Being a mom comes with an inexhaustible capacity for worry. It starts during pregnancy: in the beginning, you worry if everything is ok. Once you can feel the baby moving, you worry that he isn’t moving enough, or maybe too much. Every ache or pain causes concern — it’s the physical equivalent of being in a dark and creaky house after seeing a scary movie: everything is interpreted as a potential threat. As the nine months wind to a close you start to desperately wish for the baby to be born, in large part because you feel like it will be so much easier to know if they’re ok once they’re on the outside and you can see them and touch them.
But it’s a bit of a nasty trick: you don’t realize how safe and secure they were until they are on the outside. The first nights a new mother spends with her baby are sleepless. Not just because of baby’s need to eat so regularly, but because even when he is asleep, the mother will lie awake listening for each next breath, attentive to every sigh, every movement, every sound.
It gets a little better as the days, weeks and months go on, but the faith you begin to get that they will survive the night is replaced by other worries. You worry that they’ll get sick — or they do, and you worry about that. You worry that they aren’t sleeping enough, and then the one day they take a long nap, or sleep through the night, you wake them up just to make sure you can. You worry that they aren’t growing enough, or that they’re getting too big. You start to worry about development. There are milestones that you read in the books, on the websites, that your doctor provides. Anything that doesn’t quite “make the grade” will inhabit your mind and fester. You compare your child to the others you see, and try to figure out, constantly, if everything is ok.
I’m going through this with Liam right now. It’s his teeth. His first two teeth arrived “on time” (according to the books, websites and doctors) which was a relief. (Which really just means it allowed my mind to move on to worrying about the next thing on the list of required accomplishments.) A few weeks later, he started to get his next two teeth, also on schedule: hooray! But, a week or so ago, I noticed that those two top teeth aren’t where they’re supposed to be — they’re really far apart. I can’t tell whether his two front teeth are coming in really far apart, or if he hasn’t gotten his two front teeth at all, but rather the two that are located next to those.
So, worry, worry, worry. What does this mean? Will his teeth grow in properly? Will his two front teeth ever come in? What will we do if they don’t? Is there something “wrong” with him? (Because that’s the worry that is really always in the back of our minds — is there something WRONG. Which could mean any number of things, but generally means “something that will prevent his life or childhood from following a typical path and/or will make said path significantly more difficult than usual”.) Consult the books! To the internet! Ask the doctors!
Right now, I don’t know. The books and the internet tell me it could be that his teeth are coming into the wrong spot, or it could be that they’re coming in out of order (more likely). The doctor looked at him for about 15 seconds, said she thought they were coming into the wrong spot and shrugged (lots of help, thanks).
So, I’m going to keep worrying. What does this MEAN! What is going to happen? Where is my crystal ball when I need it?!?
I get the impression that this doesn’t ever end. There’s always something to worry about. And even though I know the energy spent worrying is wasted (it’s not like I could do anything about how his teeth are growing in) I can’ t help myself. I’m a mom.