I've always been... how do you put it? A little over emotional. You know, crying really easily (and often in really embarrassing situations) and what have you. Crying at TV commercials, crying at TV shows, crying at corny, tacky films... I could go on, but won't.
But since motherhood, I've become subject to the most hideous panic attacks, too. It all started when I lost my first daughter at almost 23 weeks. The VERY WORST thing that has ever happened to me, without a doubt, and as I'm sure fellow blogger Busted can understand. It seemed so cruel; D and I had been TTC for more than 2 years and I was just about to start my first round of Clomid when I became pregnant totally naturally. A miracle. A real miracle. I was nervous about miscarriage for the first trimester, but more relaxed (I'm a worrier by nature, so I never totally relax!) once I moved into the second (you all know that statistics... they're supposed to be reassuring, with their talk of most miscarriages being in the first trimester, but in retrospect they really aren't; they just made me feel all the more of a failure and a freak).
Because then our sweet, beautiful, perfect little girl died. And we never knew why. Her heart just... stopped beating, one hideous, hideous night in July 2000. One day I'll tell you the whole horrible story (I still have nightmares even now - and yes, I did try therapy, but it didn't help), but not today.
After that, I was more depressed than ever before, sure that I'd blown my one chance at motherhood.
Then there was a trip to New York (D was working in Poughkeepsie for 3 weeks, I spent the middle week in NYC, seeing him at the weekends) which did me more good than anything else I'd tried (including the therapy). And right after D came home - the very day, in fact - we conceived another little girl, C, born in December 2001. A true miracle. One month premature, tiny, weak, hypoglycaemic, frail. But alive. And beautiful.
Our third miracle, L, was born in April 2004. One month premature, tiny, jaundiced, but a fighter! And just as beautiful. I feel so blessed!
These two little girls, my world, the light of my life, are bright and beautiful, cute and adorable, funny and intelligent... (Yes, they can also be as annoying as hell). And they are more than I could ever have imagined or hoped for. My perfect little girls.
But the trouble is that now, every time I hear of one of those horrible news stories about accidents, perverts, monsters, psychopaths... my heart starts racing, my nerves tingle, my eyes fill with tears and I go into empathy overload.
Right now, it's the story of a school bus taking a group of 11-13 year olds on a history trip last Monday, near the Swiss border. The driver drove through a flashing red light (apparently; he denies it) at a railway crossing and the bus got hit by a train. Seven children - whose names I have, of course, committed to memory: Léa, Fanny, Natacha, Timothé, Benoît, Tom and Yannis - were killed, three others badly injured.
Tonight on the news they showed images from the collective funeral. People crying, bereft families, devastated friends. And my own tears welled up, as usual.
It's not just that the story is so heartbreaking in its own right (though it is, and my heart and thoughts go out to the families and friends of those poor children), it's also that I imagine myself ALL TOO CLEARLY in their situation - sitting here at my computer one ordinary day, the phone ringing... the dreadful news... and my life shattering into a million pieces.
Every time one or other (or both - worse still) of my beautiful angels goes somewhere without me, I get these feelings of panic. Worst-case-scenarios play out in my head until my girls are home. I know it's irrational, and probably borderline insane. But I often feel physically sick with worry, my heart aches and I feel on the verge of tears the whole time.
How can I possibly get through such days? I can't lock my girls up to keep them safe, much as I would like to. On 30 June, they're going on the annual school day trip - last day of school, big day out: Haribo Sweets Museum in the morning, a bamboo park (much nicer than it sounds, really!) in the afternoon. And of course, they'll be going by coach. It's not far away, maybe an hour or so from here, but I feel sick already. I don't know how to get through these days. I'm at a total loss, totally helpless in the face of the panic and fear that dominates me.
This motherhood thing is so hard! I never knew it could be so hard.