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Emily Popek

March 29, 2014

How I learned to stop worrying and be a mom

Becoming a parent is, of course, a transformative experience. And some of it is predictable. There’s the lack of sleep. There’s the amount of time you spend dealing with bodily fluids. There are the constant, crazy demands (”No, Mama! Green socks! GREEN SOCKS!”). And there are the little, loving moments that make all the other stuff worthwhile. 

But there are also things I could never have anticipated. Like the fact that, since my daughter was born, some of my longest-held fears have evaporated. 

I used to be, well, kind of a fraidy cat. As a kid, the mere suggestion of something scary was enough to give me nightmares. For goodness’ sake, I was afraid of a needlepoint sampler that hung in my grandmother’s sewing room, which read, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord, deliver us.” 

When all my friends were delighted by movies like “Gremlins,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream,” I couldn’t watch them. And even as an adult, I didn’t like to be home alone at night; odd sounds in the house would make me imagine the worst. 

Basically, I was scared of the dark. 

For years, I told myself that lots of people get spooked at night sometimes, or jump over those “things that go bump in the night.” But deep down, it bothered me. I wanted to be tougher; I wanted to be unafraid. 

When my daughter was a newborn, there wasn’t much time to be scared. Nights were spent nursing, calming her cries and stealing sleep in snippets, here and there. Bumps in the night didn’t faze me; I probably didn’t even hear them. 

One night, when she was still a little baby, I woke up from a bad dream, confused, thinking there was someone in the room with me — standing between my bed and her crib. And I didn’t feel fear. I felt anger. I was wide awake, ready to confront whoever or whatever it was standing between me and my baby. 

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Emily Popek
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