R and I made a trip to Universal Studios, Singapore last year. We rode an amazing roller-coaster that gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘But I would totally do that again,’ I told R afterwards. ‘It was addictive.’ Now, several months later, my wish has been fulfilled. My life has basically transformed into a roller-coaster—one that scares me to death, but one I cannot imagine changing. Life with a baby when you suffer from anxiety can be downright crazy. Some days, I don’t even know how I function. Let me demonstrate.
The baby hasn’t been pooping for a while. Oh well, he seems happy. Don’t breastfed babies poop less frequently anyway? But…what if he is constipated? Maybe that weird noise he was making has something to do with it? Should I call the doctor? But…didn’t she check him just two days ago and assure you all was well?
Ah, stupid you. Go and take a shower while he is napping. Get that heady smell of spit-up and milk off with that nice shower gel you bought on impulse.
Ah, the water feels terrific against my skin. It is as if all my exhaustion is getting washed away. I feel like a new person. One who is happy and peaceful and mindful and believes in embracing the moment.
So…what should I think about?
Perhaps the chicken curry I am going to cook for dinner. Or, that nice dress R bought for me as a treat.
But hey, did the baby poop yet?! What if something is wrong with him? What if he has been sobbing away as I have lathered my skin with that dratted strawberry soap? It doesn’t even smell all that good! Damn you, shower!
I then proceed to walk to the nursery all drenched, little droplets of water gathering around my feet. The angel child is sleeping peacefully, his right arm covering his eyes.
‘You are fine,’ I get told. ‘Every parent worries about their baby. It is normal.’
‘Of course it is,’ I agree emphatically and shrug my shoulders.
When no one is looking, I scroll through pictures on my phone. Does that look like a skin rash? Doesn’t his head seem weird? Why do his eyes seem so droopy? A voice in my head begins to rationalize everything.
You are ridiculous. He is perfectly well. He is a happy, healthy baby. All babies fall ill from time to time. They cry from time to time too, for that is how they communicate. As they grow older, they become more independent, more mobile, more resilient. You won’t have to fret quite as much. Diaper rashes and erratic feeding will give way to homework troubles and squabbles with classmates and puppy love and career confusions. He will be able to talk to you. It won’t all be a mystery.
There you go. You are an intelligent, sensible woman. Do not worry so.
Okay, I won’t.
Not until fifteen minutes have gone by anyway. Then, we will begin again.
If reading that was exhausting, imagine how living it must be like. But fortunately for me, I have learnt that I am not a party of one.
Having a baby is a traumatic experience for both the body and the mind. It exposes you to so many raw truths about the world, about yourself. There is a massive hormonal dip that makes your spirit all woozy, receiving generous aid from sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and cabin fever. In such a scenario, said my doctor, it is common to experience postpartum anxiety. Sometimes, it is also accompanied by postpartum depression. What is important to remember is that it is all normal and manageable. Overreacting is part of our survival instinct which makes us want to do everything in our power to protect and nourish our children. Anxiety does get better with time, if managed properly. This too, like everything else, the good and the bad, shall pass.
Excuse me now, as I go and check on my cutie-patootie for about the hundredth time today. He has recently started to roll over to his belly and seems hell-bent on teaching himself to roll the other way. Life is so full of potential that it is absurd for Mommy to expect him to be patient until he masters it. Sigh.