So I have this recurring dream that I have a baby. The fact that I have a baby always comes as a surprise, like “oh crap, I forgot about the baby”, kind of in the same way I notice the cat’s litterbox is a mess or I haven’t fed my fish in a week (oops). I’ll pull the baby out of the closet, or the guest room, where it has been stashed away with other clutter, and then I wonder what to do with it. I ask myself how long it's been since I fed her, changed her diaper, cared for her at all. I fret about not being able to do anything and contemplate giving the baby to an infertile but desperately clucky friend, but then wonder what the family would say. Then, of course, I realize that I have no business having the baby and start making plans to get rid of it because, dammit, I want to go watch X-Files and I don’t have time for this.
What’s weirdest about the dream, I think, is that even though it’s exaggerated and ridiculous (like I really could have neglected a baby like, well, I neglect my pets sometimes), it’s kind of poignant. I can handle the responsibility of pets because they require minimal maintenance. I fill my cat’s bowl and he grazes for three days, and he reminds me (with incessant meowing) if his litterbox has become unreasonable and I deal with it. If I can’t find the 45 minutes to clean the fishtank, my betta will be fine ‘til next week. I can still do my thing, go to bed when I want, wake up 20 minutes before I have to be at the train station.
I often wonder if, in a parenting situation, I would be as lackadaisical about the care for my child as I can be with the animals. It scares me, to be honest. I can’t function under constant pressure, constant stimulation, and I think of the months of panic, sleepless nights, the need to keep the baby entertained… it freaks me out even thinking about it and even in my dreams I feel a panic attack coming on. Why won’t she stop crying? What does she want now? What about ME? Why can’t I put her down? (Oh, yeah, in the dreams the baby appears in my house as it is now – no crib, no toys, etc) What about work? And, of course, my husband is furious with me because I don’t know how to be a mom and HE doesn’t want to deal with it either.
The dreams are over-the-top, but they illustrate my feelings about being a mother so perfectly. It’s just not me. I’m too panicky, too jumpy, too lazy and selfish. Why do people feel it’s wrong that I know my temperament and personality well enough that I know it’s incompatible with motherhood, and most of all that I’m okay with that? I get the argument from some that having a kid changes your perspective on things like that, that they force you out of your lazy comfort zones, but I ask this: what’s wrong with those comfort zones? What’s wrong about having an expectation of a few hours to myself every day, needing those decompression hours to avoid a breakdown from exhaustion?
Feeling panicked, tense, unsure of myself, paranoid… I would actually liken my baby-havin’ dreams to a nightmare. Rarely do I wake up as tense, my heart racing, than I do after freaking out in these dreams.