I’m a pretty high anxiety guy anyway, but having a baby has put my anxiety on steroids.
Here’s a story from just this morning…
My 7-month-old has been sleeping in pretty late the past few days, like noon to 1:30pm late. He goes to sleep around 10pm. He still takes 1-2 solid naps per day, and he still gets grumpy in the evenings because he’s tired. My wife and I are pretty convinced this is just another growth spurt, so we’re not too worried about waking him up earlier.
Today, my wife texted me around 12:30 to ask if the baby was up so she could video chat with us on her lunch break at work, but he was still snoozing. An hour later, my wife asked again if the baby was still asleep, this time with a little more worry. She wondered if he was feeling sick and asked me to take his temperature.
I looked at the video monitor and saw that he was laying there with his eyes open, just staring up at the ceiling. I told my wife that he was awake, but not crying or anything yet. We had a few more texts back and forth before I looked up at the monitor and saw my baby still in the exact same position, with that unblinking, unmoving stare in his eyes.
The Panic Starts
It was at this point that my “back-of-the-brain baby alarm” started blinking red. He moves around A LOT in his crib. Most nights, he completely turns himself around 360 degrees at least a handful of times. So no movement in the space of a few minutes is a little concerning. This on top of the fact that I hadn’t seen him blink since I noticed he was up.
I felt that anxiety bubbling up in my chest, so I went back to check on him.
I leaned my head over the crib, which usually triggers him into kicking his arms and legs and smiling up at me.
But he didn’t move. His eyes didn’t move a fraction of a millimeter. At this point, the panic was really getting into position to attack. I reached down and put my hand on his chest. Not only did he not move his eyes to me, but I couldn’t feel him breathing. I didn’t feel his chest expanding with air. His eyes were horrifyingly still… and then he turned his head to look at me, grinned a great big smile at me, and kicked his arms and legs for me to pick him up.
Time Slows Down
Realistically, I couldn’t have been standing next to his crib for more than 3-5 seconds, but my rising panic stretched that time out to what felt like minutes.
My brain had time to conjure up a whole list of things that could have stopped my child from breathing in the few minutes after I saw his eyes open. I had time to picture a whole scenario of myself performing CPR, calling an ambulance, trying to rouse him to move again. I had time to think about the mental breakdown that I would have if anything ever happened to him, and how I would end up wanting to give up on life completely. All within the span of that 3-5 seconds.
Obviously, I had nothing to worry about. My son is seven months old and like I said, he’s a mover. If a blanket is over his face, he’ll kick the blanket completely off of his body. If it were covering his nose and mouth, he’d scream about it while kicking it off of his body. The likelihood that my son could have died in that span of a few minutes while I was watching his monitor is almost zero, but it didn’t stop that panic from building in my mind.
The Constant Anxiety
But ever since he was born, I’ve had a low-level paranoia surrounding me at all time that something is going to happen to him. I feel a minor panic when his grandma watches him for a few hours. It’s not that I don’t trust her to take care of him, my brain just likes to torture me by thinking of all the different ways he could get hurt when I’m not watching him.
The day he was born, I was terrified someone was going to drop him. Every time a visitor or a nurse held him, I literally sat nearby, ready to pounce if he showed the slightest sign of slipping from their grip. People are instinctively pretty careful with newborn babies, so again, I had nothing to worry about, but I couldn’t turn off this internal panic.
I don’t think this ever really goes away completely. It’s hardwired into our biology. We’re wired to keep our young safe to ensure the survival of our bloodline and our species. Plus, babies are completely helpless and vulnerable so we have a stronger-than-normal sense of impending danger with them.