It happened to me.
I was downstairs washing dishes and cleaning the house for my husband’s return. Suddenly, there was a frightening “BANG”. I checked the front door and knew it had to be something else. Then I heard the screaming. I ran upstairs to investigate; first sight being my 5-month-old son, shrieking uncomfortably on the floor. Apparently, he became mobile post-slumber and rolled out of bed.
Why would I leave a baby on the edge of a bed?? I didn’t. When my son went to sleep he was centered and I have yet to grow accustomed to the new mobile 5-month-old that lives in our house. I felt like the world’s worst mother. How dare I try to multi-task and clean while my son is asleep! Why didn’t I put him in his pack and play before coming downstairs? Question after question. guilt after guilt… Screaming baby in my arms, I did what calms him most often- I offered him the breast. A process that would allow me to assess his level of terror.
Once he latched and began nursing, It was not long before all of the sniffles subsided.
While my baby nursed contently, I grabbed the computer and researched the many signs and vitals I needed to ensure my son was OK. (The clinic is closed on weekends and the nearest hospital is known for malpractice- including not removing my leftover placenta postpartum, despite OBVIOUS complications.) I checked his limbs for soreness and mobility. I looked over to make sure he could see and follow me with his eyes each direction. Tickling him to see if he would smile- he giggled. I gave a sigh of relief.
I continued to feel guilty and like a scum of a mother. What happens the next time I forget? How will I be able to handle all of my daily motherly mishaps if I can’t get past this incident? How can I raise a resilient son if I’m not a resilient mother? All of these and more raced through my head.
Then it dawned on me, despite the level of care and concern I applied to my mothering, I will never be able to remember everything. I cannot protect him from every incident. Sure in this particular situation more precautions could have been made. For example, ensuring I put him in his pack and play instead of in bed with us. But not all times.
As I look into my son’s eyes, his interactive expression gives me reassurance he is fine. Was it a scary situation? Yes. Will it be the end of the world? No. I know in my heart of hearts I would never do anything to intentionally put my son in harm’s way.
Why are we so critical of ourselves as mothers? It’s not possible for me to predict and prevent every challenge that my son will experience. Instead, why not aim to be there when he cries out, to soothe him and check to make sure he’s OK. Motherhood is challenging enough without unnecessary stress from unrealistic expectations. Looking into my boy’s eye, I can tell he will be OK.