Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My germophobic relapse

My germophobia set in when I moved to California. It was bad enough for people to tease me, but not bad enough for the TLC channel to do a show about me. I cleaned my apartment constantly, went through gallons of hand sanitizer and got squeamish whenever someone borrowed my pen. Upon entering a public restroom, I formulated a complex strategy of how I could get out of there without actually having to touch anything.

In 2007, I moved into my own apartment and my anxiety about germs began to diminish. I finally had control over my life and no longer felt the need to control the germs. Don’t get me wrong. I still sanitized after touching super gross things, like shopping cart handles and gas pumps. I still avoided library books (strangers not only touch them, but they take them into the bathroom), and public restrooms still required careful navigation. But I could sign credit card receipts at restaurants with the pen that came with the bill instead of rummaging through my purse for my own pen. So maybe I still needed some germophobia, but it had gotten significantly better.

Then last year I got pregnant.

The anxiety started creeping back in toward the end of my pregnancy when I was interviewing pediatricians. I sat in one waiting room looking at the toys, imagining all the kids who had coughed, sneezed and snotted on them. Then I imagined my child putting those toys in his mouth, and I threw up a little bit in my mouth. That’s part of why I chose Dr. L. Not only was the facility brand new and immaculate, the waiting room didn’t contain one single toy. I thought I heard angels sing when I walked in, but that may have been my imagination.

Now that my baby son is here, I’m less concerned about the germs that touch me (because I can wash my hands with soap and super hot water and sanitize them until my skin cracks and bleeds), but I’m petrified of germs touching him. I’m that annoying mom who has a near-heart-attack when another child puts Quinn’s toy in his mouth. If a child might be sick or has even the slightest hint of crustation on his upper lip, I start running interference. The thought that someone might not wash their hands with soap after using the bathroom and then touch my baby makes me visibly cringe. If I had my way, Q would be in a bubble.

I know this isn’t logical. I’m well aware of how crazy I am, and I wish I wasn’t this way. It’s exhausting.

My Hubs is the opposite extreme. With his bio-chem background, he continually reminds me that germs are good for Quinn. He explains that Q needs to come into contact with germs to build a strong immune system, and that kids who live in bubbles are always the ones who get sick the most. (Part of me suspects Hubs lets Q lick the shopping cart handle when I’m not looking…)

The logical part of me (yes, I do have one) knows Hubs is right. Obsessing about germs isn’t good for me or the baby.

I know that by admitting this insanity on my blog, I’m probably inviting some nasty comments about how certifiably crazy I am. Well, let me beat you to the punch. I know that already. I never said this anxiety was logical – most anxiety isn’t. But I do know I’m not the only mom (especially first-time mom) to feel this way. We’ve all got our own little quirks and worries, so I take a little comfort in that.

Given my tendency to freak out about germs (and bugs and dirt and rodents…), I’m surprised about what I don’t freak out about. Having a baby means constantly being covered in some sort of nastiness all the time. Q's pooped on me numerous times, he vomits on me almost daily, and his slobber has made permanent crusty spots on all my shirts. We both end up covered in baby food, Q pees in his bath water every time, and I’ve discovered that the easiest way to extract a booger from his nose is to just use my finger.

But none of that bothers me. (My bathrobe is really disgusting, but washing it every day is too much hassle.)

So maybe there is hope for me after all. 

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