But what if the unimaginable happened?
I have a love hate relationship with Children In Need, Comic Relief and articles like the ones I have published on Pea or other mums who have been through scenarios you can’t bear to imagine. You have to watch them and read them to marvel in the strength of humans all around you and to spark your sense of humanity and decency to bring something positive out of those events that make no sense, that hit the people who deserve it least, but that doesn’t make it easy.
On Friday night I sipped my gin and tonic safe in the knowledge my little one lay asleep upstairs and my older boys were close at hand, healthy and happy. We watched children all over the country showing off their spotty outfits with pride and companies tell us about the wonderful fundraising efforts they have made over the course of the year to raise funds for Pudsey and co.
And then come those videos. The ones that leave you stunned; unable to converse with your family or husband alongside you because what can there be to say? In what world can it be fair that things such as these happen to any person; good or bad.
A father whose son (one of twins) fell from the back of the minibus he was driving and lost a leg and suffered severe brain injuries. A little girl with epilepsy so severe it was gradually robbing her of all of her senses and skills one by one. And for me the absolute nightmare, the video that sent shivers down my spine, the couple who had first their small baby taken from them with a brain tumour, tackled their grief head on, only to be faced with the death of their only remaining, older child shortly after to bone cancer. There are no words.
Losing a child is every mother’s worst nightmare and it’s not uncommon to suffer with a phobia as such that can impact the way that you live and the risks that you are prepared to expose your children to.
Like all things in life balance is key but after hearing a terrible story or witnessing something awful our gut reaction is to gather our tribe and keep them close by, cocooned in the protective bubble of our love.
It’s normal to have a few moments after a night like Friday to reflect about just how lucky you are and to struggle not to be overcome with fear that it could one day happen to you. But what do you do if you find yourself thinking paranoid thoughts about losing your children more often than this?
Well firstly know that you’re not alone. In fact in the immediate months after having a baby it seems that fear of losing your child is a common presentation of postpartum anxiety and is actually really normal as is a heightened empathy with the plight of mothers all over the world.
Shortly after I had my second child the siege in the Russian school in Beslan took place and scenes of small children running for their lives dressed only in their underwear while their terrified parents looked on haunted me for days.
If you suffer from this form of anxiety it can be tricky to know how to cope with it. I’m no counsellor or psychotherapist but there are some obvious methods for controlling your fear and ensuring it doesn’t dampen your quality of life and limit the experiences you or your children can benefit from.
1. Acknowledge the fear. Accept that so much of life is out of your control. Focus on the here and now and creating a life that is full and happy. If you were to ask those parents who lost their children what they’ve learned from their experience they would surely advise you to savour every single opportunity to live and to live well.
2. Consider to what extent you need to ruminate on your fears. Some loss in life is inevitable (as we grow old we will lose friends and family; that’s for sure) but obsessing about how you will cope with it will limit your enjoyment of the here and now. Liken it to other things in life that are certain; winter will come each year but we don’t let it dampen how much we enjoy the summer.
3. Replace the bad thoughts with positive ones. Visualise your child during a moment when you are all happy. Pride as they win an award in assembly, the glow that you get when you push them on a swing, that holiday moment where it all made sense.
But if you can’t banish the fear and you feel that your feelings are creating a problem in your life then reach out for some help. Share the way you feel with your partner, family or friends and remember the support available to you at PANDAS (for just a few days they are our charity of the month so it’s great to remember the support they can give.) Most of all rest assured that you are not alone, motherhood brings about a whole host of unexpected and unfamiliar emotions. We’re all in this together.
And when you watch those videos or read those articles take faith from the fact that people survive terrible things and fight on to live another day. Mothers (and indeed fathers) are remarkable people.