Anxiety, Free with Motherhood

Anxiety, Free with Motherhood | Twin Cities Moms Blog
{Photo credit: The Jadeite Shutter}
 
One day last week, raindrops blurred our windows, Kleenex littered our house, and I decided it was time for my two-year old to watch her first movie.
 
To be honest, I’m not sure she even knew what a movie was. But she knew something exciting was happening as the opening credits to Moana rolled. She pressed her tiny body next to mine, her breathing stuffy. 
 
Unimpressed by a rousing musical number and a few jokes at the expense of a chicken, she perked up at a fairly boring scene where Moana and her mother have a heart to heart. 
 
“Dat’s he mama!” she shrieked, pointing at the screen. 
 
(We’re still working on pronouns.)
 
“Dat’s he mama, and—” she pointed at me and snuggled in closer, smiling  —“dis my mama!” 
 
I missed the next few minutes of the movie. It was drowned out by the sound of my heart exploding.
 
At some point, Moana and her mama parted ways. That was when the questions began. Well, one frantic question, on repeat. 
 
Where he mama go?”
 
“Her mama went home, sweetie. Moana is going on an adventure.”
 
“But… where he mama?”
 
“Moana is going on the adventure alone. Her mama is at home.”
 
Every toddler has a pre-cry face. A bottom lip quivering, a face crumpling. Insert my daughter’s face —she’s a crumpler, not a quiverer—right here. Followed by some of the fattest, saddest tears I had ever seen.
 
“Wheeeeerrre. Heeeee. Maaaaaama?”
 
I scooped my daughter into my arms, laughing so hard I was crying. Or maybe I was crying so hard I was laughing. 
 
“It’s okay!” I said, wiping away her tears. “She’ll see her mama after the adventure.” 
 
In my head: Please let that be true. 
 
In my head: Oh my God, I can never leave her again. 
 
Two years ago, when a labor and delivery nurse placed my baby on my chest, she also threw in (free of charge!) a morbid, low-key background murmur of anxiety that switches on the moment I’m away from my little girl.
 
When I drop her off at daycare: what if there’s car accident as I’m driving away? My daughter has no mother, all because I felt like I needed to work?
 
When I go on vacation without her: What if something happens to this plane? My daughter has no mother, all because I felt like I deserved 36 hours of relaxation?
 
And now? Now that I know how strongly she feels about keeping mama close? 
 
That murmur is about to get a whole lot louder.
 
I’ve heard that parenthood is like walking around with your heart outside of your body. But I like to think of it more as a lifelong, excruciating game of whack-a-mole. 
 
One anxiety pops up. Fine, no problem. Whack it away with a quick pep talk and some deep breaths.
 
But up pops another. Rinse, whack, repeat.
 
Sometimes, extra obstacles are thrown in. Obstacles such as tiny, pitiful voices asking, “Where he mama go?” They repeat in your brain, making the anxiety moles harder and harder to whack. 
 
I’m only two years in, but I can’t imagine the game slows down. Like any game, I can only hope I improve. 
 
After I had explained no less than thirty times that Moana was on an adventure and would see her mama later, my daughter was quiet for a few minutes.
 
Then: “Let’s watch Finding Nemo.”
 
(We will not be watching Finding Nemo.)
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