Please tell me that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with “hypervigilance." I’m not the only one who is always on edge that my child(ren) will blurt out something inappropriate during church service. I’m not the only one who worries my kid will run after a ball into the middle of the road. I’m not the only one who worries my child will ruin everyone else’s dinner at our favorite restaurant, or worse, ruin their flight. I know I can’t be the only mama out there like this.
Let me take it to another level. I worry that my child’s wheelchair will roll away if a caregiver hasn’t placed the brakes on properly. I worry that my child will choke on a Cheerio, and he is almost 8. I worry that my child will aspirate in his sleep if he vomits when he’s sick. Yet, we can’t elevate him too much because I worry he’ll find himself in some breathing compromised position and can’t get out of it. I worry. I worry a lot. That’s my job right? Special needs or not, we worry. As mamas, we are like hawks, mama bears, or mama tigers in some instances. I’ve always been a somewhat anxious person my entire life. Having children made me extra anxious, but in ways I never saw coming. Even driving home from the hospital after our twins were born was nerve-wracking. I’ve also resented anyone who said “relax, will you?” Or “smile.” Or worse, “why are you so worried?” We all have our own worries and yes, they are all relative.
No two moms are alike and no single parenting style is best. I firmly believe that. But we are all oddly similar in that we worry about the unknowns. That often takes us out of the present.
And not “being present” bothers me so much! I do not like when others aren’t present, but I HATE when I’m not present either. Take church for example. I always have a plan B and, often times, a plan C should something go awry. We always have an exit plan and sit in a convenient spot should we need to make a quick exit for some reason. Not only do I have to worry if my son’s wheelchair will get in the way, but also that he will interrupt someone’s quiet time of reflection with some sounds that he makes or a cry out of nowhere. Or how about when he giggles at someone coughing or sneezing or when the choir starts, or blurts out a loud “Amen!" Even in those wonderfully joyous moments, my shoulders are tense. My breath is tight. I can give myself a stomach ache and sweat just by the thought of all the things I worry about. Unnecessary worry? Perhaps. I’ve also felt crazy guilt of not being fully present in the service. I’ve tried attending mass alone, but that also just didn’t feel right. I’ve been caught not being fully present during a conversation because I have an ear on my son. (Friends, I’m sorry this has likely happened once or twice during our conversations.) In public places, I would be lying if I said I didn’t care if someone would stare or say something off color. Again, I was always that child that worried about someone, including me, being picked on. Yes, I can be mama bear when needed, but I’ve also been brought to silent tears just by being hypervigilant. I know I’m not alone and yes, this struggle is so very real and it is exhausting. I’m all about inclusion when it comes to our child with cerebral palsy. He gets to experience what his twin brother and little sister get to experience for the most part — barring his physical limitations of course. He is as much a part of our family and his school as his siblings are. Yet, with inclusion comes being vulnerable to many unknowns, stares, comments, etc. There were days when it was just easier to avoid certain situations, especially if I couldn’t come up with that plan C. But now, as a family, we find there’s no reason why we can’t try. Yes, things might happen. And hopefully they continue to result in only more laughter and smiles instead of sweating and tension.
So, I will take that hypervigilance on and see it as a privilege I’ve been given. Yes, I will always be a conscientious, considerate person — maybe to a fault. But, I know those tight shallow breaths are slowly turning into more and more moments of being very present and being fully aware of my deeper breaths. I believe this happens and that every mom deserves to relax her shoulders, be present and SMILE. And what a relief it is when we can treasure the tense moments as much as the joyous moments.