I’ve been wracking my brain about why motherhood in the U.S. is ridden with anxiety.
There’s obviously the pregnancy and postpartum stress plus sleep deprivation, which is linked to impaired judgment and a higher likelihood of anxiety and depression. (Not to mention a hormonal, financial and body image mayhem.)
But there’s another stressor: The Internet.
It’s the nighttime scrolling while the baby eats for the umpteenth time, and when War and Peace is too dense of a reading alternative.
It’s the click bait headlines and panicky Amazon reviews slithering into our subconscious.
Fish is poison for pregnant women! But wait, not eating fish is just as bad as eating it: it’s a tossup between an underdeveloped brain vs. a mercury-poisoned one, the CDC says!
10 jaw-dropping signs you could be ill with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious disease.
Enjoying that hummus? Top dozen foods that could be hurting your unborn baby.
Is your child playing with/sleeping on/peeing out these toxic chemicals? #153 is so common, it will surprise you!
Going back to work so soon after baby? Research shows your daughter will be a high earner and your son will dust like nobody’s business. Also, you’re a crappy mother.
Why you will never ever have a decent sex life after kids. Ever.
Teen hurts self with innocent birthday balloon game (I’m leaving the graphic ones out.)
Yeah, those headlines. They are just too damn alluring to an exhausted parent with a short attention span.
After the birth of my first child, I got so scroll-happy, I began to question whether eating a conventional apple or buying a crib with the wrong varnish meant the end days were upon my family (and the human species), as I describe here.
So with my second, I tried to cut the clutter. It meant fewer Facebook groups, listicles and expert opinions. It was, though, a worthy sacrifice for the sake of being more present when it matters.
My guilty pleasure is podcasts. It’s information with intake that’s easy to control and access only when needed.
So every day when walking with my newborn, I turn up the headphone volume – or keep it silent. I listen while watching his shoulders, cocooned in cotton blankets, rise and fall to the rhythm of his breathing.
And with the push of a button, we are transported to fantastical places.
There we are on the crosstown Manhattan bus as a passenger spills dill pickles on her seat. Or we follow a Holocaust survivor into an Upper West Side Café where he tries to reinvent himself through endless conversation. We walk along with a man resolved to take down the Confederate flag. We brave the snowflakes on Christmas.
Or I listen to nothing at all, and just marvel as my son – so wondrous, tiny and near – as he scrunches his knobby nose in his sleep.
We walk until the rain begins to drizzle, until the dusk falls, until his giraffe pajamas get too tight, until he outgrows the nook of my arm and learns to speak defiant words and to crawl, walk, dash to distant cities of his own. But until then, we keep on walking together, and all I can do is be there, really be there, pretending this moment won’t ever end.
(Cover image: Francisco De Goya: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”)