How my baby helped me conquer my fear of the dark.
True confession: At the ripe old age of 26 I was afraid of the dark. Mom always said I had an active imagination. I believe in spirits and the supernatural. I believe in energy lingering in places, so even though our house was brand new, I stayed away from the darkness of the back of the house at night. I was glad to be married because it meant always having someone close by.
By the time our oldest daughter was about three months, she had outgrown sleeping in the bassinet in our bedroom and we transferred her to a crib in her own room at the end of the hallway on the opposite side of our house.
Thus began the reign of the trusty baby monitor. The transmitter was placed strategically in the nursery—cord safely tucked away from exploring little baby hands, yet close enough to our precious angel to hear every sound uttered by her (or anything else in her room). The other end—the receiver—was attached to my hip, or handed off like a baton in a relay race to the husband or babysitter*, for the next three years or so. *grandparent
And that’s when it began: the strange sounds on the baby monitor—interference from other radios, random sounds infants make, sounds from outside the house—increased my anxiety about the unseen. Even more panic-inducing, each sound was accompanied by bars of red lights shooting up with varying intensity on the device.
This battery-operated friend of ours was in position on the living room table one night when we popped in the movie “Signs”. In case you are unfamiliar with this suspense-filled classic from M. Night Shyamalan: it basically involves receiving communications from violent aliens through a baby monitor.
As if that’s not frightening enough, just after the alien transmission scene played on screen; a faint, but unmistakable sound came over the baby monitor sitting right next to us: it was the sound of a music box playing in my baby’s room. A music box on a high shelf. A wind-up music box out of the reach of a baby who was not yet able to pull herself up, much less perform the pincer grasp. My husband and I stared at each other wide-eyed and frozen in place. Normally, when I heard a sound that I thought warranted investigation I would ask him to accompany me to check it out. He didn’t always oblige, but this time I was so creeped out, I didn’t give him a choice. We were relieved to find everything was as it should be; nothing out of place. The little one sleeping soundly. But I couldn’t exit the room fast enough.
“The Witching Hour”: It’s a widely accepted phenomenon among paranormal buffs that 3:00am is the time when spirits are most active. In our house it came to be known as “The Nursing Hour” or “The Baby-Wants-To-Play Hour”. And there was no convincing my sleeping, non-lactating husband to join me in the nursery at that ungodly time of night.
I must acknowledge that a heaping dose of postpartum hormones probably played a least some role in my midnight qualms. Rocking back and forth in the quiet darkness listening to the clock tick-tock slowly through the wee hours—though at times the picture of motherly bliss—can also be a breeding ground for loneliness and apprehension. A perfect storm for the mind to conjure up all sorts of mystic mayhem.
Finally I came to realize just how silly it was; me, a grown woman—a mother—being truly and utterly afraid of the dark! If there really was something to be frightened of in my baby’s room, it was my job to protect her.
I had to face my fear. Force myself to walk down that dark hallway alone. Open the door to the nursery and enter bravely. So I said to my fears, and anything else around that needed to hear it: “This is my house. You are welcome to stay if you will live here peacefully. Otherwise, get out. This is my family. No person or spirit will mess with them as long as I’m here.” I repeated it over and over again until I believed it.
I still get spooked sometimes. Like when I’m home alone with the kids and a storm knocks out the power and they’re freaking out as I search for a working flashlight. But then I repeat my mantra and I remember my faith. With confidence like that, I feel like nothing can touch me. Whether that’s true or not, I think believing is more than half the battle. “You’re a mother now”, I tell myself, “you have to be strong for your children.”