I was never prepared for the part of parenthood that would force me to confront being consumed by fear on a daily basis. I am sure that fear is a constant state of being for parents who have never faced a loss of their child, but it is so prevalent after you do experience a loss, when the first time you hold your own child is when they are cold and lifeless.
These are tactile experiences that stay with you. I go back there when Eli touches me with frozen toddler fingers. I go back there when I watch him sleeping. I go back there when Eli wraps his whole hand wraps around my thumb. I go back there just to go back there. It is a memory that you do not forget.
Fear is so gripping that I also remember the last time it was completely absent from my life. I can remember vividly, before my wife was told that her uterus was “a hostile environment for a fetus,” how casually and naively we skipped through the rolling fields of ignorance as we “expected” our first child. There was no fear. Because we had passed the first trimester, and now we were to just exist in a Norman Rockwell painting until the contractions started. I miss that time. I want to go back there. It was fun. And parenting was going to be easy.
I don’t know what “normal” parenting is when it comes to fear. I don’t know if it is normal to wake up every 15 minutes during the first 18 months to check in the bassinet because I knew…I knew…that Eli would die from SIDS. I don’t know if it’s normal to panic every time they do that rubber neck thing that kids do, or how they don’t snap their necks ten times a day. I don’t know if it’s normal to still check his breathing as a toddler and panic when it is completely shallow as tends to happen at this age. I don’t know if it’s normal to still have a baby video monitor after he’s passed his third birthday. I don’t know if it’s normal to hold my breath during every meal while he chews wondering how much of that class I’d remember in the event I have to save my own kids life.
And I don’t know if I care.
Because I see every day, the tragedy that has befallen each one of us. It see it on my newsfeed, happening to total strangers. And my heart breaks for people I’ll never meet. I try to imagine having to go through the pain after having experienced the love and the thought alone is paralyzing.
So I continue to be consumed by my own fear, and my own paranoia. I try and take that emotion and turn it into love. Because there is nothing stronger than love. When I am scared, I hug him. When I check on him at night, I kiss him. When he starts to go kamikaze and I’m sure he’s going to impale himself on a fork, I tell him that I love him. Because then at least he knows how much I love him. And then I remember that my fear exists because he exists. My grief exists because Em exists. And then I remember, yet again, that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.