When my second child was born he wasn’t crying. I immediately sat up in the hospital bed and asked the nurses what was wrong.
“He’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
But I knew they were lying. A mother knows, and my anxiety-ridden heart was in full-blown panic until I knew my boy was OK.
He had swallowed some meconium and turned blue as he struggled to breathe. He had a rough start, but in the end he really was fine.
My heart, however, was not.
Having anxiety is hard. Having anxiety when you are a mom can be crippling.
When you are a mom with anxiety, normal everyday events with your children can cause your heart to race. Oh, sure, we do our best to hide it from our children and those around us, but we know that sometimes they still pick up on it. When they ask us if we are afraid we tell them no. When they ask us if we are safe we tell them yes, even if we are secretly terrified and unsure of how safe we really are.
Sometimes our children develop anxiety themselves. You try to convince yourself it’s genetic, that you have no control over it. But you secretly wonder if them watching you caused their own anxiety. Either way, genetics or environmental, we still blame ourselves.
We get angry at ourselves that we can’t just make it go away. For our children, and for us.
You see, something as simple as bringing your children to the dentist causes stress. What if they have dental problems? What if they are in pain during procedures and I can’t help them? What if they panic? What if the dentist thinks I’m a bad mom because they developed cavities?
A typical swimming lesson has the following thoughts run through an anxiety-ridden mom brain: What if my child goes too deep? What if the instructor isn’t watching? What if my child never improves? What if I put them in the wrong class?
Planning our yearly schedule is often plagued with anxious thoughts. What if I am not giving my child enough opportunities? What if I am not doing enough with them? What if I am doing too much with them? What if they grow up ill-equipped because I dropped the ball?
You see, it’s not that we don’t trust others with our children. It’s that we don’t trust ourselves. We worry we have made the wrong choices for our child. That we weren’t watching when we should have been. That we said yes when we should have said no, or that we said no when we should have said yes.
We are convinced we are one decision away from screwing up our child and that we won’t know whether we did it until they are older and it is too late.
This all might sound a little dramatic to some people. But moms who are anxiety-ridden on a daily basis knows there is no magic switch to shut it off. Trust me, if we could turn it off, we would.
However, here is the other thing about mothers who struggle with anxiety: we are fighters. Every day we get up and are determined the anxiety won’t win. We take our kids to swimming lessons, we bring them to their appointments, we take ourselves out of our comfort zones no matter how much our stomaches hurt or whether we struggle to catch our breath while we are doing it. Because we want the best for our children, and we know that letting the anxiety win won’t help them. We know that responsible parenting means sometimes putting both them and us through anxiety inducing events.
And if there’s anything more powerful than the hold anxiety has on us, it’s the love we have for our children.