Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.
I want desperately for someone else to admit they’ve felt this way, but even with the anonymous byline I’m hesitant to write it down.
I’ve had visions of horrible things happening to my baby. Seeing her drown. Falling off the balcony. Getting hit by a car when she’s in her stroller. Once when she was crying uncontrollably in her car seat, I jerked the car into a parking lot and imagined smacking her across the face. Instead, I yelled at her to blow off steam, got out of the car and sat in the backseat to nurse her, crying the whole time.
I’m half-convinced these visions are due to my natural instinct to want to protect her, that perhaps this is nature’s way of preparing me for those unlikely but horrible “what ifs?” I remember reading that we have primal nightmares about getting chased by animals or being whisked away by tornadoes because our subconscious needs to “drill” for this sort of emergency. Is that what my brain is doing?
But I still can’t help but peruse information about Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), wondering if I have some variant of this. Like most women, I had the so-called baby blues when baby was a newborn. I had periods of weepiness over the first several months of her life. I even had thoughts of suicide, reminiscent of my long-gone clinical depression from my teenage years. It was scary for me.
But I never truly wanted to hurt my child. I may have envisioned it, but it was like I was watching my doppelganger do it. It was more like (does anybody else do this?) the way you sometimes get the urge to yell in a library or take your clothes off and start singing from your office cubicle just to see what will happen. Of course you’re never going to do those things, but doesn’t the thought ever just occur to you, and for a moment you fear your curiosity will win over your prudence?
It’s that teetering feeling that frightens me, like something stronger than my adult logic will suddenly take me over. I’ve never fully believed the testimonies of criminals who state that “voices” made them do things, or that they “blacked out,” unless they’re legitimately schizophrenic, of course. It just doesn’t seem possible to do something, especially something horrible, without realizing it.
I’ve never even blacked out from drinking, and I’ve gotten pretty shit-faced in my day. I remember every one-night stand and stupid drunken thing I’ve ever said. And I have never been dangerously impulsive, except for that one time in fifth grade when I was switching my left and right hands on the handlebars. It doesn’t work, in case you’re wondering.
I wasn’t abused as a child or anything, either. I had two extremely loving parents and I grew up in a caring, upscale community. Aside from my teenaged depression, which I assume was a chemical response to the trauma of moving away from home for college, I have been very stable. I would even describe myself as gentle to a fault—I have never been in a physical fight, I am very careful about what I say to others and can’t sleep at night if I think I’ve offended someone. I don’t even kill bugs. I transport them outside in little jars.
One especially rough night, my husband tearfully admitted that he had a vision of throwing our baby against the wall. It broke him. We cried and cried together. I assured him that he did not, in fact, hurt her—and that’s what matters. I believed myself when I said it. I’m sure every human, when imbued with passion, has imagined extreme things happening. Kids fantasize about having sex with teachers. Some people imagine their worst enemies getting run over by cars. Everyone makes negative judgments at one point or another, whether it’s about someone’s weight gain or haircut or bad breath, but we would rarely come out and say these things to someone’s face.
I want to believe that my visions are simply a product of human curiosity, not some omen of what’s to come. I give my baby nothing but love and care; she’s not been sick once since birth, and she has only earned a handful of injuries from ordinary toddling about. My weepiness is even fading. I will now go weeks without crying.
She smiles and laughs and coos, and I do it all right back.
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