I must admit, in my first five months of motherhood, I was feelin’ pretty good about myself. I was calm about motherhood; I was mature, evolved. Instead of obsessing over fear mongering articles, commenters and forums on the Internet, I garnered advice from women and mothers I trusted.
Okay yes, I did, upon occasion, obsessively watch my daughter’s breathing. But in my defense, she sleeps like a vampire and it’s unsettling. Even then, I kept it cool, calm, and collected.
When I was pregnant, I thought baby video monitors were a little extreme. I’m here. I can hear my baby cry. I can check on her. I don’t need to spend the money. When tempted to follow safety trends, I’d hum the old adage, “Humans have managed to survive all this time without baby monitors, it’s fine!”
I mean, humans typically only lived until their 30s and infant mortality rates were unreal, but that’s neither here nor there.
When my daughter grew out of the bassinet I kept by my bedside, we moved her to a crib in her room across the hall from us. I never suspected that this transition meant my “cool, calm, and collected” self would be jolted awake by every possible noise, causing me to run into the baby’s room like her hair was on fire.
Suddenly, the video monitor I thought was “a bit much,” was not only an incredible convenience, but the only thing that brought me peace of mind. As I went to bed the first night, I pulled up the app and happened to catch my baby mid roll on to her tummy. It looked adorable, but nerve-racking — rolling was new for her in bed. I had read that once they start rolling on their own, it’s ok to allow them to sleep on their tummies, so I tried to relax. But then I noticed she struggled to get her arms free. It was usually not a problem during tummy time, but she looked sleepy and delirious, then seemed to give up. Face down. On the mattress. Then she didn’t move.
I ripped out of bed to her crib side faster than you can say crazy-eyed lunatic. I patted her back and she jolted her head up like a drunk old man asleep at a bar. I swooped her up and brought her into bed, but not before going to my husband in the living room, shouting something like, “Were you EVEN watching her on the monitor!? Or am the only one who gives a damn?!”
Once in bed, she positioned herself perpendicular immediately, so I laid my hand across her lap to discourage her from more leg kicks to my face. Then I felt her tiny fingers grab my hand and slowly bring it up to her mouth so she could vigorously gum my fingers one by one.
I’ll never sleep again, I thought to myself. Jesus, take the wheel.
The baby video monitor was supposed to help me keep an eye on her without having to physically get out of bed and disturb her with frequent checks. Instead, it ended up adding to my stress because I was witnessing her do normal things that looked really freaking scary. A friend shared that all of her children liked to sleep in troubling positions (like face down) and there was nothing she could do to stop them during the night. She got used to it, but suggested I get the Angel Care Movement monitor if I couldn’t hack it. It’s a monitor that sounds a beeping alarm when it doesn’t detect movement (like if the baby stops breathing).
Whoa. Now I need to closely monitor her breathing movements to give me peace of mind from the video monitor that was supposed to give me peace of mind from the voice monitor that was supposed to give me peace of mind? Have I reached the absolute height of new motherhood paranoia?!
Yes. And technology is my gateway drug.
At some point, I have to wonder if technology has made us better parents, or if it’s made us paranoid stalkers. Sound monitors, video cameras, movement monitors, Google, motherhood forums, strollers made out of spaceship materials (it doesn’t exist yet, but it will).
All it takes is one person in the comments of a forum to share the story of their friend’s daughter to make it seem like death by cuddling with blankie is as common as teething. In reality, my afternoon walk in a stroller crossing busy streets puts us in far more danger than my baby preferring to sleep on her stomach. Yet, we take our walks comfortably and confidently every day. Despite how irrational my fears may seem on paper, I still can’t stop feeling like I’m being chased by the SIDS boogie man.
Perhaps I’m less worried about our walks because I have a sense of control, albeit false sense, that if danger were to occur, I’ve accounted for it and can prevent it. Whereas being asleep, something that’s, you know, — mandatory for life — I feel like I’m losing control and have to trust I’ve done what I can to keep her safe. But I clearly don’t trust because I have a camera on her, a monitor under her, and my iPhone at the ready to frightfully answer any deathtrap question I may have at the moment.
It doesn’t help that we find ourselves living in an era where CPS investigates loving parents for allowing their children to walk home alone from a park in a safe neighborhood. I can’t help but wonder — will there come a time when a mother will be arrested if her baby tragically dies from SIDS, when perhaps it could have been avoided if she had purchased a movement monitor? It seems insane to even imagine, but I’d guess that’s what motherly love can do to you.
Where is the balance? Modern technology and medicines have saved countless lives, brushing it off would certainly be to our detriment. But at the same time, slipping into an irrational paranoia can also inhibit us from living our best lives. It causes us to hover much too closely over our children, strip children of learning the joys of independence, and makes us into total basket cases.
I don’t know the answer, I’m new at this crap. I suppose the best thing we can do is ask ourselves, “Is this causing me and my family more harm than good?” If the technology and tools we use for peace of mind and to keep our children safe become mentally exhausting, intrusive or obsessive, perhaps it’s best just to calm the hell down, step back and apply a little common sense. If modern tools provide assurance, then why not use them?
For me, sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that in this life, we will never really be in control. Yes, there are safety precautions I can take that may even save a life, but our human experience has a way of pulling the rug out from under us in a split second, regardless of whether we take our morning run in bright orange safety vests or avoid gluten or dairy.
I want to feel joy and glee, not anguish and worry. All I can really do is grab hold of the present moment and do the best I can to guide, love and protect my sweet baby, and follow my instincts on what that may look like. It’s the only thing I can control, and it feels a lot better than sitting around imagining all of the horrible things that could possibly, maybe, go wrong.
Now if you’ll excuse me, in this present moment I just received a notification on my iPhone that there is movement in the baby’s room. I’m off to go panic over nothing.More On