“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
- Elizabeth Stone
One of the most common concerns I hear from moms both in my practice and in my personal life is the constant worry they feel since bringing their baby home. For many, it starts during pregnancy.
And, on the one hand, worry makes a lot of sense. We have been entrusted with the fullest of responsibilities--creating and raising a life.
“I am a mom--it is my job to worry.”
And for most moms (and dads too), how can we NOT worry? We are so interconnected with this new little person that they (often quite literally) feel like an extension of ourselves. They are just as much a part of us as our fingers and toes….or as Elizabeth Stone says, our hearts.
However, we moms sometimes worry about the 'craziest" things from the get-go. I once had a mom so concerned about what to feed her baby, as a first food because if she didn't give them a veggie they liked, that maybe when they went off to college he wouldn't end up eating vegetables in the cafeteria. Right?? A mom’s worry is unique in that the experience projects us far into the future, causing us to stew over all the ways we could screw up this beautiful and perfect baby for life.
And the thing is, the worry feels so real. It doesn’t matter how wacky it sounds--even to our rational minds, we might know that these imagined scenarios sound absurd, but the fear is so very real. And that’s what I want to discuss today.
So, to start, I want to validate whatever worry you might be feeling by naming some of the most common worries I hear from new moms.
Often times, our worries are about how we're gonna get out of the house with this new baby... who at some point is gonna need a diaper change, have to eat, will probably have a poop explosion or cry inconsolably or we’ll forget something for the diaper bag. And oh the discomfort that comes with that, when other people hear them cry and maybe even scream as you fumble around trying to meet their needs. What if another parent hears their cries, what will they think about me and my incompetency?
Simply getting out of the house and moving through your day with confidence is a fear that nearly every mom has to some degree. This one is oh so common. Fear of judgment or “doing it wrong” is right up there too.
Some other common fears I hear from moms:
Accidentally hurting the baby by dropping them down the stairs or bumping their head on a door frame.
Breastfeeding in public.
Bottle feeding in public.
Baby not gaining enough weight or gaining too much weight.
Baby’s bathtime (you gotta admit, they sure are slippery when wet!).
Not hitting developmental milestones within the timeframe that your baby app or books say.
Baby’s not sleeping long enough/is a bad napper/won’t sleep through the night/to sleep train or not to sleep train/the choice to co-sleep. Basically anything sleep related.
The stares, comments and judgment that comes with all of the above.
Do any of these resonate with you?
So now that we’ve given our most common mom worries some room to exist, let’s name some practical ways you can move around the problem and get on with your day:
If getting out of the house with baby makes you self-conscious or afraid, where are some baby friendly places you can practice? Maybe a park or a mall where you’ve seen a lot of young families. Talk to other mom friends for recommendations.
Take note of the places with the good baby changing stations or private mommy rooms.
When is rush hour? Can you avoid leaving the house during those times? Also, make sure to plan accordingly so that you can avoid it on your way home.
Can you walk to where you need to go instead of drive? Can you go with a friend? Or wait until the weekend or when your partner is home?
Can you order online instead of leaving your house? Or pre-order and pickup?
When did the baby last eat/sleep? Try to leave the house when the baby has a full tummy--even better if you think they’ll also sleep soon. And once you get there, it doesn’t hurt to try to squeeze in another feeding and/or a diaper change before you get out of the car.
Join a lactation group or new mommy support group. Check with your hospital to see if they host one, or try Meetup.com or Facebook Groups.
If you’re pregnant, find a support group and start going to meetings now rather than waiting til after baby arrives. If you get in the habit now, you’ll be more likely to continue later. Plus it’s a great way to start building your mommy tribe. Most groups will happily welcome expecting moms.
Talk to other mommy friends with older kids or experience, but take advice with grain of salt--use what’s helpful, discard the rest.
Talk to your pediatrician regarding milestones, how-to’s or “what’s normal”. Because new research comes out all the time, but also because they can take your baby’s specific needs and circumstances into consideration in a way that a book or website can’t. And, if you feel dissatisfied with your pediatrician’s response to your worries, get a second opinion or change doctors.
If the right solution for your worry isn’t listed here, can you think outside the box and find your own creative solution? This is your real mommy superpower and every one of us has it.
The big takeaway here is that, yes, you will always find things to worry about and that’s OK--the important thing is whether you can find ways around the problem to still do what you need to do.
For many mom worries, I think you’ll find that you can. But, if these helpful tips just don’t seem like enough to help you, don’t worry. Next week we’re going to dig deeper into mom worries and anxiety to empower you with information and ways to help yourself.
OK, now I have to break some bad news and some good news to you.
I’ll give you the bad news first: The truth is, you’ll never completely stop worrying as a mom. But the good news: You’ll adapt and learn new ways to move past your worry. You’ll also come out stronger and wiser on the other side. You’ve got this.
Want more support? Join me for Yours, Mine, Ours: Relationship Survival to Baby's First Year, where we'll highlight the concerns of both parenting partners and how you can best support each other during this wild life transition.