When I first started having babies, I was blissfully unaware of all the dangers that life with kids holds.
Heck, even my entrance into parenthood was pretty ignorant, a happy happenstance when I found out I was pregnant in college. Instead of wondering if I would miscarry or worrying about what possible defects my baby could have, my biggest fears centered around not puking at my desk and skipping my graduation ceremony so I wouldn't give birth while walking down the aisle.
I had four children by the age of 28 and not once, with any child, did I ever, ever focus on the 10 million things that could go wrong with life. I mean, sure, I got a little nervous when the doctor put the Doppler to my belly for the first time as she searched for the heartbeat and yes, of course, I said some extra prayers before our 20-week ultrasounds, but still, deep down, I never truly thought that anything could go really, really wrong.
For the first time in my life as a parent I realized how thin the line between happiness and heartbreak can be.
I let both of my older kids sleep on their bellies at 12 weeks old because that's the only way they could sleep, I didn't have a baby monitor, and I even (gasp) went grocery shopping with them perched up in their carseats on my cart on more than one occasion because that wasn't a crime eight years ago.
I was completely and blissfully ignorant and it didn't seem to harm us in any way.
But oh my gosh, how the tide has turned since then. One would think that being older means being wiser, and I guess in some ways, that is true. The only problem is that in my case, being "wiser" has not by any means made life any easier. Instead, my eyes have been opened to the myriad of ways that things can go horribly, terribly wrong from the moment you pee on that stick and I am left with a raging anxiety every second of every day. On any given second, I am probably worrying and panicking about:
Car-seat dangers (did we turn our kid too early?!), choking, skin cancer from that one time I forgot to slather the kids with sunscreen, Zika, cancer for myself, my husband, the horror of that poor Disney family losing their son, my marriage, birth defects, stillbirths, flu season, shootings, gun accidents, kidnapping, cell phone radiation, Wi-Fi radiation, the government spying on us, vaccinations, Ebola (still scared), poisoning from plastics, chemicals, pesticides, early puberty, diabetes, too much sugar, Donald Trump, the entire economy, ISIS and global warming.
Last month, I lost my fifth pregnancy, the baby that should have made our family complete, and for the first time in my life as a parent I realized how thin the line between happiness and heartbreak can be. It hit me how ridiculously ignorant I had been in my "before" life, the life where I didn't even consider that anything could go wrong in my picture-perfect life.
And now that my eyes have been opened, I almost wish I could go back. Because now I am terrified of, well, pretty much everything. When I think about possibly trying again for another baby, every part of my body seizes up with fear. To think of going through this heartbreak again, to think that literally every second of every day of the entire pregnancy I would be terrified to lose that little one? To think that even after the baby is born I could never, ever breathe that sigh of relief that I remember so well after giving birth four times because I know I will forever fear that baby being taken away from me?
I'm just not sure I can survive that kind of loss. I'm just not sure I can open myself up anymore.
I didn't expect this as a parent, that's for darn sure. Everyone always makes jokes about how the more kids you have, the more laid-back you get, like by the last baby you're serving up dirt for breakfast. While on some levels I guess you get a little more relaxed, the opposite has been true for me. Instead of getting more laissez-faire, I am getting more freaked-out-by-everything. I am not more relaxed because I simply know more, and that means knowing more dangers. I am not more relaxed because I know, even more so now than ever, how freaking lucky we are to have gotten this far intact. When you think of the 10 million and one ways that life can go wrong, from the earliest moments, it starts to feel like a darn miracle any of us are here right now.
I know I cannot sustain this way of living and thinking. I know that I am living in excess fear right now because of my miscarriage and I know that eventually, I might learn to face my fear again, in hopes that love will be worth the pain. I know that worrying and panicking will not change the outcome of what this life holds for us, so I need to learn to strike a balance between fear and living.