Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

They Don’t Tell You: You Need Puppies and Kittens

on March 9, 2012

Catching some Zs with the 3-month-old girls.

People love to start sentences like that…”Here’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a parent…” But there really is one thing that I never heard (or remembered hearing anyway) until after I had my babies and talked to other new moms: A new mom’s brain needs complete insulation from all world horrors and evils, because it will create the most horrid scenarios all on its own.

Perhaps the reason we don’t hear about this is that it fades away, out of our memories eventually, like the pain of childbirth. If so, that would be a tremendously life-affirming development. In any case, it took me by surprise, until I found out my fellow mama friends were experiencing the same things in their own heads.

It seems to be most rabid in the earliest months, right after you bring the babies home. Just as you are trying to get a grip on how to manage your new sleepless life, and you do manage to lie down to catch a few winks, your brain suddenly flashes a ghastly scene, snapping your eyes open and causing your heart to race. I’m talking about really hideous thoughts…pictures of your new babies mutilated or killed in graphic detail.

I can’t remember the exact detail of my own vile imaginings (thank goodness!) because I tried to block them out so quickly. But I know that they were powered with a ferocious energy, as if forcibly pushed into my consciousness by my subconscious, not to be ignored. I remember feeling so helpless against the assault, and so disgusting! How could I imagine such things? I mean, it’s my own mind that’s creating these vivid, abhorrent scenes! Am I some sort of sicko?

The onslaught did ease up after the first year, but then I had a resurgence a couple of months ago, when the babies were around 18 months I guess. This second round was just as horrifying, and unfortunately seemed more realistic. The images were of the girls being hit by cars and trains, mostly. This is not easier, because it really could happen. But at least it’s not just horror-movie level gore.

I think that maybe what powers these thoughts is good ol’ maternal instinct (and oh yeah, hormones). Our brains seem to be telling us not to totally relax because the new responsibility we hold is very great. As if we didn’t know.

But the other thing behind it is something most people are familiar with. It’s that thought that temporarily flashes while driving on a windy road that has no guardrails,”I could drive right off the road right now.” I guess it’s a flirtation with the realities of human choice and the temporary nature of our lives. I mean, we all know somewhere, deep down, that life can change in an instant, but we don’t really behave that way, do we? We actually do most things in our lives to establish the illusion of control.

Having babies puts the issues of life and death right in front of you, all the time. When you see them grow an inch overnight (they really can!) you are reminded that they will continue to grow, right up to and past your own age (that is, barring your mind’s frightful scenarios becoming realities). And every time you retire another baby or toddler accoutrement, you get misty because you know that there will never be another baby bottle or pacifier for them ever again. Time will continue to push us on toward our futures, and of course toward our deaths. Which is a very hard thing to think about. We’d much rather dwell on the innocence and newness of these tiny, perfect humans than on thoughts of future loss and pain.

I think these moments of weird horror are just our subconscious reminding us that our lives are a little bit fragile. And they can help us to really cherish the present moment, but they can leave you with a lasting feeling of discomfort, too. Which is why one new-mommy friend of mine literally has to think of “puppies and kittens…puppies and kittens…” when the thoughts attack. Because the thoughts are intolerable, and can definitely cause some level of depression, not to mention rob you of the little sleep you are afforded in the early days!

Of course maybe it’s all just about balance. Because the joys and insane beauty in which you get to bask as a parent are so intense, that maybe the mind simply has to counter-balance its chemistry, and so doses you with some downers to keep you from flying off on a blissful pink cloud of unreality. In any case, the good stuff—as in most areas of life—outweighs the bad, and I can endure these frights for the contrasting delights.

Do you remember any of your own freaky thoughts?

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4 responses to “They Don’t Tell You: You Need Puppies and Kittens

  1. My brain used to go to the “If you could only save one person in the car, who would it be.” which leads to horrid scenarios of precious cargo sliding to watery graves. I think it goes away.

    • Janet S says:

      Whoo! Yeah, that’s a good one. Dang. It’s funny too, because of course it’s so extreme! Almost nobody in life would ever have to make a choice that literally devastating. Thanks for sharing!

  2. MamaPlus says:

    Yes! In the first few months I had to make up an affirmation about me and my family being safe and healthy and repeat it 400 times a day every time a thought popped into my head about my baby’s fragility etc. I still use it. Good to know other mamas have the same problem 🙂

    • Janet S says:

      What a great idea. I just seem to reflexively push them away, or sometimes I think of probabilities to make myself feel better, you know…”The chances of that happening are so low.” But that doesn’t always work. I think I’ll just make an affirmation or mantra too. Thanks!

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