Moms and anxiety. You’re probably thinking that these two words go hand-in-hand. Don’t all moms have anxiety throughout their children’s lives?
To an extent, yes. All moms will experience anxiety for their children. The levels at which different women feel the anxiety will vary, though. For instance, some moms will have anxiety when their child is sick, approaching a new milestone, or they have to leave them in someone else’s care.
These are normal feelings of anxiety. We know all too well what can happen in these situations when things go wrong. So, a little anxiousness is warranted.
And, then there are the moms whose anxiety cripples them. It is literally all they think about; it consumes their mind and takes over their life.
I don’t think women just develop this anxiety as soon as they become a mom. It’s not like a ritual, where you are given the power of anxiety as soon as a baby comes into your life. No, I believe we are born with a certain level of anxiety already inside of us and it builds with our experiences. Becoming a mom only amplifies it.
I wouldn’t classify myself as either of these extremes when it comes to the anxiety I battle. I probably fall somewhere in the middle, maybe just a touch to the more obsessively anxious side. But, it didn’t begin when I had my baby- it started much earlier than that.
By now, you already know the troubles we faced when we first started trying for a baby. We suffered a lot of loss in a short period of time. I sat through countless appointments where my blood pressure reading was very worrisome to the doctors. I was on the verge of being placed on medication several times.
No matter how hard I tried to regulate my feelings during that time, I could not, for the life of me, calm myself down. I tried deep breathing, focusing on something else in the room, looking at pictures of my kitties on my phone- literally everything I could think of. But, that anxiety never subsided. All I could think about in each appointment was how something must be going wrong. It always seemed to go wrong for me. So, this appointment would be no different.
Because of this constant anticipation for the other shoe to drop, I couldn’t enjoy my pregnancy. I didn’t enjoy it.
When I told my family I was pregnant, it went something along the lines of, “Well, I guess I’m pregnant for now. But, this one probably won’t make it either.” I didn’t tell anyone, other than immediate family, that I was pregnant until I was almost 20 weeks along and starting to show. And even then, I had major anxiety about telling anyone. I thought about just not mentioning it several times, but knew that would probably come off as pretty strange.
You might be thinking- well, Amanda, that’s probably your own fault for having those thoughts.
But, that’s where you’re wrong. I never wanted to make myself sick with worry every single day. I wanted to enjoy being pregnant like I was expected to. I would literally cry so hard that I worked myself into near panic attacks.
This is where my faith kept me sane. I’ve said it before, and I will always believe in the power of it-
My faith saved me from myself.
Women dealing with anxiety can easily slip into their own minds and get lost. I often describe it to my husband as a tug of war that I have with myself inside my mind. I can be excited about something and want to do it, but then my mind tells me everything that can go wrong, and that makes me shut down. It’s sad when it makes me miss out on something that I maybe really could’ve enjoyed.
It doesn’t matter that others will try to convince me that it will be okay, because in my own mind, it won’t be. And, that’s enough.
Here are some tidbits about me and the times in which my anxiety seems to spike:
- When you try to take my baby out of my arms, I feel a small panic attack creeping up. Especially when you take my baby from me and walk in another direction. You may think you are doing me a favor by giving me some time to myself, but I am just stalking you- watching exactly what you’re doing- and resisting the urge to take my baby back and leave. I may even blame the baby, saying, “She just needs to warm up to everyone a bit.” Which may be true; but in all reality, I need to warm up to you too.
- I will back out of things I have agreed to do if I convince myself it’s not good for my baby. I often find myself doing this when it comes to making trips or going places where there will be large crowds.
- After Becca spent the first week of her life in the NICU, I faced a lot of anxiety over her falling ill again. I asked people to wash their hands before holding her, kept mittens on her so they wouldn’t touch her hands. When people were sick and didn’t tell me before I brought my baby to see them, I had near panic attacks. I resented people who came around my baby with a cold. You may think, “Well, that is just something you will have to get over. You can’t live in a bubble.” Here’s the thing: moms with anxiety don’t “get over” things. They obsess. They play it over and over in their minds, and they let it build up inside of them until they crack. And, if a bubble did exist, I’d be living in it.
- It hurts when you make light of the things that really bother me. When you make fun of me for being concerned about germs, for following my doctor’s orders precisely, or for refusing to give my child a certain food, even though all the other kids are having it- you are hurting my feelings. I begin to question myself as a mom, even though everything I am doing is in the best interest of my child.
- When I think about the future, I worry. Worry about how the other kids will treat my daughter at school, if she will be bullied, if she will cry the day I drop her off. I worry for her safety, her health, her overall well-being. If I let myself get too lost in these thoughts, the fear can really be crippling. Like someone squeezing my chest and the walls closing in. Pure Panic.
- My anxiety seems at its worst when my routine is broken. I get worked up about the smallest things- like where will I breastfeed my baby if I’m out in public? How can I get her to take a nap if we aren’t at home? What do I do if we are in the car and she starts crying? These thoughts can sometimes be enough for me to change my plans altogether. Routine is healthy for me.
The most important thing to remember about moms battling anxiety is that they really are trying to be the best moms they can be. You know the saying, “Mommin’ Ain’t Easy”? It ain’t. And, for the anxious mom, it’s especially true. She battles with herself emotionally and mentally most days, and her fears often get the best of her. It’s easy to sit back and judge her actions when you don’t have the tug of war going on in your own mind that she likely does in hers.
You never know what a mom has gone through that makes her live with this anxiety, so be kind.