Nervous Nellie Fourth Time Parents

Are you sure she's still breathing?

Are you sure she’s still breathing?

“Where are you going, Mommy?” My 8-year-old daughter asks me when I get up for the fifth time during dinner.

“To make sure the baby’s breathing.”

Most of the time our new baby sleeps in my arms or on my chest. All three kids clamor to hold her. I let them take turns but it’s hard for me to give her up. When she’s not with me I feel like an integral part of myself—an arm or a leg—is missing. When my husband James finally takes her, he invariably whispers, “Hello, baby. Let me take a look at you. I’ve barely seen you today.”

Though her oldest sister loves to hold her at dinner, it’s hard to eat with a floppy sleeping newborn in your arms and I’ve been finding muffin crumbs in her swaddling blanket, tomato sauce on her onesie, and parmesan cheese in her soft, fine hair.

So tonight when the baby fell into a deep sleep during dinner, I put her on the bed in our room (which is right next to the kitchen) with the door open.

Still, I can’t stop checking on her.

I don’t know if it’s postpartum hormones, if I’m programmed to feel this way by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, or if I’m just being neurotic, but I can’t stop worrying she is going to stop breathing.

“Go check on the baby,” I tell my 6-year-old son. He hops up, runs out of the room, and is back in a few seconds. “She’s sleeping,” he cries. “Why are you so worried about her Mommy? She’s always fine!”

“It’s hard to kill a newborn,” a mom told her daughter, a friend of mine who was feeling fearful after just having a baby. My friend found these words immensely reassuring and repeated them to herself often, especially after she accidentally banged her newborn’s head into a kitchen counter.

Even though I have three healthy children who survived being newborns just fine, I can’t stop feeling like the baby is so fragile, the world so full of germs, the weather so cold.

James, who is usually the designated worrier in our house, has been less anxious than I. But he, too, has been surprised by how inexperienced we both feel having our fourth child.

When you have something so tiny and precious, you have so much to lose.

Now please pardon me, I have to go check on the baby.

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6 thoughts on “Nervous Nellie Fourth Time Parents”

  1. Totally understand the impulse to check on breathing. I think I would be doing the same thing if I had a fourth child. I found it really interesting that you both feel inexperienced. Perhaps, with the second and third, you had reached a level of competence that gets blown away by a fourth? Or, perhaps it has to do with more maturity and awareness of all the dangers out there? If you figure it out, hope you’ll let blog readers know.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Sing-a-long! =-.

  2. I hear you. I used to do the same thing. In fact one of mine is 17 and if she sleeps very late on the weekend, I am still convinced she is dead.

  3. This is such a hard sensation to beat! When my kids were little I was totally catastrophic in my thinking. About them and me. My mother kept telling my the doomsday feelings would get better and they have, with the kids being 7, 10 and 12. But those emotions did feel biological or innate.

  4. I SO understand! When Reeve was a newborn, I’d touch his chest until I could sense it rise and fall and then would have to check Tim (my husband) to make sure *he* was still breathing, as well. . .

  5. I too was so totally neurotic about checking my baby’s breathing. He was a good sleeper. Slept through the night from 2 months old. I was so worried for a while wondering if I had accidentally killed him!

  6. I had this with my baby, too. I was nervous when other people held her, as if they didn’t know how to do it right or, worse, would try to steal her. If she wasn’t crying, I assumed she’d died of SIDS. I thought that sort of thing went away with each child, but it sounds like it’s more genetic. I’m sure it’s a normal protective instinct dating back to the days when we lived in caves.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Gain the Upper Hand =-.

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