Anything could happen.
I was walking to my Pilates class last night, after a good day with bubba. We had managed to convince her to sleep for two cycles per nap, so she was better rested in her awake time, and I had a chance to get some things done between play session. She had gone to bed for the night with little resistance, and I had made my exit in the knowledge that all was well on the home front.
When it hit me: absolutely anything could happen. As bubba gets more mobile, the size of her world increases, and so does the number of possible outcomes I can now speculate on and worry about. Parental worry has a kind of photosynthetic relationship between the breadth of carpet she pinches, and the air I breathe.
She could toddle off a ledge. She could jump from a high place. She could whisk herself in front of oncoming traffic. There is no end to the things she could do to herself, with a smile on her face.
And that’s just the things I can try to guard against. What if she gets sick? Because that can happen. I saw a lot of that growing up with an ill sister – I saw a lot of how bad things can happen for no apparent reason to small children, and I don’t want to think like that, but it’s really possible. And what would I do then?
In ‘Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,’ Anne Tyler’s mother character had three children. She described the panic attached to just having one: the need to have back-ups. In the first ten days or so of total sleep deprivation-induced desperation after bubba was born, I absolutely did not want to contemplate another child. But a few months later, as I got my head above water, I did want another one, some time in the future. Now, I am so in love with bubba that again, I can’t contemplate another child, simply because I can’t bring myself to picture anyone taking away any attention from my little one. That might change again, of course; but then, as Anne Tyler’s character realised, I would just increase the amount I had to worry, by increasing the number of children I had to lose.
I wish I could Time Machine my baby girl. I wish I could build her a bubble of fun and play that could encompass the world, but keep her safe. My arms are not quite big enough to prevent acts of God, and possibly even acts of bubba herself. In ‘Something Happened,’ by Joseph Heller, the father squeezes his son so tightly after a near-miss accident that his son actually asphyxiates.
I think perhaps that there is no solution. There is just sheer, parental terror, kept at bay most of the time with a few laughs and jokes at our own expense; and the common sense to let go – not just of bubba, although of course that too, with the common sense I can display when not mentally hyperventilating; but of the fear that would otherwise keep her pinned to my chest, until I lost her in a way all of my own devising.