The other morning when I was out walking alone and looking up at the changing clouds, I felt a sudden dark, heavy sensation — memories of the reoccurring nightmares I had when J was an infant, in which we would be sinking in a deep, black ocean, and I would be trying to push him up and up towards the air, my arms outstretched, my legs kicking as hard as I could against a heavy, endless pull. “Get him to the surface!” I would scream at myself over and over.
During this time, when J was an infant, I also began sleepwalking for the first time in my life. It was always the same routine — I would leap up and rummage frantically through the covers of our bed (“Where’s the baby?!”), throwing off pillows (“He can’t breathe!”), and plowing my hands aggressively underneath my poor, sleeping husband (“You’re squishing him!”). My husband would wake up with a jolt, realize what was happening and reassure me patiently, “Baby’s safe, he’s in the crib.” I would wake up with a sense of panic and confusion (“What in the world was I doing? Why was I crying? And what in hell happened to the bed?”). This fully-asleep-frantic-baby-search began to happen so often in those early days that my husband learned to shorten his response to a simple — “Crib!”— for whenever I started to rise, which became a code word that saved us both a lot of time and energy, as it usually worked to command my crazed sleep-self to snap out of it.
I have to admit that the scene above is all a bit weird and embarrassing to share. And I assure you that daytime I was okay — I did my mom’s groups, I nursed and cuddled my baby, I felt a sense of joy and confidence. But nighttime, clearly was a different story. And that’s the truth. And somehow sharing that truth now helps me feel less afraid of it. Because now, as my belly grows and I get closer to my due date for kid number two, I am beginning to remember that hidden, heavy sensation again — deep down, in fleeting moments, very quiet, like a tiny rumbling that can only be heard when everyone else is asleep. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly filled with joy and thankfuleness for this beautiful life growing inside me. It’s just that some days I also feel secretly numb and afraid and my mind threatens to shut down from the anticipation of it all.
“The storm is coming!” J shouts as he jumps into our bed and dives under the covers (this happens to be his new favorite game). J is almost four-years-old and is now our sturdy, big boy who knows to hold my hand when we cross the street and can buckle his own seatbelt. While I worry at times about his safety (like when he is leaping off the bed like a flying squirrel and I’m praying he doesn’t hit his head on the dresser) it is nothing like when he was a tiny, helpless newborn that required twenty-four-hour careful watch. “Get in, take cover!” he shouts, and my husband and I dive under the covers with him. He puts a little arm around each of our necks and breathing heavy he says, “I love you both.”
He is right — a storm is coming. I can feel it swirling and picking up speed as my body changes, my belly grows and is beginning to wiggle now when the baby kicks. New movements as we propel into the new stages, getting closer and closer, kicking faster and faster, harder and harder. “Crib!” I need to remind myself when that feeling of overwhelm starts to set in. I can do this. A part of me may be terrified and that is okay. Because fear is what helps us grow, right? It humbles us and splits our complacent selves wide open so there is more room for wisdom to emerge. It brings out weird nighttime behaviors and code words, sometimes forcing us to get over ourselves and laugh, and reach out to others with the truth about all our parts, the good and the bad, the day and the night, so perhaps these pieces don’t seem so dark and heavy and different from each other after all.