I woke up from a bad dream this morning that Monkey was lost.
As I was waking, I was already issuing the Amber Alert in my head, and the security at the ice skating rink was already in motion. Right after waking, I continued the dream to its happy ending: Monkey running toward me through the crowds at the rink, crying, saying, “Mommy, you were lost.”
This, as parents, as mothers, is one of our greatest fears, isn’t it?
I know that I live in heart-constricting, breath-stopping agony of losing another child. I don’t know that Gabriel’s death makes me more sensitive — I don’t think so. I think these little people we have in our lives carry our hearts with them. At the stage at which Monkey and Bun are, they carry them unknowingly, unwittingly. They haven’t learned (despite the hyperbole of her language — wonder where she gets that — Monkey, even, has not learned) how fragile a heart is, and how careful one needs to be with another’s heart.
Children don’t know about this given heart, until later in their lives. It’s not as if we parents, we moms, mean to give our hearts away. It’s just something that happens when you have a kid. Whether you lose your heart in your pregnancy, or at the moment your newborn comes into light, is placed in your arms, or if it happens later, months down the line, years even. Suddenly you realize your love in all its infinite wonder has been placed into these bodies, that part of your heart goes with them everywhere.
I was in love with Gabriel from the moment I knew I was pregnant. As with Monkey and Bun, part of my love for my babies was love for my husband, love for growing our love. Gabriel’s heart was my heart, and my husband’s heart.
I hope you can only imagine how it felt when his stops. (I don’t encourage such an exercise.)
Given my own tendency toward… um, let’s call it mental instability (I have been diagnosed more than once with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with a generous side helping of Catastrophic Thinking) I consider it a wonder that I leave the house, let alone with my children. I have been in imaginary car crashes; my children have disappeared in public; I have saved Bun from certain death by throwing myself in front of cars. (Bun’s a runner. I am thinking of changing her nickname to Wild Child, the way she is acting lately. I literally have nightmarish visions of her darting away from me in parking lots or into streets that freeze my blood with fear.)
While I think losing a child makes one uniquely sensitive to the experience of losing a child, I don’t think it makes one more (or less) fearful of losing a child. I hope that none of you dwell on this, but I wonder that it is not in the backs of your minds. Our love, our fear, our hope and dreaming, our nightmares — how would one go about separating all of this? It is all, in its way, all-encompassing, all-consuming.
As much as we want to protect our children, I think we want them to protect us, too. This I may feel more than other parents: I am dependent on my girls to never, ever let me feel the pain that I have already felt once. I need Bun to learn not to run away from Mommy in public or outside. I need Monkey to be careful of who she befriends in restaurants.
One of the best ways I ever heard this summed up was like this. A father I know (The Ex’s father, as a matter of fact) said to me, “I was never afraid of heights. Then I had children.”
Or maybe these are the intrusive thoughts that mothers of dead babies have. Along with questions like, do I love my dead baby less because of live babies? And, how could I ever forget?
Or maybe I am alone.
I know this: that it is vitally important to me my children bury me (not soon! like, how about in 40 years? That’s doable). That the natural order hold in that fashion. That they protect my heart until they don’t have to any longer.
In the meantime, I will protect theirs, protect them (as best I can — maybe by asking them not to jump without me). Because it protects that part of my heart that is most important.