I’ve been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. Nail biting and panic attacks were all normal parts of my adolescents and early adulthood.
I dreamed of the day I would become a mother and would be too preoccupied for the constant hamster wheel of anxious thoughts.
Surely as a mother I would be way too busy caring for my child to be dealing with anxiety…right?! Wrong. I was so wrong.
From the day my daughter fought her way into this world, my anxiety has tripled. With an unanticipated NICU stay, I had a whole host of new fears for my anxiety to feast on. From blood work to weight to milk intake to body temp, I worried about it all. Once we finally brought her home, my anxiety ramped up even more. I no longer had the safety net of knowledgeable doctors and nurses; it was just my husband and me, clueless, clumsy first-time parents.
That first summer, I dressed my daughter like a small homeless man, complete with toboggans, paranoid her body temperature would get too low. I purchased a baby scale so I could ensure she was getting enough milk. Weighing her regularly, even though she quickly put on and kept on weight. I wouldn’t let anyone hold her for months. I made our babysitter promise not to take her outside out of fear of bugs and sunburn. I noticed every time someone touched her, making a mental note to scrub that spot as soon as we got home.
We bought one of the socks that measured her heart rate and oxygen levels at night, which actually helped reduce some anxiety. As long as that little sock shone green, I could finally sleep. That green light was like a little beacon, letting me know everything was okay.
I’ll never forget those friends in the early days of my motherhood journey who gently tugged me out of my anxiety bubble.
My daughter was a little over a month old and I had still yet to drive her anywhere with me behind the wheel. My dear friend came over one day and gently coaxed me into the driver’s seat. I only drove three minutes down the road and back, but it was a major breakthrough and let me know that I could do this, and it would be okay.
Now that my daughter is a thriving three-year-old, my anxiety has abated some. I no longer obsess over how much she’s eaten or her body temp. I drive my daughter by myself daily and for the most part, actually enjoy it.
But the anxiety is always there. The other day, I broke down, just thinking about what would happen if I was no longer here or what if she was no longer here?
I’ll go down the rabbit hole of worse case scenarios, making myself sick to my stomach. Or I’ll fixate on something. Is that a bump on her neck? Is she abnormally sleepy? I take my daughter to all doctor’s appointments and she is healthy as a horse; sometimes it’s just one of those unraveling, anxiety-filled days.
I have so much more to live for as a mother that I have even more to worry about. Now, I not only worry about me, but my daughter too.
It’s a lot. But thankfully, I have developed some solid coping skills that can pull me out of my anxiety cocoon, from journaling to enjoying audio books and podcasts to knowing my triggers and how to avoid them. And most of all, just making the choice to be present for my daughter, not trapped or limited by anxiety.
I’ve come a long way from the newborn days when my doctor had to practically beg me to actually take my daughter out of the house, but it’s a work in progress.