I heard a very interesting news report on the radio the other day. The gist of it was: “Hey, remember that big story a year or so ago about the rise of West Nile Virus? Remember it? Yea, well, we really don’t see much of that virus any more.” Which is a bizarre thing to report because it’s like saying hey, this is a story that doesn’t deserve to be a story. It’s like saying, “Hey, remember World War II? Yea, well, that war is over. It’s been over for 70 years. We’re not fighting it anymore.” Which is like saying we have nothing of note to tell you right now. Which is like the elevator music of news reporting.
I don’t know which is worse, that the people were too lazy to find another noteworthy event, or that they wanted to use an old mommy-scaring term like “West Nile Virus” as a way to cover up the fact. Why can’t they just say, “Partly sunny today, high of 71, and things are pretty run-of-the-mill.” Instead they say, “Partly sunny today, high of 71, and chances of your baby dying of West Nile Virus this week are very slim.”
So you’re saying there’s a CHANCE?
It makes me want to snatch somebody baldheaded, as my great-grandmother used to say.
Speaking of anxiety, I asked my sister-in-law to lunch Tuesday for a little girl talk. She is pregnant with her first baby, and me fancying myself the benevolent expert of all living things under the age of 3, thought I would bestow upon her my magic spells, motherly ruminations and Rolodex of mixed drink recipes. I wanted her to know that I had her back and that if she ever thought she was going crazy to call me in order to feel better about herself because I, indeed, would be crazier.
But I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare someone for the anxiety of having a newborn.
I remember that first week home from the hospital. How everything in nature, everything made by mankind, and all living beings everywhere and in all times and places and cultures, seemed to be conspiring in an epic diabolical plan to assassinate Thing One. I’d be walking around the neighborhood and WHISK! A squirrel would dart across my path. Evil, evil squirrel! I was just sure it tried to trip me so I would let go of the stroller, which would then roll down the hill at 84 miles an hour and tumble into the Trinity River. Even though my street does not have a hill, and we live nowhere near the Trinity. Eh, irksome details. Death, DEATH to squirrels everywhere!
You think I’m joking.
I’m sure my old frenemy estrogen was partly to blame, but there ARE lots of legitimate things to fear — all now instantly available at your fingertips courtesy of the Internet.
But I think most of our motherly fear is OF the baby itself, not just what could kill the baby.
I was at Tom Thumb the other day with Both Things. (Or, as I like to call it, TOMB Thumb, because it’s where my pride goes to die.) For some reason Madeline had decided she had missed her pedicure or audience with Prince William or something and wouldn’t quit belaboring the point. (Translation: crying.) My heart rate was escalating. Pacifier? Wasn’t working. Walking really fast, even while pushing the monstrosity that is the play-car-attached-to-the-shopping-cart? Ha. You jest.
She was growing in pitch and volume like a politician and I began feeling like I had a bomb strapped to my chest instead of a baby, never knowing when she would detonate. My Mission Impossible now was — instead of locating the ever-elusive canned capers — to get home before the physical combustion of my child.
I almost forgot I had a three-year-old smuggling random cans into the little orange car with him. Oh yea. Him.
But if you are in the throes of newborn freak-out mode, I want to give you a glimmer of hope: these times of hyper anxiety do begin to recede, like the tide, like the fullness of the moon, like my likeability after 9 p.m. Walks around the neighborhood WILL get better, I promise; the squirrels WILL make their peace with you. Your craziness is like a fever that will go down with a little time and TLC.
And heck, if you don’t believe me, get a load of this and tell me my neighborhood walks haven’t improved: yesterday I was taking a walk with The Things when I passed a house with two women sitting on the front porch. Their kids were playing in the front yard and I could tell they were assessing my little caravan. Then one of the ladies called out to me, saying, “Hey, your — ” and I THOUGHT she was going to say, “Your baby is adorable!” or “you got a Pomeranian stuck in your wheels!” but instead she said the following: “Hey, your hair is awesome!” Then she turned to her friend and told her she wanted hair like mine.
Yea. That really happened.
I have apparently entered the Golden Age of my hair, when total strangers call out from afar like I’m the Messiah of Mane. Heck, I had practically forgotten I had the kids with me at all because the only sensation I noticed for the rest of the walk was the weight of my hair on my shoulders and how a few strands would fall softly across my right cheek when the breeze picked up. I was tempted to walk down another few streets just to see if anyone else sitting on their porch would like to complement my skin or maybe my smaller-than-to-be-expected muffin top 4 months post-partum. Who knows, maybe I was in some sort of weird undercover Oprah special. You know, because it’s her last season and she wants to jump the shark with gusto.
So all that to say, I’ve gone from a paranoid freak to a pompous freak. Which is better, trust me.
And you will be too. Someday. Someday months from now when the baby is older. And we will be here ready to welcome you back with open arms.
Provided West Nile virus doesn't acquire nuclear weapons and kill us all first.