When Ethan and Alex were babies, they slept through the night at a very young age. I'm talking 10 hours before 12 weeks old. I'm not saying this to make others jealous, or wonder what they are doing differently. In fact, in so many ways, I wish they hadn't been such "good" sleepers. Ethan actually started by about 6 weeks or so sleeping very long stretches after having been a pretty sleepy baby and having jaundice for over a month anyway. I think had we been successful with breastfeeding it would have been a much different story, not in a bad or good way, just different. I try not to beat myself up about that, I did what I could, the best I could, for as long as I could at that time, and then we did what was right at that time for our boys. Looking back, it wouldn't have made a difference, at least for E. I was worried he wasn't gaining weight, but he's still very thin and on the taller side. But minimal education and experience with breastfeeding, coupled with some PPD and major anxiety, not eating enough, drinking enough water, or resting enough, I really couldn't breastfeed him with the resources I had. By the time Alex was born, I had already been through the struggle and switch to formula, so I prepared myself for "failure" and when it became the same struggle, I did what was right for us at the time, again. *Note: just because you decide not to breastfeed, or choose to stop at anytime and use formula does NOT make you a failure. I was a failure, in my own mind, for not succeeding in something I had set my mind to do. Please, please know this is not a judgement on anyone, but just how I felt about MYSELF at the time*
Actually I've gone off on a tangent, so back to my topic at hand. Even though E and Alex slept so well, I did not. I was up probably once an hour checking on them in their bassinet, while they were still there till about 12 weeks, and then in their crib in their own room. When Alex was a baby, he and Ethan shared a room, with E in his toddler bed and then twin bed. Even after that point, when I would go in to check on Alex, I HAD to check on Ethan. I was driven by an unseen force within myself to make sure they were ok. It wasn't enough to see the rise and fall of their little chest, I had to lay my hand gently on their tummy and feel them breathing. Every. Hour. Of. Every. Night. For. Years. Probably until about the time Alex was 2 or so.
Fast forward to when Jackson was born. He's only recently started sleeping through the night on a more consistent basis. In fact for the first 5 or 6 months, the only way either of us got any sleep was if we co-slept on the reclining couch in the living room and that happened nearly every night and for many more over the next several months. Even when he would sleep in the crib for a few hours, I was never as anxious as I was with the older two.
He's been sleeping maybe 10 or so hours a night 2-3 nights a week and 6-7 most other nights. It's been nice and the transition has been peaceful. My anxiety hadn't seemed to rear it's ugly head.
The other night, I was lying in bed, unable to sleep and listening to Jas snoring and the soft, stuffy-nose breathing of my toddler, my mind began racing. Something made me get up. It was silly, really, and totally unnecessary. But I needed to check on Ethan and Alex, make sure they were ok. I needed to see and feel their chests rising as they breathed so slowly in their sleep, dreaming away in their cozy beds.
After checking on them, and knowing they were just fine, I went back to bed and was finally able to sleep.
Since then, I've been thinking. I had thought my anxiety had gone, but now I realize something. It's never gone anywhere, it's transformed. It's come out in a different way.
I worry about how their day is at school. Up until recently, when I drop them off in the morning, I'd walk them both in and make sure they made it to their lockers or classroom door. Even now, when I just drop them off in the parking lot, I catch myself watching them walk into the building before I pull away (luckily, it's a short walk and I have to wait for the automatic van door to close, so I'm not being an a*%hole and holding up the line for a super-long time).
I panic when they ride the 4-wheeler/atv or mini-bike at my in-laws. The whole time they (just the older 2 go right now) are down there for a week or several days in the summer, I worry that they will get lost or run away from their grandparents, or get hurt, or whatever *Note: this is in no way because of my in-laws, I trust them implicitly with our boys. I just have an irrational fear of them being hurt and me not being there to comfort them, or worse :( *
At the first sign of a cough or sickness, in my head, I panic. I wonder if it's some strange illness and if they will be ok. If they say they have a headache or a tummy-ache, my mind shoots right to the worst possibility.
Even though, every day, this anxiety threatens to overwhelm me, I've learned to control it in someways.
My stomach churns, my heart races, I feel dizzy or like I have the chills, but outwardly I try my best to stay calm. It's not always possible, but I'm trying. I keep the concerns about serious illness or injury to myself and just watch, wait and take them to the doctor if needed, never mentioning to them and giving them undue concern. I let them continue to ride the atv and mini-bike, all the while standing there with fist clenched, and willing them to slow down a bit.
I will not let MY anxiety and fear hold them back. I may already have in someways, but no more. They must have fun and be children and enjoy life while learning and growing up, but not too fast. I need to enjoy them and my own life.
It's not even just about them, the anxiety, the worries. I panic when I haven't heard from Jason if he goes somewhere and says "I'll be home in a few hours" or by such and such time. I call him, and text him, not to annoy him, or because I don't trust him, but because I worry about him. He is my everything. My life. My love. My world. Without him, I am only half a person.
I worry about my parents, especially my dad. So when my mom calls at an odd time, or tries to reach me on both phones and with a text, I automatically think he's ill or in the hospital.
I worry about silly things. I worry about serious things. I panic when we go over a certain bridge in Ohio, especially if the wind is bad. I have a fear of drowning in the car. An overwhelming, irrational fear. I don't have the best night vision, so it's hard for me to drive when it's dark, and I try to overcompensate and I panic a little, driving slower and stiffly at the wheel. At night and in the rain or snow, I won't even attempt unless there's absolutely no way around it. I can't stand near the edge of a cliff or even by the windows of a very high building looking out with out being dizzy or starting to panic. Elevators freak me out a bit, especially when a certain someone decides it's funny to jump up and down in them. Rationally, I know the elevator is safe and won't break from that. But I'm not usually rational in that moment, and I get a lump in my throat and my heart starts racing. How do I explain that? Because after, when I'm calm and collected on the inside like I am on the outside, I KNOW it's really ok, but I want him to understand how I feel in the moment and why I say please don't do that.
I think sometimes my anxiety comes out in anger towards the boys. I want to keep them safe, so when they don't listen or do something that could cause them harm, I get mad and yell. Mind you, it's not always an actual safety issue. It could be them running through the house, and for me, I foresee them running into something, or tripping and bumping their head. I'm not saying they should be running in the house ;) but it's probably not as big of a deal as I make it out to be.
So even after thinking for so long that I had beaten it, that I had gotten the better of it, at least in someways, I really just hide it better, keep it inside better, deal with it better. It's getting worse again though. So if you see me start to panic, look me in the eye and remind me that it's all ok. I'm safe. They are safe. And give me a hug. Because sometimes that's all I really need. Right then. From you. Whoever you are.
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