Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Publicly Private | Main | How Do You Afford Your Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle? »

Babies On The Brain

Lookit the tiny toes and the little fingers, that teensy bony backside and the rosebud lippy lips.. oh dear God.

I've just received an email from a friend of mine. A great girl. The kind of gal you fall in love with immediately. A fantastic, sassy woman who regularly (I think) reads this blog. She has a newborn baby boy... well, he's a couple months old now. Apparently my friend was shopping at the mall with her husband and baby this past weekend when the little guy had a severe seizure.

"His eyes rolled into the back of his head, he stiffened, turned blue and stopped breathing entirely. By the grace of God an anesthesiologist was close by. He performed CPR and brought him back. When the paramedics arrived he started convulsions and we've been in the hospital since."

While reading this I felt as if I was going to upchuck. My heart took an express elevator up my throat and I feared my morning oatmeal was not far behind. I can imagine no worse nightmare than the moments my girlfriend spent when her baby stopped breathing and turned blue. I can conceive of nothing more horrifying than standing by helplessly while my child stopped breathing.

Except one thing; a childhood friend - well, he was more a friend of a friend, really - but a few years back he and his wife bought a new house. They spent the day moving their belongings from the old home to the new. My friend, we'll call him Jason, was backing down the driveway with the last load of furnishings and accidentally ran over his toddler who was instantly killed.

I would suppose that Jason's life, for all intents and purposes, ended that day with his child's. I've heard no updates on how he's doing and although it was a devastating accident I can't imagine him not feeling responsible. I'm sure he thinks about it every minute of his life. The sorrow is unbearable to contemplate let alone carry through life. Incidents like this reinforce my terror at actually being responsible for another human life.

The older I become the more I have the inclination to actually assess the immense responsibility having children entails and my resulting calculations fuh-REAK me out. I can imagine nothing greater than shaping a young person into an amazing human being but sweet Jesus the responsibility seems overwhelming.. what if I fall into a depression when my child is old enough to wonder why Mom is sleeping or crying all the time? My depression guilt staggers me when just The Surge is around. Jesus, I feel bad for even Max when I'm in a slump. Guilty that the walk wasn't long enough, that I didn't play tug-of-war for the required twenty minutes, that my fetch skills lacked flair. I often imagine Max's disappointment that I'm such a shitty owner. Can you imagine the guilt complex with a child? And the constant worrying.. Is he breathing? Is she okay? Does she seem sick? Do you think he's deaf? Is she acting strange? Maybe he's blind? And that's just the first few years. What about when they're off driving around town, indulging in all the illegal activity that I committed at that age. Good God! I'll never get a moment's peace again. I must say though, to be able to focus on something, someone other than myself and my endless self analyzations will be a blessed relief.

The Surge is nearly 35 and I'll be 30 next March so of course I have babies on the brain. Especially with my Mormon heritage shadowing me down the sidewalk, tapping me on the shoulder and pointing out every adorable youngster within sight. Holy Joseph Smith! We're nearly grandparent age by Brother Joe's standards.

The good news is that my girlfriend's son is doing well. He had a repeat episode Sunday morning and the doctors have diagnosed him as an epileptic. While his prognosis is good and while being assured that seizures are both treatable and often non-detectable with the help of medicine and time, my friend says that, of course, the incident has shaken her family to the core and left them reeling with shock. About her son she says "he of course is in great spirits when he's awake which has helped us get through this with our sanity. He teaches us a lesson with each passing day and he has changed our lives and made us better people."

And that, I suppose, is what will make all the heartache worthwhile

Reader Comments (24)

Before I get a comment telling me I'm a copycat - yes I robbed the title "Babies On The Brain" from Stephanie Klein's blog. Shameful, I know!
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Does it ever scare you when you think about religion and raising your children? You and I have that in common, growing up in such a strong strict religion, now being adults! What religion do you raise your children, how do you let them know about god? That is probably my NUMBER ONE reason for not having kids. Yes loads of people will leave comments about how they will learn, you don't have to go to church, blah blah, but if you were raised beating down the door of a church.......what will your kids do? I can't imagine. Terrifies me! I seize up at the thought of getting pregnant! But sometimes baby seem so adorable, and they will change your life forever!
Sorry about your friend's baby, I hope it is ok now!
You are a great friend for caring so much!
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Your friend Jason's story is of course every parent's worst nightmare. I can't even gauge the level of pathos required to try to console, comfort and grieve with someone who has had such a terrible accident befall them. Before my four month old was born, I had dreams where I constructed some sort of bubble/force-field thing that I kept him in until he was less vulnerable to the dangers and vicissitudes of life. This dream was, of course, riddled with the fallacy that one can ever be less vulnerable in this world that can swallow a person whole.
Raising a child is a daunting task for sure, but the potential rewards for you, for your offspring and really, for the world at large are so great that not having a child eventually becomes the more difficult proposition. My boy is hiccupping next to me right now. Time for some milk and a nap. The baby should probably sleep some too.
Despite all of the incomprehensibly deep pitfalls that surround having a baby, two people as smart, vivacious, complex and full of empathy as you and your hubby shouldn't be overwhelmed or fuh-REAKed at all. You'll be A-1 sauce.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
That is awful! Sending thoughts and prayers to your friend. Also - please. You will be such a great mother. I can't wait to read hilarious posts about pregnancy and babies!
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
The responsibilities are great but no more than those of taking care or yourself and your spouse (well...maybe a little.)

I can honestly say that I can't imagine my life without my kids and it can't be understood fully until you have your own. Watching them experience the world - the good and bad - is incredible. My kids are 9 and 11 and each new thing they do is an adventure. Our Maine Trip for example was a case in point. It wouldn't have been the same without them.

Kids die. It's heatbreaking and awful and sad...but they add more to the world than they take away. Give it a try.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbob
I'm reminded of an scene in 'Sex and the City' after Miranda/Steve have just had their baby and Steve is supposed to watch him for the first time. He's panic-stricken and tries to hand him back to Miranda who replies, "Steve, we're both afraid we're going to kill the baby..... we've got to get over it".

I'm sure most first-time parents feel that way--- their child seems so very, very fragile, but kids are resilient- amazingly so. I taught babies/toddlers how to swim, and the parents were holding their breath longer (while watching lessons) than the kids in the pool. I would take a Tiny Tot and dunk him/her and they would wiggle, wiggle and make it to air with a huge smile while surfacing. They were swimming before their first birthday! So cutz.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren D.
I think that you would be a wonderful mother and 30 is the perfect age to start thinking of BABIES!

I will be waiting for your motherhood days!
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSM
" terror at actually being responsible for another human life...."

This is EXACTLY the thing that's stopping <i>me</i>.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBuffy
Everything about having children is terrifying. Can you keep them safe? Will they be healthy? Agonizing over every little detail even when they are in the womb. . . "IF I have this coke that I have been craving for 14 weeks, will that give my kid ADD?" Agonising over how you want to raise them. . . "If I don't give her a religion to follow, will she be a lost soul, or will she find it on her own?"

Being one of the most paranoid people on the planet, I can say that your being freaked out now will only amplify when you do get pregnant, and then will multiply again when you give birth. You will have nightmares about bad things happening. . .

But, in my mind, all the freaking out is totally worth it when you see your little monster smile for the first time, giggle, or feel her kick you from the inside out.

I have lost a lot of loved ones, and I can say this for a fact: I would rather have my baby and love my baby with my whole heart and lose her, than to have never had her at all (but of course that's skewed because I already have her, already love her, already need her).
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan
When my first was born things were very scary, transports to another hospital via ambulance while I stayed in the same hospital after my c-section. I was apart from my baby and it was horriffic, scary, heartbreaking and the first time in my life that something had gone terribly, TERRIBLY wrong. My husband I learned that morning that nothing in life is for sure. Live my life and stop sweating the small stuff. I have to remind myself that frequently, still.

I'm also up for the most paranoid parenting award. You would think it would get better now that my oldest is 14 (omgdearlord). You worry. It comes with the territory. But, I can't imagine being without my three wonderful kids. I have two skateboarding boys who love to make stink bombs and and a gorgeous, tall, blonde, confident 14 year old daughter. I am blessed.

I think your fears are normal. You will worry a lot. Motherhood is amazing. :-)

PS...prayers and hugs out to TCB.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTab
Having kids is the most terrifying thing I have ever done. It is also the most rewarding thing. (so cliche, sorry) I am scared every day that something will happen to my kids, that they will get sick, injured, whatever. I have one son with some medical problems and it rips my heart out every time I go to the hospital with him. But had I known would I have not done it? Absolutely not! I love every minute I get to spend with my kids. They are such a gift and have helped make me a much better person than I would have been. I am definitely not trying to give you any advice on whether or not to have kids, but one thing I do know, through my cancer and being really sick, my kids were fine. We made it through. If you did happen to have problems with depression, you would make it through. Both you and your child would be stronger for it. Kids are amazingly strong.

Plus, you would have the most amazingly beautiful children...look at both of you!
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertori
Hello. I stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago and have spent every spare moment at work catching up on all your journals. Today I discovered The Girl Who chapters and I'm just blown away. You, my dear, have real talent. The variety of topics - from depression to outright hilarity is evidence of that. When is the book out? I will be first in line.

Connie in Kansas.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterConnie
I watched my mother suffer infrequent but not unmemorable (is that a word?) bouts of depression whilst I was growing up (obviously where I got it from)

She managed to hide it from us most of the time, but I do recall one epuisode when it all got too much and my father and our family doctor had to organise to get her out of the city for a while. This was in the years pre-prozac/zoloft etc when Depression wasn't understood to the extent it is today, but there was some sort of med which pretty much turned her into a zombie and reset everything. I didn't understand it much at the time despite being about 16-17. They explained it to us kids as a 'chemical imbalance' in her body that needed to be 'recalibrated'. Before she went away she just couldn't stop crying, couldn't manage to do anything properly, then she came back absolutely exhausted and drained, but functional.
It wasn't until years later when my own depression started to really kick in that she explained to me what had gone on that time.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
That just breaks my heart for you. Although depression is not a choice, I don't want a similar scenario to happen to my child. I also grew up seeing the cracks in my parent's lives. It was scary.. I want to be a soft place for my child to land for as long as possible. Not the source of fear and uncertainty.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
It is hard to hear stories like that and not freak out, for they are truly tragic. And worrying about your kids simply comes with the territory and is natural. We all worry that we're going to do something wrong, and guess what? - you will do something wrong - we all have!

I understand that you worry about the depression, and if it will hinder your ability to parent. Honestly? you never know what will happen. For some people depression isn't forever, and some learn how to manage it or live with it. I think you only really have to worry if you *aren't* dealing with it, and clearly, you are.

True story - in 1994 we had a major earthquake in L.A., and my husband and I lost everything as our apartment was destroyed. We weren't hurt, but I had a VERY hard time afterwards with panic attacks. I noticed that many people I knew who had children simply HAD to pick up the pieces and get on with life for their kids' sake. I on the other hand, had no one else to think about, and it took me much longer to get back into everyday life.

Now that I have kids, I have no time to "overthink" the same things I used to, because quite frankly, kids don't do that - they need their routine! I guess it put a lot of things into perspective for me, and in my case, it helped me a lot. I do have moments when I feel depressed, but it's amazing how taking care of my kids snaps me out of it for some reason - wish I could explain it.

There is no perfect time to have kids, that's for sure. When you do have them, I'll bet you surprise yourself. It is life-changing for EVERYONE, and here's the cliché, it really is worth all the sacrifice. When you crawl into bed with them at night and read to them, or watch them as they sleep - there is no better feeling.
September 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterL.A. Jules
Don't get me wrong - my mother was and still is an amazing mother - I'm 32 still couldn't live without her. But she still has her occasional bouts, and I understand her down times the same way she understands and can support me through mine. I'd hate to think that she would ever have decided not to have us kids because of it...I'm one of 4 children, but the only one with The Cloud. So don't let it stop you.
September 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersfh
"Holy Joseph Smith! We're nearly grandparent age by Brother Joe's standards." - that's funny my mum keeps saying me something like this all the time:) and I insist I'm still 20 I've got time, a loooot of time:)

agree with you, I've got the same concerns, they scare me a lots...i can imagein have a beautiful little dauhter but this is just the beginning of the adventure, adventure of my life, right?! lack of time to give my baby that's freak me out even more... and yes I feel bad for my dog as well I would like to give him more me, more fun but sometimes it's just imposible because of long houres at work and then I imagine myself having kids with this luck of time and wonder how to bring them up...but otherwise listen to another mums it's possible to manage it and I know when I will have a beautiful little daughter, my life change in 99%, and I mean my brain is gonna read everything differently, like things will have diffrent value and I guess that will make me strong or even stronger... and I think, you, being a mum will find this strenght as well - you will have both close to you, your Surge and your little baby:)

p.s. I happy your friend's baby boy is all right now, a few years ago my fiance's nephew had the same epileptic atack, it's happend to newborn babes sometimes the doctor said and by now, he is 4, he is as fit as a fiddle, I wish your friend this!!!
September 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
What a nice blog. You write so well and the picture!Wow. Wishing you the best, Linda
September 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Freedman (TherapyDoc
I did not want kids at all. Guess I should have a been a little more careful on those drunk college nights. I have rockin 2 year old. She is my whole world.

If and whenever you have your own with The Surge, you will be great at it. Yes, it is hard and you fear your failure every single day, but it is so worth it.

September 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHales
While I don't have children because I have no prospects of finding anyone to father them, I don't think I could raise a child right now even if I did. The sheer weight of the responsibilities and all the ways I could mess up would haunt me. This post expresses it perfectly.
September 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
No, no no... where would I be without my kids. That's all I live for. There is no greater sorrow, they will break your heart, over and over again. But I cannot imagine my life without them. They are my greatest joy. Tiny little sweet, squeaky infants then adorable curly headed dirt eating terrors, then mean screaming rotten hateful teens, and then responsible adults. It all happens in a blink of an eye, I wish I could do it all over again. All of it! The best part of my life. It is my life.
September 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
Hi I'm drunk and on Soma. Hurt my back surfing. You know I'm surprised Monica, being from a Mormon background waited until she was 27 to get married. I wonder what the hold up was.. Just out of curoisity. you know poeple are waiting alot later to have kids these days. Its the pressure of getting a carreer established and becoming fiscally stable. I really want to get married and have kids but not unless I have the $$$ to pay for them. And I can tell you striaght up I cannot even imagine having kids with the way things are today in socialty. It was bad when I grew up (sex, drugs,sluts ETC) but today there is no comparison. And the hell I gave my parents, Paybacks are a bitch and I would be pretty scared.
September 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
Monny cakes...

With not a whole lot of time to myself these days (and believe me, that's not a complaint anymore) I haven't had much spare time to visit The Girl this morning as I took the morning watch I decided to feed baby boy in front of the computer and grab a little time for me. I read your post and tears rolled down my cheek. Thank you for your kind words, and for expressing your own thoughts about having children. You will be a good mother when that day matter when it is. Your instincts are different and you'll become superwoman - but - you'll fuck up're supposed to. Right now I'm living with the memory that I could't save my own son because at the time all of the infant CPR training I had just four months before was nowhere to be remembered. But subconsciously I knew that if I couldn't do it, someone could, so I screamed for help. Wanna hear another? He has to take two medications two and three times a of course, I forget his 2:00 meds and give them to him at 4:00 yesterday....and I cry and I fear that I won't be able to do this...that I'm not a good mother. Then I'm reminded that he's still here. That in the hospital I slept in the crib (did I say sleep?) with him the first two nights. That I wouldn't leave his side other than to use the restroom which I did infrequently because I barely ate or drank anything. YOU CAN DO IT. It IS possible. Men probably couldn't, but we're's in our chemical makeup to do these things....go ask yo mama.

I can't imagine a more beautiful baby than one created by you and Serge. Well...other than Roman of course (wink). You'll know when the time is right. And during your pregnancy, should you have severe morning sickness, you'll probably question again if you made the right decision by getting pregnant...if it will be worth it...I did all the time...but the second he was here...I mean the SECOND he arrived in my life I was never in doubt. No illness or seizures or tragedy will ever take that away from me.

September 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertallchickbarbara
Awww shit Barb. I love you. And love to Roman and your hubby too.
September 24, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>