I have always been a little scared of being a mom, and at times, terrified. It makes a lot of sense. I’ve got GAD, OCD, and PD and some other letters tagged onto me. For those of us who’ve ever had a panic attack, the desperate need to have an escape at all times is huge.
What would happen if I had three kids in a shopping cart at a store and had to get out of there ASAP? I’d be stuck. What about when I have older kids and they figure out mommy is afraid of certain things or breathes really fast in certain places? What about the days my OCD has such a hold on me I can’t get myself to stop organizing for even a second, plowing through my kid’s imaginative play in order to create my own illusion for control? And then the biggest fear of all, one I don’t share often: what if life becomes too much at some point and I choose to leave my babies behind?
I come about this anxiety thing honestly.
My whole family struggles with this monster. Having been a child of two parents who battle with deep fears, I know firsthand how it can affect little people. I was one of them once. I don’t have judgment at all. My parents did the very best they could in the middle of their own stuff, and we all turned out pretty well, but I sensed their anxiety, and it greatly affected me. My own anxieties felt abnormal and scary. If they couldn’t handle it, then how could I?
Knowing this truth in my bones, I am so sensitive to what my own anxiety might do to my baby girl and soon-to-be little boy growing in my belly. I wonder if my daughter is already noticing the differences from one day to the next, depending on what I am feeling inside. But even if she can’t sense my deep feelings now, I know someday soon she will. I begin to question.
How can I show those hard parts of myself to my innocent babies? How do I lay out all my cards on the table, leading by example how to navigate these hardships, all the while not burdening them with my own baggage? How do I keep myself open and vulnerable with them giving them the skills to navigate their own little worlds while at the same time, not piling my emotional needs on their little hearts?
How am I ever going to do this?
Before I had my daughter, my life was self-centered. It had to be. It was how I survived day-to-day and moment-to-moment. Every move was perfectly planned to avoid even the chance of getting myself into a situation where fear and discomfort took over. I had it down to a science. I had at least a dozen excuses in my back pocket when I needed them and knew all my escape routes to get out of distressing situations. I can’t do that anymore.
There’s a lot more going on here now. There are some little people involved. I have to do life a little differently now than before. If I want my babies to experience a full life, I am going to have to do some of those hard things, knowing there might not be any escape route. If I want to avoid losing it at home with the new baby all winter, I’m going to have to go to those playdates, run those errands, stretch myself to get there.
Even the thought of doing that right now is really hard. I’m feeling a twinge of panic. It’s not easy to recharge myself enough to get to the places I need to be and do the things I need to do. It takes lots of intentional “me” time and a lot of figuring out exactly what I need in order to navigate through it all—to be my best self. Still, some days, my babies won’t get my best. They will get what I have to give at that moment, even if it’s only teary snuggles in front of the TV.
And that has to be OK.
Even writing those words at this moment is giving me permission to heap grace on myself during those moments and days ahead when I don’t feel like I’m being the best mom. When I’m scared I’m hurting my children by being a mess. When I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle raising my toddler and this new one coming soon.
One step at a time. Deep breaths. Baby steps. It’s all I have to give.
Can I trust that is enough? Can I believe my love for them is making a difference and always will, mess and all? I have to. My battle with anxiety will be lifelong and challenging. But it’s who I am—these babies’ mama. The last thing I need right now is any pressure to leave any part of myself out of this parenting gig.
I can do this. One teensy step at a time. One hard-fought moment a time. One brave day at a time. I can. I will. You can, too.
Previously published on the author’s blog