Can we talk about mom anxiety? I know this isn’t a technical illness with a formal DSM diagnosis, but let’s be honest, it’s a thing. I firmly believe there is a whole population of moms out there that experience this specified version of panic that only has an onset when you create a living, breathing being from your own body. Or, in some cases, even if you haven’t created said being, but care for it as if you had.
This debilitating “disease” can range anywhere from serious to seriously asinine. It starts off precisely at the moment you find out you are pregnant. For a whole second (or longer) you stop breathing.
It’s as if the world stops, and you crawl into The Matrix, there’s an absolute transformation, and suddenly you go from being an independent, free-thinking, free-spirited woman to an anxiety ridden, over-thinking, over-analyzing, always questioning, never sleeping, always worrying mom…. and the baby isn’t even here yet.
People will say things like “there is so much for you to worry about later, and stress is not good for the baby. Enjoy your pregnancy!” But you simply CANNOT when you are incessantly finding myriads of information on the internet that send you into a click hole of examples of what could go wrong at any given moment now that you are pregnant.
You could eat the wrong food. You did, in fact, yesterday… and now you are petrified that you have somehow stunted your unborn child’s brain grown with one bite sized sushi roll. You definitely haven’t taken enough folic acid, so surely your baby’s spinal chord hasn’t developed properly. That happens early, ya know. And that medication you were taking before you found out you had a fetus growing inside of you, that causes club foot. So that is inevitable.
I waited for each ultrasound like it was Christmas and I was visiting Santa to make sure he knew what presents to bring me. As soon as I left the doctor’s office knowing all hands and feet were in tact, I could breath… and start worrying about the next thing. Like what problems I would encounter on the delivery table (oh, GAWD, would I POOP on the table?!)
You tell yourself, once the baby comes and everything is healthy and perfect you can and will relax. But that is just a little inside joke we tell ourselves, as moms. Besides the sleepless nights that come with an infant, there are the sleepless nights that come with mom anxiety.
As my kids get older I worry about so much more. It was first development: rolling, crawling, walking, talking, running, eating, growing. I thought those were a really big deal. I was so blissfully ignorant.
Now, my fears have only been magnified as they grow figuratively and literally. I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night wondering if I ever remembered to mount the new furniture to the wall so that when one of my monkeys climbs on it, it doesn’t come crashing down on them, killing them in the process. (I did, of course).
I think about all of the day’s events that could have went horribly wrong. Like when my child opened the door to the neighbor knocking to see if they could play. What IF that were a stranger? What IF they had come to steal my child away and at that very moment I happened to be in the bathroom screaming at them to leave me be so I could sit on the toilet in peace!? I’m a bad mom… I could have lost them to child trafficking today from their very own living room, and I was so selfish I wasn’t even THINKING.
Every day is loaded with examples like this. Where I simultaneously am screaming my head off at my kids while worrying in agony that something terrible will happen to them, to me (and leave them motherless), to our house, to my job, etc etc etc.
Mom anxiety is crippling and ruining my chance to enjoy my kids, but I take solace in knowing that absolutely every other mom out there has the same crippling (unwarranted) fears running their lives too. And I’m not alone. Neither are you.
Despite this terrible “disease”, be the mom you want to be. Even if she wakes up in the middle of the night wondering if the oven was ever turned off. Even if she calls the neighbors seconds after leaving the house because she can’t remember if she closed her garage door. Be that mom. And rock the shit out of it.