I’ve been thinking about writing this post since my little boy was two weeks old, and he has just turned one, so I guess this better be good. The problem with anxiety, apart from the obvious, is that you can end up being anxious about being anxious. So, when I was thinking about writing, and how it might pan out, in came the anxious thoughts; “people won’t get it, they’ll think you’re weird”, “it’s probably not even what normal anxious people think about, you’re just nuts”, and “people will think you’re an unfit mother”.
So, in an attempt to get one over on that annoying little voice, here it is:
Four Thoughts of a New Mum, With an Anxiety Disorder
“Is he still breathing?”
They hand you this precious, tiny bundle, and they just expect you to know how to keep it alive. There’s no handbook for being a parent, as we all know, but nothing prepares you for those first few weeks of sheer panic that comes with newborn babies and their irregular breathing patterns. Thank god for breathing monitor pads!
“What if I’m doing it wrong? What if he’s not developing properly because of me?”
Look, chances are, if you’re worried about being a good parent, then you probably are one. We’ve all had these thoughts, it isn’t just those of us with anxiety, but it comes thick and fast when you do suffer with it. I have sat and cried because my nine month old won’t crawl, I’ve laid awake at night panicking because I let him watch Peppa Pig for an hour to give myself some peace and then opened Facebook to see an archaic article being shared about how “PEPPA PIG CAUSES AUTISM” … I mean, seriously? Truth is, my nine month old wouldn’t crawl, because he is heavy as fuck. It gives me a bad back just lifting him, so he needs some time to build up his muscles so he’s strong enough, and as for Peppa bloody pig, she’s a prick, but she’s also the only thing that my baby will sit still and watch long enough for me to gather myself and maybe throw on some clean clothing.
“My anxiety makes me a bad parent”
I have thought this, I still do every single day. Even though I know it probably makes me the exact opposite.
I like to think of anxiety as an over-zealous part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ reflex designed to keep us safe, it’s how your mind and body react to stress, and let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as stressful as being a new parent! I’ve torn myself to bits worrying that if I’m truly honest about the extent of my anxiousness, I’ll be branded a bad mother, and even have my baby taken away from me.
It’s okay to admit you’re struggling, and having a baby intensifies it, but it doesn’t make you a bad parent, especially when the thoughts you’re worried about, consist of keeping your baby safe and well. Here’s an example; a few weeks ago there was a news article shared across Facebook, it was about a new mum, who had been out walking with her baby in the pram, tragically they had been hit by a lorry that had mounted the pavement. I still stand and walk away from the edge of the road, and flinch every time a lorry goes by. I won’t stand and wait for the bus with the pram’s brake on, instead I hold on tight, “just in case” I need to push it out of the way, and heaven forbid I should have to cross a main road without an appropriate crossing or bridge. When I think about it, this anxious thought, although distressing and unhealthy for me, does not make me a bad parent, it makes me an overly anxious, but good one, because my baby and his safety is at the forefront of my thoughts, at all times.
“What if something terrible happens to my baby?”
The first night we brought our baby home, he was three days old and we had been struggling to establish breastfeeding. I have extremely large boobs which seemed to have completely baffled all the midwives at the hospital and so I was sent home unprepared and terrified. Within half an hour of getting home, baby needed a feed, so I took him upstairs to lie on the bed as a midwife had suggested, in a position I hadn’t yet mastered, where I couldn’t see his face (due to size of my boobs). After 20 seconds or so, baby seemed to become limp and I panicked. I lifted him up and his eyes began to roll. I yelled for my partner to call an ambulance whilst I tapped my baby’s cheeks and blew gently on his face to get him to react. I was convinced I had smothered him. I was the world’s most horrific mother. The ambulance luckily arrived within minutes and I handed them a very tired, very confused, but perfectly healthy newborn baby, demanding they check him over.
His oxygen levels were 99 out of 100. Turns out, he was just a bit too warm, as what we hadn’t realised in our “newborn haze” was, that my partner had left the heating on all day whilst at the hospital with me, and the house was approximately the temperature of Barbados. After a sympathetic smile and a pat on the back, off they trotted, leaving us feeling ridiculous and embarrassed. I never breastfed again.
I suppose the reason I have told you this, is that these tiny lives are thrust upon us after nine months of primping and pretending to prepare, and really, none of us are ready. The responsibility of another life is huge. Anxiety doesn’t help, it makes your life more difficult as a mum, but you’re by no means alone, and I will forever keep that slip from the ambulance crew, so that one day, when my son is fretting about his newborn baby, and maybe even struggling with anxious thoughts, I can give it to him and tell him about the time I thought I’d smothered him with my giant boobs.
In hindsight, I wish I had sought help a long time ago, because things have gotten pretty bad over the past 12 months and what you’ve just read is only a glimpse into the mind of a Mum with anxiety disorder. But what I hope is, that if you’re reading this and recognise some of those nasties, that you’ll talk to someone. Too often have I kept how I’m feeling under wraps to save others from feeling uncomfortable, or to stop them from thinking I am weird, or a bad mum. Take care of yourself, talk it out, get out of the house, get someone to babysit and have the longest soak in the bath, whatever you do, don’t do it by yourself. Self-care is such a massive deal, I read somewhere that “you can’t give someone everything if you don’t give yourself anything”.
There is help out there, but what gets me through every single day, is knowing that I am doing the absolute best I can for my baby, and so are you.
I’m Jade, I’m 25 & a first-time, stay at home mum to my gorgeous one year old boy Finn! I’ve been writing, admittedly on and off, for years but since having the baby I’ve been full of inspiration, but at times lacking motivation! I suffer with an anxiety disorder and have to battle myself every single day. Currently trying to find new ways to keep the anxiety at bay and cherish every moment!