Friday, September 17, 2010

Fear, Myself

When I think about my labor with Westley, one word comes immediately to mind: terror. I was terrified during labor. Absolutely terrified. I don't know what of: nothing and everything, probably. I have very few distinct memories of those days.

One of the few things I do recall quite clearly though is saying, after it was all over, "I'll never be scared of anything, ever again."

Then, looking down at the just-born child in my arms (who, in his first few minutes of life, bore a striking resemblance to P.T. Barnum's Fiji Mermaid) I added, "Except him. He'll scare me."

And he does, on a daily basis. ("Don't jump on the edge of the couch." "Don't climb on the table." "That doesn't go around your neck." "For cryin' out loud, don't run with food in your mouth! Remember what happened with the cucumber?" "Sommersaults on the rug, not the hardwood, please!" "Please watch your head! You only get one!...And if you bust it, Grandad can't make you a new one in his shop!") But this isn't about Westley's antics. It's about the hormone-fueled postpartum fearlessness and how quickly it dissolved.

Just a few weeks after Westley was born, I found myself terrified of heights. Even little heights. I had to take a deep breath before walking down a flight of stairs, and I refused to set foot on my parents' second-floor patio. Swings, which I used to adore, make me anxious and dizzy. (I'm working on it.) Next came a fear of the dark that has me half-convinced that every shadow after 10:00 PM is an intruder with a knife. Occasionally, while whizzing down the freeway, it will occurr to me just how terrifying driving is (a half-ton of metal, going really fast, surrounded by other fast-moving metal...we really are this close to being dead!), and I have to turn up the music and sing very loudly until my heart stops racing.

My newfound fears aren't persistent, dibilitating, affects-every-aspect-of-your-life phobias. They're more like psychological tics. I'm a thousand times better at psyching myself out, deciding that the noises above my head as I sit here writing this are Bad Guys in the attic and not cats and squirrels using my roof as a highway. My tolerance for "scary" since Westley was born has gone way down.

So, on Wednesday night, when a (loud, suspiciously enthusiastic) vacuum cleaner salesman pounded on our door at quarter to 10 (!!!), I was completely rattled. I spent the rest of the evening convinced that someone was going to break in and murder us.

On his way to bed, Rob noticed me in the kitchen. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Oh, uh..." I did that little shoulder-straightening motion people do when trying to give the impression that Everything Is Normal. "I was just--"

"Checking the locks?" I could hear Rob's smile as he said it.

I guess if there's an upside to being slightly more jumpy, it's that I will never, ever forget to lock the doors.

(Or the windows. Or turn off the oven when leaving the house. Or keep the Maglite stocked with fresh batteries. Or...)