In my dream I am in my bedroom, just sitting on the bed. As I stare at myself in the dresser mirror, my mind is blank. I’m supposed to be doing something right now, but what? I glance over at the bathroom door and I can see that it is shut. With a fury of panic, I remember: it is bath time.
With my stomach in my throat and my heart plummeting I burst through the door and peer at the tub. She’s lying there unmoving several inches under water. Her soft curls are floating around her. She looks as peaceful as she did during the many hours of infancy when I watched her sleep.
Yet, she’s cold. Pale. Gone.
I stretch out my arms in a futile race to save my daughter, but before my finger tips can breach the surface of the water I awaken. Gasping for air, shaking, and covered in cold sweat, I find my wits enough to listen to the sounds around me. I can hear the calm, steady breathing of my children through the monitors keeping tabs on their bedrooms. I do my best to clear the horrific images that have crept up from the bowels of my subconscious, and lay there staring at my dark ceiling, waiting for sleep.
This isn’t the norm for me. I don’t typically have dreams of my children’s demise at the hand of my own incompetency. I don’t ever imagine a time where I would “forget” that one of my children is taking a bath, and just go hang out somewhere else for a while.
But the subconscious mind is a tricky thing. For me, it created an unlikely event to represent a very real fear. As parents, especially of young ones, our days are filled with literally steering our children in the opposite direction of harm. Never could I have imagined while pregnant with my first child that the upcoming years would require such CONSTANT VIGILANCE. That’s exactly what it takes. It’s those split second moments that scare me. It could be a fraction of time when you’re not looking; a sleep deprived error; a new-parent bad decision. There is always a little something inside me that is asking, “Am I doing everything I could do, should do, to keep them safe?”
When my eldest was only a few months old my husband and I took her on our first short family trip out of the house to Babies R Us. It was a cold night and I had her bundled up in her infant seat in a warm jacket and blanket. She was sleeping, and so not to disturb her I pushed her around in her stroller, ogling all the cute baby girl clothing I wanted to buy.
After a while I took a break from my scouring of the racks to look down at my little girl, and saw that her lips had a blue tint to them. I screamed for my husband and we promptly removed her from her coverings and blanket. My husband picked her up and after several attempts to stir her, in what felt like minutes but was surely seconds, she awoke. Her color returned.
It was a stupid mistake. I was so concerned about keeping her warm, I had bundled her too tightly. I didn’t even think about that fact that once inside the store I should have removed her layers. We did not suffer consequences that day, but none the less it was a harsh lesson that had me questioning my capabilities. I was so embarrassed by my failure with our first attempt at emerging from our home with our child that I never told the story to a soul; until now.
I know any mother, and I’m sure fathers too, must have moments when they allow their darkest and deepest fears to creep to the forefront. If you’re like me you allow them their flash of warning and then shake them away. I try to find balance by allowing the thoughts the respect of possibility, but then store them aside where they belong and move on with life. Still, with ever constant vigilance.