annarosenblumpalmer.com
How not to snuggle a claustrophobe - Anna Rosenblum Palmer
Elevators, airplanes, playing “hide and go seek” in the refrigerator…they are all terrifying. The combination of small metal container, limited supply of oxygen and me creates the exact anxious reaction you would expect from a claustrophobe. Increased heart rate, clammy sweating, and the inability to take in air. The only things my lungs are good for when I feel trapped is screaming. Despite my extreme reaction this type of claustrophobia is not a big problem in my life. I can avoid those places. I can (mostly) avoid caves, I can even avoid parking garages with their too low ceilings, echoes and darkness that are the closest things we have to catacombs in our modern city. What I can’t avoid is the loving arms, faces and fur of my family. Some people (most people?) love snuggling. All around I see couples and kids and cats wrestling, playing and snoozing together. When I look at that kind of closeness I stop being able to take complete breathes. I want to break them apart as if they are hurting each other…because if it were me I would be in a state of panic. It started after the birth of my first child. I was not the only one at mama yoga lamenting the loss of my body. While other women joked about chapped nipples (HA!) and belly scars (HA HA!) they snuggled their babies close and sniffed their heads. My baby’s head smelled like the vomited breast milk that soaked us both. So I lay him on the yoga mat…over there. Only then was I able to take deep cleansing breathes. Within 17 months there were two small boys, my husband, 4 cats and 2 dogs living in our house. There was not a spare inch without a living thing that wanted to be close to me. I fed and pet and kissed and LOVED them all. I came to the sickening realization that mothering was physically smothering me. It felt like I was being loved to death. We began each night with some combination of beasties in the bed. As they drifted off I would relocate them and claim a portion of the bed. When I finally fell asleep I woke myself lashing out at the sheets and covers, kicking them off with a racing heart. The instant my skin hit air I would feel relief and then, as if to fill the vacuum left by my unwrapping, my husband would roll across the bed and take me into his arms and hold me tightly. So, So tightly. His legs would intertwine with mine, he would lay his scratchy cheek on my soft one and whisper into my ear. “I love you.” Then go back to snoring, a dead weight. I thought it was temporary. I thought once the boys grew and began to know where their own bodies stopped and mine began I would have literal and figurative space. I thought it was a phase unique to early motherhood. My son is ...