There’s a pacifier in my car. It’s been there for 3 months, 3 weeks and 1 day.
I know this because it’s orange and not one we purchased (well, intentionally) ourselves, so it’s easy to remember where we got it. It was one that was given to us at the hospital the day Eli fell off the bed. I don’t know what to do with it.
I know it sounds silly, because it’s a pacifier. And a tiny piece of plastic should not hold this much power over me. But it does. I have thought about washing it and giving it to him, but I know that seeing him with it in his mouth would send me right over the edge that I’m carefully seated on right now. I’ve thought about throwing it away, which I imagine is what any normal person would do, but for some reason, I can’t.
So it sits in my car. A reminder.
And I think that’s why it’s there. It reminds me of what happened. And if I don’t forget what happened, it can’t happen again.
Friday (yay for therapy two days a week…) my therapist asked me to list all the ways that I am a good mother. I was easily able to report that I love my child more than anything in this world and then I got stuck. I don’t think that I’m a bad mother, but the second thing I wanted to say was that I keep my son safe, but every time I tried to say it, the words got jumbled because I felt like I somehow needed to add an asterisk. As if to say that I try really hard to keep him safe- I don’t let him put dirty things in his mouth, I don’t let him crawl outdoors, I only let him play with appropriate toys, but at the same time, I let him fall off a bed and get a brain injury, so I suppose safe probably isn’t the best way to describe my mothering skills.
I feel like up until 3 and a half months ago, I didn’t think that things like what happened to Eli happen to good mothers. Maybe that makes me an ass (wouldn’t be the first thing to thrust me into that category), but I can’t change my prior thinking. And then it happened to us and now I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. If injuries like Eli’s can happen to “good” or even asterisk good mothers, then how is it that anyone’s child can stay safe in this world? I feel like though I had anxiety before Eli’s injury, I felt comforted that when Eli was in my care, he was safe. And then this.
My husband is out of town next week, that in and of itself is making me anxious, though if we’re being honest, it’s been a rough few weeks. I have nightmares almost nightly that usually involve one of two scenarios- the most common is that I think the baby is in the bed and I begin searching frantically so I can save him before he falls off, which almost always results in both my husband and I waking up. The second is newer. I keep thinking that Eli has somehow found a way to open his door or is in my room with the door open and is going to fall down the stairs. Earlier this week, I sleep walked (slept walked? I don’t even know) and closed the door to save the imaginary dream baby.
Added on top of this, is that Eli started puking out of the blue at meals the day before yesterday. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, he’s not sick, it’s like a combo of teething and an oral aversion, but it took about 10 seconds to remember that the last time he threw up in public was just before I was left alone with Eli for several days and that was just before his accident. And boom, fear clobbered me.
I am not at all concerned about caring for Eli in the next week. I know his routine, hell, I created his routine and no one knows it better than I do. I know and love my child inside out. But I’m concerned about my mental health and I’m concerned about my son’s safety (not in an intentional harming manner, don’t call anyone). I just feel like I can’t trust my judgement. And the orange pacifier lives to remind me of that.
It reminds me that I have made mistakes and that they have been substantial. It reminds me to be careful, to think through things. It reminds me of what happens when you assume that bad things only happen to other people.
And so that orange piece of plastic sits in my car day after day, reminding me of that asterisk and why I can’t relax and assume that we are untouchable, for we have already been harshly touched. The orange pacifier is my reminder to be vigilant, and I’m afraid if I throw it away that the memory of what happened, and the reminders to not let it happen again, will be lost with it.