By: Morgan Annandale
Scared to be a new mom? I was too.
Congratulations! You have survived nine months of pregnancy. Nine months filled with glowing moments, built up excitement, swollen feet, weight gain, and no wine at dinner. You have been waiting for this moment for the last 270 days…to finally hold your baby in your arms and take him or her home to the beautifully decorated nursery you spent months preparing. The day is finally here and you truly could not be happier or feel any luckier in this moment... right?
Nope. That was not even close to the way I felt the day I took my son home from the hospital. Actually, I was experiencing the exact opposite reaction. I was freaking terrified and cried the entire car ride home (along side my son’s wails) while my mother and husband assured me I was going to be okay and survive motherhood. Honestly, I did not believe a single word they were saying; I was beyond terrified to be a mom. Suddenly, all the planning and preparing I had done was lost and I found myself wondering what I would do when we arrived home and I had another life that was completely dependent on ME.
I am an anxious person naturally and I have been most of my life. Every sickness I, or my loved ones, or pets had quickly turned into a potentially life threatening disease in my head. I stress over tiny things in my day-to-day life and it has always been a challenge for me to relax and have a little faith that things would all turn out okay. We only get dealt things in life that we can handle, or so I have been told, but bringing my son home was something I felt I could not handle at first. All the scary things I had read in the hundreds of pregnancy books never prepared me for my own fears of being a mother.
FEAR #1: Am I doing this right?
When I became a new mom, I asked my own mom this question about 100 times a day everyday for the first year of my son’s life. I constantly did not know what I was doing or if whatever I was doing was the right way to do it. Let them cry it out or co-sleep? Return to work or to stay home? Breast or bottle? Why won’t he stop crying? WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?
Apparently, the constant fear of doing something wrong and ruining your child’s life forever is a normal feeling... If other moms in your life are saying or acting like they know the secret to being a perfect mom and always know what they are doing…guess what? They are lying. Even the most "put together" moms don’t know what we're doing at some point or another and that is OKAY! Dare I say... friends and other people’s unsolicited parenting advice is most likely an attempt to validate their own parenting methods. Keep on keeping on new mommas, because what’s most important is your baby is loved and you are doing your absolute best at the hardest job in the world.
FEAR #2: Why isn’t my baby (insert development concern here) yet?
Even before I had my first baby I had a problem with constantly comparing myself to others around me. Well, once you're a new mom, those comparisons about yourself go out the window. Instead, you begin obsessively comparing your child to developmental charts and what your friend’s babies are doing.
For example, I spent weeks pestering my husband about how our son was not rolling over when he was "supposed to." My husband wanted to strangle me when I suggested going to the doctor over my fear of his “slow development” when the very next day, it happened. It was only a couple weeks late, but you would have thought the world was ending because of the way I was acting. Everyone is scared their baby is not developing properly and our society today makes these comparisons even harder to ignore, but it’s important to focus on the positives. Maybe your baby hasn’t mastered crawling according to the chart at the doctors office, but he breastfeeds like a champ while other babies struggle with latching properly. All babies grow at the rate they're supposed to grow, and it will happen at some point, so don’t stress over it! Trust me, it’s not worth it.
FEAR #3: Will I forget who I am?
Since we are being honest here, I want to say that I never thought I would have kids. I was always the girl in my group of friends that said, “Nope, kids are just not for me." However, once I turned 30 (this is so cliché, I know) something in me changed and I knew that I would regret not having a baby. I somehow convinced my husband that this was the right choice and nine months later, we brought our son into the world. We are now both thankful that we changed our minds, but I faced a big fear in the mirror every morning when I woke up that took me a while to overcome. Would being a mom mean that I would have to change who I am?
I am the funny and sarcastic friend (or so I think I am). I love to read suspense novels and watch hours of reality TV while gossiping with my friends. I horseback ride and love to spend time with my horses and dogs, sometimes more than I like to spend time with people. I like to workout and feel good about myself and go shopping and watch funny movies. The reason I told myself I didn't want to have children was because of this list about myself and the fact I was scared to lose even one thing. I saw so many family members and friends give up things they loved about themselves for their kids and I just could not imagine doing that.
However, what never crossed my mind in that first year was that I could add "mom" to this list of things that describe me instead of subtracting other aspects about myself I loved. All moms know that this is easier said than done, and I am not saying I don't struggle with the balance every day, but I have found it is possible, and even gets easier with time. Your family and friends want to support you and your new baby so let them! It's okay to ask to have someone watch your baby if you want to go to that new comedy you and your girlfriends have been dying to see. Your baby is not going to judge you for taking time away from them to make yourself into a better and stronger you. In fact, I believe this sets a good example for your children. It creates this message of you never have to change who you are for anyone else, including your child. Your child will see you as a stronger role model if you stay true to who you are and teach them to do the same.
These top fears, along with another list too long to fit in this blog, were the fears of motherhood that drove me to my wits end during my first year with my son. I still deal with them daily and new ones that come along with every stage of life for both my son and myself. One thing I know for sure though, if we do not overcome our fears we are choosing to live a life defined by them.