So Scintilla is official over. But I’ve got a few prompts I want to answer and stories to share, so I plan to finish the last few prompts over the next couple of days. You can read my previous Scintilla 13 posts here. Thanks for reading.
Prompt 11: Fears come in different sized packages. Tell the story of a time you had a face a fear, big or small.
The summer Kate was born was also the Summer of the Serial Burglar here in Northern Virginia.
People all over Northern Virginia reported that someone broke into their homes and stole cash from purses and kitchen drawers and wallets on counters. And it always seemed to happen at night. While the homeowners were sleeping. One time a man even reported sleeping downstairs on a couch and waking up to realize money was missing.
That means this serial burglar must have walked right passed him while he was sleeping to steal the money.
Another time a family’s set of trained attack dogs slept while this serial burglar entered the home, stole cash, and slipped out all without waking trained attack dogs.
TRAINED ATTACK DOGS!
This situation had me a little more than spooked.
This situation had my post-partum self completely freaked out.
Dan left to resume his busy travel schedule when Kate was between six and eight weeks old. Meaning, I was still in the throws of post-partum wackoness. I was already convinced of immedinding doom: Kate would stop breathing in her sleep, she’d fall ill with some strange and unheard of disease, someone would snatch her right out of the Baby Bjorn at the grocery, I’d fall while carrying her down the stairs.
And now I had to add Serial Burglar Home Invasion to the list of things I was tweaked about.
When Dan left for business trips that summer, I’d draw all the blinds in the house, closing out the lovely summer light, and sit errect on my couch for most of the day. I didn’t want to leave. But I didn’t want to stay either. I’d slide my fingers between the slats of the blinds and peak out into the street, taking note of the cars passing by because the police said to notify them if the same car drove back and forth in front of the street more than a few times.
I plead the fifth on how many times I called the non-emergency police number.
Anyway, this serial burglar thing terrified me. When Dan traveled, I never slept. I’d go without sleep – with a newborn – for days until Dan returned and I was so far deep into the lack of sleep crazy cycle I think Dan contemplated knocking me out just to end the crazy.
My Dad tried to convince me this serial burglar was probably just a druggie interested in snatching cash to pay for said drugs. That this person was not a criminal mastermind. That this person was probably not interested in hurting anyone because this person never entered into an alteracation with the homeowners. And this person only entered homes with the doors unlocked. Never a forced entry.
Well you best be certain I checked and checked and checked the locks on our doors each night while Dan was out of town until I drove myself crazy. I worried that in my sleepless state I’d leave our front door wide open.
So when the police caught the serial burlger, (Who, get this, was found out because he was stopped for a traffic violation and consented to a search of his car. Okay, I guess my Dad was right, he wasn’t a criminal mastermind.) you’d think I’d stop worrying that a random person would break into my house and steal my child. But I didn’t.
Before I went to bed at night for that first year of her life, I’d stand over her bed and feel my heart lurch with love and fear. I loved her so much I was afraid. That because I was given this perfect gift, this special little girl who brings light and joy into my family’s life, that it would be all taken away.
I lived in this state for longer than was comfortable. Every time I’d watch Kate run around the playground I’d be seized with heartpounding love and gut wrenching fear. It was exhausting.
As Kate got older and less wobbly and baby like, the fear lifted slightly. And as I got more comfortable with motherhood, the fear eased a little more. And a little more. But still a part of the fear lingered that prevented me from fully loving and embracing being a mother.
Now that Kate’s almost three and everyone sleeps through the night and I’m no longer a complete nut when Dan goes out of town, I can see another way to think about this fear that something terrible is about to happen. That maybe instead of, as Brene Brown says, foreboding joy, I could lean into gratefulness when I feel that fear creep in. Instead of letting fear run amuck, I can let gratefulness wash over me.
Worrying about your kid is natural. I suppose it would be worrisome if I didn’t have some worry inside me. It’s that piece of worry that lets me anticipate what sort of dangerous ideas Kate has cooking in her head. Like I know when she’s being too quiet that she’s probably scaling her closet shelves or that I know she can’t be trusted in the front lawn alone even for a second because if she sees the neighbor boys, she’ll run across the street.
That’s good worry because it prevents incidents that are highly probable. But letting fear creep in that tries to convince me that Kate will get ebola? Not so much.
So when I feel that crazy Serial Burglar fear, I fall into gratefulness. I am grateful for this moment. For this sloppy, sticky Kate kiss. For this beautiful moment where Kate climbs all over the playground, squealing and shouting and being a kid and I get to soak it in and forget – if even for a moment – all the whining and crying and grocery store tantrums.
I’ll never stop worrying about her. And I worry the progress I made might be reset after Baby Boy Bagley makes an arrival. But when I feel fear pulling at me and trying to get me to go down the Serial Burglar terror rabbit hole, I sit quietly and place my hands on my watermellon belly, feeling my son punch and kick and breathe in grateful.