What I Feared the Most as a New Mom
“Exhaustion and hormones, coupled with the tremendous changes in routine and identity that come with becoming a mother, just plant the seed for worry…but for many women, that awareness of how fragile a baby is can flip the switch of worry that’s really hard to turn off.”
-Alexandra Sacks, M.D.
Typical worry is a given and lists of common fears are everywhere. You’ll want to protect anyone you love deeply, but there’s an adjustment period leaving a [somewhat] worry-free life to ‘parental concern is the new normal’ but it doesn’t quite capture your initial run-in. Some of us had a hard time adapting and, I’m not sure it’s often discussed.
My fear didn’t seem to fit into any category I heard of. It was intense, left me feeling silly, immature, embarrassed, and downright nutty. I don’t want you to have to tread those waters – it’s a normal process; and you’re still a gold star member of club-mom (or dad). If your little ones give you a decent amount of time in the bathroom hideaway, a quick read on “Matrescence” is supportive and comforting.
Bath time, choking, or the dangers of Co-sleeping (typical fears) weren’t a problem for me.
At 20 years old, I had an optimistic worldview and only imagined a healthy baby, an instant bond, and that immediate wave of unconditional love that’s supposed to spill from us. Pregnancy was fun, and I couldn’t wait for each ultrasound. I was blissfully unaware. Nature did its job; I understood each of my baby’s cries and every nuance signaling a problem. I felt BIG kinds of love. It feels too big to hold in and turns you into a human shield at any notion of threat.
But it didn’t take long for my list of worries to grow.
Never before had I felt such powerful love and adoration for anything or anyone, so I didn’t expect to look at this beautiful tiny human and agonize over intrusive, catastrophic thoughts. Imagining the possibility of anything and everything that could derail an otherwise wonderful life for baby Anna.
Her dad was deployed, Anna was born just a few months after 9/11, shortly followed by the D.C. “sniper” shootings. Current events only intensified my fears, as I’m sure Covid-19 does for parents now.
My mom and I had a difficult relationship growing up, but I knew my daughter and I would be different (and we were! Anna is now 18 and we’re nearly inseparable). I couldn’t wait until I could tell her I’d always be there, and she’d understand what I meant. I couldn’t wait to do life with her!
The idea of something happening to me, leaving my new baby without a mother, rattled me to my core. At that time, I had no greater fear. And I was embarrassed.
She would be too young to remember [and know] the feeling of her mother’s love. Who would protect and defend her the way a momma would? The thought paralyzed me. Did I mention I was embarrassed?
Yes, SIDS, sickness, even falling into the coffee table corners concerned me, but my biggest fear didn’t feel or sound like I was worried about my baby’s health – typical fears – so I kept it to myself.
You Can Sit with Us
Studies show that 91% of new moms and 88% of new dads experience upsetting, intrusive thoughts due to the immense responsibility of keeping our babies alive and well. A 2018 poll reveals what parents worry about most, and it speaks to that immense responsibility:
- 30% of respondents fear their child will be hurt in an accident.
- 25% fear their child will be hurt in an accident.
- 23% fear their children won’t feel safe in the world.
- 14% fear their kids will be kidnapped or abducted.
- 8% fear their kids will be bullied.
Too, this article is worth the scan because it measures fears against reality, putting things in perspective – for which I’m always appreciative (media has that special way of freaking everyone out
- Younger Millennial parents (18-24) were most concerned about their children not feeling safe in the world.
- Gen-X parents (24-44) worry about their child being attacked.
- Baby Boomers (45-65) were most concerned about accidents (i.e. car crashes).
I’m a Gen-X’r
I was often in fight-or-flight mode and all it took was my imagination. Out to eat, I was typically scanning for every exit should we be attacked by a gun-wielding mad man. To this day I’m grateful for the calm responses and support I received when I couldn’t hide it any longer.
“A parent never stops worrying” will forever be said. But it’s not just an edible phrase – new parent fears are often intense and unfamiliar, but you’ll come back to baseline.