When I Knew that I Cared More About Looking Good than I Cared For My Child: A True Story

It was within two weeks of Theo being born that Courtney and I had the brilliant idea of taking him with us to go see a movie.

Hosanna would be fine with Grandma, and we could have a brief hiatus from taking care of two while enjoying the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I don't remember now which movie it was, but that's not crucial to the story. I told Courtney at the outset that if Theo needed anything (other than to eat), I would take care of it. Little did I know that I was going to have an opportunity to make good on my promise.

Before the movie started, Courtney fed Theo so he would easy fall asleep in the baby carrier she was wearing. It worked. It wasn't long before I was lost in the movie and had relaxed any anxiety about Theo making too much noise. Probably halfway into the film, Theo had a massive diaper blowout. Even his outfit was soaked, likely stained with poo. Courtney and I fumbled to get him out of the carrier as quietly as possible. I took him and the diaper bag with me as quickly as I could and made for the theater's family restroom. Closing the door behind me, I set him down on the changing table to see what the damage was. The damage was catastrophic. Poop was everywhere. 

No sooner had I set him down and started to gingerly take off his poop-stained clothes before he started screaming. Not whimpering, not crying, screaming. I worked as fast as possible, removing poop-covered clothes, wiping poop off his whole body, keeping poop off of the changing table, failing and then wiping poo off there too. He was still screaming. Suddenly I heard a knock at the door. "Is everything alright in there?" came a voice. "We're okay!" I hollered. "Really poopy diaper and an unhappy baby!" I yelled, or something close to it. If my heart was pounding before, it was really pounding now. In another minute or two, I was finally able to completely clean Theo and even get a new diaper on him. He was so upset and physically rigid that I couldn't seem to get clean clothes on him, so I wrapped him up as well as I could, held him close to my chest, and rocked back and forth sitting on the floor of the restroom in the fetal position. He finally calmed down, and I became aware of my own emotions. 

I realized in that moment that the fear that was driving me into anxiety was not a care or concern for my child but my fear of what others were thinking of me

My worried, hurried actions were to soothe a screaming baby, but because that screaming was an alarm for others to be concerned about me. 

It was humbling, sobering, but ultimately a powerful realization. In becoming present to how I was behaving, I could behave differently. I didn't know what people out there were thinking, and it didn't matter anyway. I could go back out into the lobby with my child and simply be authentic.

Theo was calm now, so getting him dressed was easy. I dressed him and packed up the diaper bag and went out to the lobby. A man, presumably the one who checked in during the fiasco asked if everything was okay, made some comment about how young the baby was, and ultimately left. I sat down, thankful for the moment to learn about myself, and told this story to a young man who was seated next to me.

While it's tempting to think that others will be impressed by my having-it-all-together, I've found that the transforming conversations I've had are when I am vulnerable and authentic, regardless of where I am and if I have my shit together. I've also found that my children have a way of being a mirror to my current spiritual state, and I'm thankful for my little gurus. 

Eventually I made it back in for the movie, but I wasn't the same. Awareness of fear transformed me, and there's no going back now.
Benjamin FaderComment