In ALL, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein37 Comments

When I can’t sleep I try imagining myself stepping onto an escalator.  I watch each step collapse into the next and picture myself traveling down the steps, deeper into sleep.  This doesn’t really work all that well.  Here’s what does: I imagine myself asleep in different beds of my past.  Not those beds.  My childhood bed works some of the time, imagining my blue patchwork comforter, the one with my name on it.  I imagine each square of it.  My mother had it made for me, and I remember the day we designed it.  She had me decide what I wanted to appear in each square.  A kitty with a small gold bell around it’s neck.  A pair of ice skates.  An apple tree.  I wish I still had it, but it was lost in a move.  I angled my bed on the diagonal, which at the time seemed like the coolest thing to do.  Something so small, like that, made me happy.  Look, how cool am I?  My bed isn’t up against a wall anymore.  I felt sophisticated, as if my mother let me wear red polish.   

I imagine the Laura Ashley wallpaper, my sister down the hall, my parents upstairs, peeking in to check on me, in my twin bed.  When I’ve exhausted the memory, I visit the beds of college, in my different dorm rooms from year to year, in my apartment on 55th Street.  And it’s always comforting and alarmingly real.  It’s as if it were yesterday, in that green bedding, piped with gold, beneath a Beatles poster, with an exam come morning.  It’s surprising how well it works, going back.  How calming.

Sleep is one of the only ways we can go back.  A friend asked me recently how things were, and I confided, "It’s wonderful, but that being said, it’s also forever, ya know?  Like you can’t undo it.  Not that I want to, at all, but it’s not like I could just move back into my old one-bedroom of a life.  It’s a forever choice, obviously, but when you’re deciding to have kids, it feels more like an activity.  You try.  You fail.  You cry when you get your period.  Trying becomes so much of your life, you don’t really focus on the fact that it’s a forever choice you’re making.  You look at pregnant women on the street with awe.  You want that so damn much.  You maybe don’t think about how this is it.  Your life will never again be the same. Kids are forever."

Or at least we hope so because from what I’ve heard from family lately, it goes by way too fast.  "And then suddenly you’re sixty," Carol says, "but you feel 43.  And you can’t believe it’s you in there anymore."  I understand this now because when I awake, I realize I’m in a different bed, in a different state, with a different life… the one I’ve always wanted. And with it comes new fears.  Fears of keeping it.  Kids might be forever, but along with them come a set of fears and worries. 

Lately I’ve been having nightmares.  There’s been talk of our wills and life insurance.  How much insurance would really be enough so we could live off the interest until the kids graduate college?  Being responsible parents, we’re thinking of all the what ifs.  And I began crying, thinking of our children going to live with a relative IF.  How do you choose who that relative is?  I cried harder thinking of the IFs that revolved around Phil.  His father died when he was eight.  What IF?  He doesn’t eat vegetables or fruit.  I held him tight and cried into him.  "I never want to lose you," and I hated that they were just words.  "You and me, our children, we’re a family, and that is the most important thing in my life."  I despise that there are no guarantees in this life, and we’re sometimes, actually almost always, left to navigate through change ourselves.  I’d raise Lucas and Abigail by myself.  We’d have to move.  We could no longer afford this life.  I’d have to uproot them from the home they knew, away from the memories with their father.  Children are resilient creatures, I tell myself.  I’m strong, I say.  But those are just words.  In the living of loss, you spend your days wishing you were still asleep, that it was all just a nightmare, and someone will walk in soon, waking you from slumber, comforting you in the middle of the night, in the bed you live in.   


  1. Sometimes I worry myself sick thinking of all the “If’s”
    DON’T. Don’t even go there. It will give you nothing but more worries.
    Of course being prepared is another thing.

  2. Carol is right. I'm 43 and still feel 23.
    Forever… having children. I completely get the 'can't undo it' part. And the part about wanting it so badly that you don't really think of the 'forever' part. I think the forever part really hits when you put them in the car seat for their first ride home from the hospital. Almost like you can't believe there isn't an owner's manual for these things screaming in the back!!!
    Know what??? I don't think motherhood stops at the grave either. I think forever means beyond phyisical life. :) It's primal.
    Losing Phil… don't even go there!!! We have mega life insurance, wills… all that stuff that will guarantee our kids' existence as they know it, continues.
    Like you, I only wish there were some type of binding contract we could sign with the universe guaranteeing that our future would be just as we picture it to be. Sigghhh…

  3. I used to privately worry about the same things. Until Hurricane Katrina, took my house, my store, and my way of life. That was just the beginning of the nightmare. Now, I look on what I have and my family in a whole different light. Yet I too lull myself asleep remembering the details of where I laid my head in the house of my dreams. I so relate to your missing the past, embracing the present and fearing, maybe a little the future.

  4. My feelings exactly. Trying to get pregnant seemed like it took a million years. Now the time is going by so fast. Every one tells me to enjoy every minute with my twins. It is hard cause it is a marathon. I wish time could just stand still. But you can't stop the clock. You just keep running. I suddenly feel old and scared. Like "parents" are old. When I was just single or married I was young. It is silly really cause I could be the same age and still feel differently. (Know what I mean?) Like it is the event of becoming a parent that shocks your system and makes you deal with things you would rather not think about. It feels like just yesterday I was running around the house playing hide and go seek with my cousins…Where does time go?

  5. I love this entry. I'm recently engaged and starting to see all the what-if's and permanence and forevers that come with that and trying to start a family. It's so nice to have you a few steps ahead of me, so I can see what's coming…..

  6. WHAT IF – you wake up and you're 34 and single and your "love" life – using the word love loosely – consists of a rotating series fuckbuddies in their 20s (whom you've actually picked on purpose because you'd never want them for anything more than sex so you can't get hurt the way you have in the past) and you realize, holy shit: i want a partner. i want kids. i want a family. i never made my forever choice and now my fear is that i never will. to quote joni mitchell: "my bed's too big; my frying pan's too wide."

  7. My kid is three and I still go through the what if's in my head at times, especially since I was considering abortion when I got pregnant. I marvel that Im here at this place in my life, as a mom, with a little boy who is happy and healthy. And when he's not here and it's soooo quiet around me, I marvel at how lucky I am to have him.

    Stephanie, when did you stop breastfeeding? You sound kind of down. Not trying to read into this (dont hit me!) but the nightmares, the crying, kind of morbid thoughts…

    I went through the whole "wow, kids are forever…there is no going back now" too. I missed my old life those first two years and I still do sometimes, but not nearly as often now. And it does seem like forever, but as they develop into little people you see just how fast forever flies by you.

    Good read :)

  8. My daughter's almost 18, and while I might say "it seems like just yesterday" off the cuff, if I think for a minute and maybe flip through photos, I realize it wasn't. Five, seven, 15 years ago isn't just yesterday.

    I'm going to try that bed history thing next time I have trouble falling asleep (which, thanks to perimenopause, will be at around 2 AM tomorrow morning). I tend to do word games in my head, but sometimes that makes me more alert.

  9. I am 49 years old and my 50th is coming up. I don't feel anywhere near 50. I totally hate being this age. I've had an interesting life – I wish I could be 36 and know all what I know now! This is a wistful lovely post … All we can do is treasure if not every moment (because we do FIGHT) at least a LOT of moments because you blink and its all gone by.

  10. Stephanie,

    While the "ifs" may keep you up at night, make sure the financial piece is resolved. It's not a sexy topic or even post worthy but worthy enough for you and Phillip to spend a lot of time on. Don't just focus on life insurance, make sure that he adequate disability insurance too. Make sure it's a post tax payout.


  11. The book Conversations with God has a section that talks about what motivates us: love or fear. All of our feelings and actions are movtivated by one or the another.

    Taking risks and loving are motivated by our love at first but almost instantly switch to fear– fear of rejection, fear of loss. But the great thing is that you have a choice in how you feel. You can switch it.

    When you're in a downward spiral or your feelings are snowballing, then recognize the fear and find the love, and choose to be motivated by the love. Rather than holding on out of fear, let go out of love. Be thankful to have lived even one single day of life with your beautiful family; appreciate the blessing that is your wonderful life and realize that there are others in this world who will never experience a moment of what you have.

  12. Stephanie,

    Although we've been living together for the better part of six years now, my significant other and I still aren't married. Our exes have drug out our respective divorces over silly nonsense to the point where we decided to just move on with our lives regardless of what my last name is. I'm 34 and he's 45, so we were beginning to worry that time might be running out for us in the baby-making department. No worries, though– my third child– our first together– is due in just 13 more weeks, but those 'what if' thoughts now plague me constantly. My guy recently had a close call that could have ended in tragedy, and I just lost it. "What the hell were you thinking?!" I demanded. "Do you realize that if something happens to you right now, since you're still legally married, your cow of an ex would be considered your next of kin– she'd get everything we've worked so hard to build for the past six years and I'd have to move in to my mother's basement with 3 kids in tow. This situation is so not cool!" We've now got the attorneys working overtime to cut our old ties so we can make official the current ones, but until everything is resolved, I'll probably never get a good night's sleep.

  13. If I had a nickel…and all that stuff.

    The best advice this worry wart called me ever got: FEAR IS A LIAR.

    Believe it, and get over it. (I say this to myself as much as I say it to you.) Life is too short and wonderful. When it's good. It's GOOD. Enjoy.

  14. Ahh. I remember this well. When my son was 6 months I went through a period where I thought of every bad thing that could happen to him or our family. The only good thing that came out of that dark period for me is what I learned. I learned that even control freaks can't control life. There are no guarantees and that is why 'NOW' and life insurance are so important. My thinking was so future-oriented before his birth. I still plan for my future as if I'll live forever, but I enjoy NOW much more than I ever did before.

    Funny how I never really thought about death, until I gave birth.

  15. Someone I consider very wise once said that they don't believe in balance in life but tension. Those words stuck to me. This post portrays that view perfectly: our life choices feeling so permanent and so fragile at the same time.

  16. Steph-
    I wish I could offer wise wisdom or great tactics, I cannot. I have a 15 month old and those thoughts creep in every now and then, what would happen if I died? Would Prince raise her the way i would want? I have been keeping a journal for her since the day I found out I was "with child" it helps me. I get to write things to her that one day she will read. As for the "IF" relative it was the hardest desicion for us, I never think anyone does it better than we do. Try to keep your head up and not think about death, it's hard, I have let it get the best of me too, enjoy every minute you have with each of them.


  17. It's all kind of terrifying…and also, I guess, why we know that life is so precious. All the same, I do wish there were guarantees sometimes.

  18. LOVE=FEAR i have always said. the more you love something or someone the more terrifying it is. but loving and fearing is still way better that those who choose not to love out of fear for fear. the death thoughts never came to me until my daughter was about 2 and now I'm constantly like thinking bad things. When my mom calls me at a wierd time while she is baby sitting or the daycare calls i picture a sobbing voice on the other end spitting out incoherent thoughts with the word 'DEAD' in there somewhere hiding.

    i think worry and fear is good though because everytime i think about my parents/children dying i freak out and cry and its a good reality check.

  19. Steph-
    I wish I could offer wise wisdom or great tactics, I cannot. I have a 15 month old and those thoughts creep in every now and then, what would happen if I died? Would Prince raise her the way i would want? I have been keeping a journal for her since the day I found out I was "with child" it helps me. I get to write things to her that one day she will read. As for the "IF" relative it was the hardest desicion for us, I never think anyone does it better than we do. Try to keep your head up and not think about death, it's hard, I have let it get the best of me too, enjoy every minute you have with each of them.


  20. OMG, Gina. It sounds like you're writing about me. I'm 34 and all of the things you outlined. I am still holding onto the hope that my mate is out there somewhere and that he will share my desire to be married and have a family. I'm a firm believer that God willing, I can still become pregnant for at least ten more years. My biggest fear in life is never hearing the word "Mommy"…….

  21. Carol, that really struck a chord with me. I think that exact same thing all the time, except I am 30, and looking back on my year 20 year old self. There are some things about self-confidence that I wish I could have told myself.
    And it makes me happy (in a weird kind of way) to know that you probably feel like that right through your life – means you're always learning.

    Don't suppose you could pass on any of the thing you now know, to a slightly lost 30 year old and perhaps save a stranger from some heartache?

    Sorry to hi-jack this post for my own personal means.
    I am all too aware that babies are forever, which is why I keep putting it off.

  22. I often think the same thing surrounding the lives of my fiance, sister, mom and dad. It's so scary to love and with love comes the thought of loss. I think it's wise to at least allow yourself to think the thoughts. To wonder what you would do 'if' it happend and it just makes you feel even luckier to have those people now. I wish I could wrap my loved ones in bubble wrap and keep them safe. I try to picture a white light around them and I also think living your life decently, putting good into the world helps to feel the good come back to you, blessing us all. I can only imagine how much the 'if's' intensify when it's your child.

  23. Hi Stephanie,
    Colleen w/ the twins here. :) I know I'm a new reader and I see the post you have above has no room for comments so that's why I'm writing this here. No need to publish it, I just wanted to tell you about my post-partum experience w/ my first. I had many, many, many of the same thoughts. I was fearful, unsure of myself and felt just, so… detached. I used to be a Special Ed teacher, High school. So, I basically dealt w/ a lot of troubled kids and I actually liked it. My mother looked at me one day after my oldest was born while I was dissolving into yet another puddle of tears and she said, "Colleen… you used to be around criminals and sociopaths and this baby has you knocked to the ground." She was right. I think post partum depression (I HATE those words), is a very real, very common thing. Not saying you necessarily 'have' it. My dearest friend in the world took it upon herself, without my knowing to call my gyno and tell her what she was seeing in me. He called me. He treated me kindly and not 'crazy' in the least. He prescribed anti-depressents for 3 months, actually, 3 months is all I would take them for because I was 'tougher' than that. (As an aside, I wish I had started sooner and taken them longer lol!) It took awhile to work, about 2-3 weeks but the fog lifted. And it was slow. Like, one day my son screaming didn't send a feeling of horror and dread coursing through my veins. Then maybe a week or so later the 'bad' thoughts started just not being around. Finally I felt 'normal' and thouroughly enjoyed my son. I feel for you, really. Motherhood is such a soul-morphing experience that it's a shame that people don't discuss how hard as well as wonderful it can be. I'm wishing you the best Stephanie, it is sooooooo hard. Oh, and times two!!!! (I found out about the times two part the second time around)
    Keep well and take care of yourself and maybe think about talking to your doctor. You said he was kind and wonderful. That is a good thing. :)

  24. you're just PPD it will pass…i think you should enjoy the fragility. it's really relieving sometimes…and its a good excuse to get out all your sappy feelings without people poking fun about the time you "gushed" with love..they'll know you meant it all but won't bring it up again if they know you are the strong silent not gushy feelings giver type.

  25. I, too, am a worrier, especially at night, which makes me a major insomniac. I'm always playing the "what if" game.

    Stephanie, didn't you have weird dreams when you were pregnant? I think now you're probably having nightmares b/c when you were pregnant, as real as Abigail and Lucas were to you, they weren't tangible. You didn't "know" them. Now they are the biggest part of your family. They're people w/ personalities and feelings, and you probably love them more than you ever expected or imagined. It makes the "what ifs" so much scarier. Aside from that, your hormones are still out of whack. Top that off w/ the time you just spent w/ your dad, which probably made you even more emotional, and you have one crazy roller coaster ride. Yes, once you have kids, you worry. It's just part of the job; but it can eat you up sometimes, so you have to force yourself to take a step back and just think about how lucky you are. Then go to sleep w/ a smile on your face and hope to have sweet dreams.

  26. I understand. I'm pregnant for the first time and am already having the fears, the what-ifs of how I would go on if something happened to my husband. And sometimes it almost seems like too much to bear. I just always explain to him that he is NOT ALLOWED to have anything bad to happen to him because he HAS to always be there for me and our (soon to be) kids. I need him. I need life the way it is right now.

  27. I understand. My husband (of under 2 years) and I have been talking about how to make sure everything is in its place. It's scary and sad and leaves a huge empty feeling in my gut when we talk about it. I don't want to think about life without him. We too moved to a new city…two days after our wedding. We have learned to rely on each other. I don't want to think about living without him but we know that we have to plan for the unmentionable. I hate the thought.

  28. Yes, Love does equal Fear but it is well worth the risk.
    I did 'live' the loss, of a child not a husband, and many days I did wish that someone would wake me and tell me it was a nightmare. It wasn't- and no amount of what ifs or preparations can ever prepare you for loss, ever, of anything that dear to you. I did get up though, for my husband and for my other children. I was much stronger than I could have ever imagined that I would have been when I had done all of the 'what-ifs' in my head years earlier.
    Live in the present, if you can, count your blessings as many have said for it really does go so, so fast. I feel as though I haven't aged a bit but my sweet daughters take the time out of their busy days to remind me on a regular basis that I indeed am OLD!

  29. It's true how much our lives change when kids enter the picture. It's almost as if we're starting a new life. I guess in a way we are. When I think about getting up there in age, I often wonder how my son will take care of me. Jeez I hate thinking about that. Mick and Keith were right, what a drag it is getting old…

  30. Great post. And really great, thought-provoking responses, everyone. Glad to know I'm not the only "lost" 32 year old who's single as a dollar bill but still hesitating at the "foreverness" of something as permanent as having children.

  31. It sounds like you dwell and think up these horrible scenarios when you can't sleep like we all probably do. Being responsible makes you think this way.

  32. i JUst had a terrifying dream in which my daughter died. we just updated our wills. i hate that you have to think these things. but, they do make me kiss her a little bit harder and spend that extra little bit of time with her. however, if something had happened to her, I don't think there's ever really a point where you had "enough" of the snuggling and kissing and loving.

    life is such a circle.

  33. I'm sorry I haven't been commenting so much lately. I had surgery and things have been hectic. Blah blah. I still read you – often in spurts, when I see my RSS count for you has become indecently high.

    In any event, I figured I'd comment here, as part of what I do is help people plan for all those what if's and I will say that life and disability insurance can be great tools to use. Often you can lock in a good term policy, for a reduced price and have the ability to convert it to permanent down the road. (It can save you some upfront costs, depending on your financial picture.)

    I'm sure you'll work it all out splendidly – just like you always do. If you have any general questions, feel free to ask.

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