Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Awake Nightmares

I've been wanting to write this post for a while but have been weary of putting it out there for fear that someone might misunderstand what I'm saying. But today I read the blog of another mom who went through something similar when her child was a baby and it gave me the guts to hit the publish button... Here goes:

Remember when I had that issue with sleeping a little while back? Well, things have kind of gotten a bit crazy since then. In my head.

Yes, I managed to get over that specific issue - I no longer grip Ruby to my chest at night while she's sleeping, refusing to put her down because she might succumb to SIDS if I am not holding her. However, I still have to force myself to fall asleep at night - because now that she is in her own room and I can't see her while she's sleeping, I get this gut wrenching sense of dread that washes over me as I'm trying to fall asleep, because yes, I'm still afraid of SIDS.

But that's not all.

During the day, I imagine a million different horrific scenarios that could happen to Ruby. And these "thoughts" or waking dreams or whatever you want to call them are so vivid that they cause actual physical side affects with me. When one of these "thoughts" gets in my head, my heart pounds and my chest hurts and my breathing speeds up and I get tears in my eyes and a big knot in my stomach and I break out in a sweat.

And the thoughts aren't just, "What if a car were to hit Ruby and I right now as we're out walking with the stroller" the thoughts are more like - What if someone in a stolen vehicle comes careening around the corner or up on the curb right now and hits the stroller and then my arm would get ripped off (because I have a wrist band attached to my stroller), and then upon impact the stroller would fly up into the air or across the street and I would be laying screaming in the streets while I tried to get to my baby and I can visually see how mangled she might be.

And the wrist band on the stroller? That's because I've had vivid thoughts of me falling while walking downhill with the stroller and then Ruby rolling away down the hill, gaining speed until she crosses a street and a car might be coming and might hit her... and then the I imagine the carnage that would ensue.

I also freak out when I walk down the stairs while holding her. Yes, it's one thing to consciously think about holding the railing while walking down the stairs, but it's quite another to imagine how it would look to fall down the stairs and what would happen to the baby, which stairs she would hit, how she would land, and what the results might be - she might break her neck and be forever damaged, or she might die.

In fact, even while safe in my house, sitting on the couch watching TV it happens. If I see a plane crash on TV I might start crying in an instant because I can imagine what it would be like if I had Ruby on a plane and it crashed and how it would feel, how scared I would be, how horrible it would be.

I drive like a god damned granny these days because I am petrified of being in a car accident! Is that guy going to pull out in front of me? Is someone going to run a red light and smash into Ruby's side of the car? (You should see me inch through intersections) That guy is coming up too fast behind me, is he going to rear-end us? And the stink-eye I give out if anyone changes lanes near me without giving enough notice...

And then there's the massive gang wars going on in my area right now. Yeah, stray bullets and the whole bit.

Please let me clarify something here - I'm not fantasizing about harming my baby. Oh god no. It's very much the opposite. It's like my biggest fears are materializing into waking nightmares. I feel like I have very little control over the nightmares but how can I not have control over them if they're happening while I'm awake???? I don't understand!

These thought occur every day (and night), all the time, no matter what I'm doing. It is terrible.

I know that this can be a sign of PPD, but I don't feel like I've got that. Even though I was at an extremely high risk for it, so far I've felt really good, really strong and confident - in fact I've never felt so confident and happy in my entire life. It's just this one thing... and it's horrible.

I feel really guilty for having these thoughts. What kind of mother would imagine this stuff happening to her baby? It's just not right. Am I fucking sick, or what? What the hell is wrong with me?


Jen said...

Sounds like some hormones messing with you. You know, not your fault. If I were you, I'd go see your doctor and see if they can help. It doesn't sound like any fun and you'll feel better if you can get this taken care of.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I really think all mothers do this. I'm not sure about the extremes your experiencing, but I do think to an extent that is very normal. M is a year and I still catch myself having thoughts like this. Yesterday it was another stair falling episode. I sometimes go back and check his car seat once I'm at work because I start to think that I forgot to drop him off (despite the fact I check my rear view mirror every minute or so on the way in). I took him for a walk in an umbrella stroller for the first time this weekend and I had a vision of how vulnerable it was if a car hit us. I think that is part of being a mom-always protecting by coming up with crazy worse case scenarios so you can be prepared.

Emily said...

Ok first off - those thoughts are totally normal. I don't know a single mom who hasn't had them. There is now WAY more for you to worry about than yourself. And really we all learned, as kids ourselves, that if you worried about every single last thing that *could* happen to you that you would never leave the house. And so we learned to cope with our fear and sort of move beyond it by putting it out of our minds.

But now something, someone, more precious than we could have ever imagined, is worth protecting at any and all costs. What mother wouldn't die for her child? And we wonder what sort of life would be worth living without that child. I think imagining the worst case scenario has more to do with accepting our changing roles and feelings and is totally, perfectly normal. Now if you start never going outside and camp out on one level of your house I'm coming over to drag you out.

In the meantime, for the sleeping issue, check this out: I know several moms who have found it has helped them greatly - and my mother-in-law basically demanded that we have one! xoxox

Hang in there honey - I'm glad you wrote the post!

noswimmers said...

OMG that sounds absolutely TERRIFYING. I'm so sorry you're having these thoughts/seeing those images.

I have the same types of crazy thoughts about my beagle...I worry about her constantly.

It's all because you love her so much, it took so long for you to come together...and of course you want to protect her with every fiber in your being!

I wish I had some advice/helpful words. Hang in there!

Alicia said...

I can tell you this: it gets better. I thought the thoughts would never leave. Never. I figured I'd just have to live with them for the rest of my life. That in and of itself was terrifying.

I still freak at intersections sometimes and drive super slow through them (I can't believe you do the same thing). I protect Ellie's side of the car at all costs. I still hover over her while she's walking in the driveway or down a flight of stairs.

Yes, I'm completely overprotective, and I'm working on it. I will tell you I know longer have the nightmares, awake or asleep. They finally went away.

I think it started to get better when Ellie was around 6 months when I DID trip and fall with her in my arms. All the nightmares came rushing at me, but in the end, I managed to react instantly and protect her with my own body at inpact. Neither of us got hurt. THAT did loads for my psyche.

You are not alone, hon.

Alicia said...

That "know" should be a "no", dammit.

Emily said...

I don't have an answer, but I know yoou're not fucked up.

I have the car thing (although it has nothing to due with a baby). I was in the passenger seat of 6 bad car accidents in a 1 year period. (this was about 7 years ago). Ever since then I PANIC and have HORRIBLE scenes play through my mind if I'm a passenger in someone's car. Exactly what you mentioned, except it's a feeling of lack of control, and doesn't happen when I drive. When I'm a passenger I envision the car in front of us on the highway slamming on his brakes while traffic is doing 110. And our car smashing through the back. Carnage. I think the same things about cars pulling up behind us. I think the same thing while going through intersections.

I know it's not the same, but when I read your post, it reminded me of the sick, awful, panicky, 'can't breathe' feeling I get. I know the feeling comese from lack of control. I wonder if that has something to do with your waking dreams?

I hope you find some answers, and I hope you aren't plagued with these horrible panic attacks any more.

Sarah @ said...

What type of mother doesn't imagine these sorts of things? Look, I haven't even HAD my baby yet and I imagine stuff like this, or I imagine being mauled by a rabid dog and my baby miscarrying late-term or whatever. And I love my nieces with all of my heart, like they were my own, but I imagine these things about them too.

I think it's because you love so much and so deeply and because you fear so greatly for your daughter's life, for her happiness, for her every tomorrow, that you imagine these things. And with time, I'm sure it will get better, as her life is more secure and she is stronger and more mature. You'll still worry and fear and love, of course, but I'm certain that the specifics of HOW those emotions manifest themselves may change.

annacyclopedia said...

Tara, just another voice here to say that you are not a freak for having these thoughts. I've had many similar thoughts about my nephews, horrible fantasies about them falling out of my arms while we are outside on the ferry, or me falling into Victoria harbour when I was walking my month-old nephew around in a sling (the worst part of that one was the malicious-looking seal that was bobbing around and I kept imagining falling in and being dragged down by the seal).

I think it's just a manifestation of love and concern for these little lives, and maybe in some way an expression of the anxiety that we rightfully feel when one of these little lives is dependent on us. The feelings are ok, and there is nothing wrong with any of us for having them. But it's a problem when it is impacting the quality of your life and taking up more space than you want it to. I hope that with time or with some more deliberate action on your part, you find a way to keep these nightmares in a small corner of your mind, not running around like they own the place.

You are very much in my thoughts. Your post of the other day is also running through my mind and I haven't commented yet cause I'm still figuring out my response. Hopefully I write it down for you before I get distracted by something or other and forget about it. But know it had a big impact on me and that I saw a lot of myself in your words.

nancy said...

As everyone else has said, these are normal thoughts. BUT... I think you should discuss this with your doc. The fact is that you are having them more often than not and they are interfering with your day to day living. I've not experienced with PPD, but I don't think these fears should be gripping you so tightly and so often. Maybe some help is warrented at this point?

All my good thoughts to you hun.

Michelle said...

I experienced something very similar after the birth of my long awaited (and probably only) child. Day and night, scenes of all the Worst Case Scenarios my brain could conger up flashed before my eyes and gripped my heart in fear.

When I started to be plagued by detailed dreams of his funeral, I made a conscious decision to focus on my great love for him (which seemed to coincide with my fear of losing him), live in present time and find joy in small things, all of which exhausted and then replenished my energy.

I do believe that this kind of fear can serve as a reflection of your capacity for profound love which has manifested as your precious daughter. This is a difficult subject to discuss, so I admire your courage for posting your thoughts and I wish you well.

Aurelia said...

Catching up on posts and just wanted to say that it's not PPD, it's PTSD, and a few flashes are no big deal but if it keeps up and doesn't stop then you will need help.

A lot of IFers end up with PTSD from having so many medical procedures done to us. Mine came through that a lot of stuff growing up that you might understand.

Anyway, get some help if it keeps bothering you. There are lots of drugs and types of therapy. Email me if you want.

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