The babies are finally asleep. It's the middle of the day. Maybe I can squeeze in that shower I've been wanting to take since yesterday morning.
I turn the hot water knob, water sluices toward the wall, the inviting tap tap tap calling to me well before the water is warm enough. I ready my towel, brush my hair. I leave the door open, just in case. Just in case something happens, I'll be able to hear the babies. Everything should be just fine, right? They sleep for at least an hour and a half everyday. There's nothing in their room they could hurt themselves on. They're not going to wake up. Are they? They're fine. I'm sure they're fine.
And yet, without fail, the moment I step under the hot stream of shower water, my sigh of relief catches in my throat.
What was that?
Is that a baby crying? No, it can't be. They're asleep. They never wake up.
No, that's a shout. Are my kids shouting for me? Did something happen?
I mentally calculate how quickly I can jump out of the shower, wrap a towel around myself and sprint downstairs. This isn't safe. I shouldn't be taking a shower. What if something happened?
I strain my ears, as I reach for the soap. The problem with this tap tap tapping of the water is I just can't hear anything. Is that a wail of distress? Is something wrong? I should check.
I lather up. I'm sure everything's fine. Still, any enjoyment I may have gotten out of what should have been a peaceful, baby-free experience is ruined. I finish as quickly as I can. I barely towel dry, sloppily throw on some clothes and race downstairs.
Quiet. All is quiet. No one had ever stirred. I had made the whole thing up. And it's not just showers. It can happen as I'm just drifting off to sleep, or if I have to step outside for a moment, or if I get a phone call. Phantom noises haunt me.
To a large extent, I think this is normal for parents. Of course we're going to worry about our babies. They come out completely helpless, and every step they take toward being able to care for themselves is also a step they take toward being able to get into dangerous situations. The fact that my children have enough balance not to fall off a couch is countered by the fact that, given the opportunity, they'll try to balance on the back of said couch. The fact that my children can walk well enough to climb up and down stairs with ease is countered by the fact that they'll try to do it with their eyes closed, or they'll try to jump down, or they'll try to climb holding every toy they own in their arms as they totter down. Every measure of safety is counter-balanced by increased danger.
If we didn't worry a little, we'd most likely be visiting the emergency room a lot. Toddlers do think they're invincible.
But just because they're not invincible does not mean they're always in peril. If you seem to be over-anxious much of the time, if you can't enjoy a night out, or an hour away from the children, if you worry at every cry or whine, if you can't clean an upstairs room or run downstairs to change the laundry over because you don't trust the baby monitor, you may be experiencing something more serious than what I've described here.
If fear is dictating your life, call a professional. Taking care of your babies means taking care of yourself. Your babies deserve to be safe and sound. They also deserve a happy and calm mommy. It's not bad to be worried, just remember to also worry about yourself.
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