, just to make sure the building isn’t on fire. Irrational thoughts, worst case scenarios, and fears are my specialty.
Related: 3 Lessons on Loss from My Rainbow
While at work I hear someone joke that something is expensive, “That’ll cost you your first born.” I don’t laugh. I feel anger inside as don’t they know I’ve already paid that price. It’s not a funny joke. Later someone I haven’t seen in awhile asks how old my daughter is now. When I say four, they ask if we are going to have another one soon. She needs a brother or sister, you know. Yes, and she has a brother. I wish more than anything that you could see that too. We barely survived the anxiety of being pregnant with her. I’m not sure any of us could make it through another one.
I pick my daughter up from preschool and stop by the park on the way home. It’s a beautiful day. I watch as the other moms and dads relax on park benches next to the playground as their children play nearby. I stay close. Always within an arm’s reach of her. I know she is four now and can easily navigate the ladder, rope climb, and swings on her own, but what if she slips. I stay close so I can catch her quickly if she starts to fall. I keep my eyes locked on her. What if that stranger tries to grab her. I stay close so I can keep her safe. I know the other parents think I’m a helicopter mom. Really I’m just a mom who has lived my worst nightmare and refuses to relax when it comes to keeping my daughter safe.
After the park, we have to stop by the grocery store. I hear the usual comments about how she is just so pretty. I smile and we both say thank you. Then the questions start. How old is she? Is she your only child? I try to quickly gauge the situation. Do I really feel like telling the truth and making this nice old lady uncomfortable or do I lie and then feel guilty that I didn’t acknowledge my son. Yes, sort of I answer. Her older brother passed away shortly after birth. Please let this end the conversation, I think as I really just need to get some milk and get home.
At home, my daughter asks me to play with her. I would love to, but momma really needs to get dinner started. Maybe we can play after I try to let her down gently. She looks at me with sad eyes as she says she just loves me and wants to play. I give in and sit down to play with her. I know I have dinner to start, breakfast dishes to wash, and clothes that still need to be folded, but they can wait. There was a time I didn’t think I get the chance to sit down and play Barbies, so I do.
Bedtime comes and she just wants me to stay and cuddle. I read her one more story and give some extra cuddles. I promise to come back and check on her soon. But those dishes from breakfast are now buried under dishes from dinner and really need to be washed. I kiss her one more time and go to the kitchen. I know that she needs rest, but my heart is torn. All I want to do is to pick her up and hold her tight. I go to check on her. She is already sound asleep. I stand and watch her breathe. I will come back and check that she is still breathing at least four more times tonight. In the middle of the night, I wake up in a panic. I haven’t checked on her in a few hours and I can’t hear her. What if she isn’t breathing? I walk quickly to her room. She has turned herself sideways in her bed, but she is, of course, still breathing.
My anxiety and fear never stop.