The Ongoing Panic Attack of Parenting 

The Ongoing Panic Attack of Parenting 

Wow, some days parenting just feels so huge and heavy. Does everyone else feel like this too? Weighed down by the incredible responsibility of having small kids, of keeping them alive and making the right decisions for them? That, and finding the balance between taking such a responsibility seriously, while remembering that they’re their own little people. That I can’t blame myself for everything that happens to them.

Its like I’ve got the tiniest, most important part (or parts) of myself living outside of my body, exposed, vulnerable, sometimes even in a different city from me. Or, as my husband put it – it’s like having your heart in a microwave, with a toddler hell-bent on pressing all the buttons.

It’s fucking terrifying.

Today I’m particularly worked up, after taking Little A to the clinic to get blood drawn this morning. It’s a minor part of an ongoing saga – likely fueled by a couple of weeks of particularly shitty sleep and a bonus miserable toddler with a fever.

When Little A was about a month old she started showing signs of an allergy, and we’ve spent the past three months trying to figure out exactly what’s triggering it. She’s exclusively breastfed, so that basically means going through a painstaking process of eliminating foods from my diet to find the culprit. I’ve spent hours upon hours reading on the topic and consulting with various doctors, and generally feel informed and confident that this is the right course of action. And now it’s clear that we’re on the right track, but fuck it’s hard to stay sure of yourself when it’s your kid’s health that’s on the line.

There are moments when I completely totally lose my shit over this. She sniffles a bit after nursing and my mind starts racing to extreme allergic reactions and respiratory arrest and calling an ambulance and not remembering the number for an ambulance here and  how I would even explain to them what’s going on and who would be with GG in an emergency situation anyway. And in the meantime Little A has dozed off on my shoulder and is quite obviously not having any breathing issues, and I’m halfway to a full blown panic attack.

The last month or so have been symptom-free – woohoo! – and I’ve been slowly able to add foods back into my diet. But I still worry all the time – that the doctors have missed something, that I ate something wrong by mistake, that I should have put her on hypoallergenic formula months ago anyway.

Is this sort of constant anxiety reasonable? I mean, seeing blood in a newborn’s nappy is pretty worrying so maybe it is. But when I think about it, I was worried before the intolerance presented. I was worried that something was wrong when she was teeny tiny, despite all the early checkups coming back fine. And through the pregnancy I had moments of being an utter wreck, too. I rationalized that this made sense – I’d lost the previous two pregnancies after all – but the truth is that I worried like this when GG was tiny, too. Randomly convinced myself that he’d stopped breathing, terrified that something would go wrong.

I guess this is just my parenting default status. A cool, calm exterior with a neurotic center. Awesome.

Back to this morning. It was a fairly routine test and I held it together for Little A’s sake, but when my husband called afterward I was in tears in the clinic bathroom, my head spinning with what-if’s, worrying that something was terribly wrong and that it was all my fault. Granted, it’s no fun to get blood drawn from a four-month old, but this flood of anxiety was more than that. It was about the existential terror of caring about another life more than your own. Fear based in the knowledge that so much is out of our control.

The thing is – the neurotic mess you’re picturing when you read this, I’m not that type of parent. At least I don’t see myself that way. These worries usually take a backseat – they’re not the driving force in my decision-making.  But they’re always there, simmering under the surface, ready to spill out whenever there’s a crack in the exterior.

I don’t really see a way to stop these anxious thoughts from arising altogether – but I’m gonna do my best not to let them get the better of me. So I’m gonna finish this post, send it out into the universe, and then take a few minutes to meditate – before one or both of my beautiful babies wake up and set me off all over again.

A rare photo of me with both kids
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