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When I was 38 weeks pregnant, I woke up one day overcome by anxiety and the fear of becoming a mother.
Frantic, I called my sister Beth and said, “You know I’m not good with kids, what if my baby doesn’t like me? What if she thinks I’m not fun? What if I’m not a good mom?”
My sister, a mother of two, took a long pause and said “Anna, the fact that you are worrying about all of that proves you’re already a great mom.”
After speaking to her, I walked around my neighborhood and tears started rolling down my face. Since the moment I had become pregnant, everything felt so uncertain. Every decision I made from if I should test for abnormalities in my baby, to how I should give birth, to if I should use cloth diapers instead of disposables felt like life or death. No matter how big or small the questions were, in my mind, they held a tremendous amount of weight and created a lot of anxiety.
The truth was, I felt unprepared and unqualified to be a mom. Like getting a new job that you have no experience in and wondering when people will realize you’re a fraud…I had never held a newborn, never changed a diaper, never soothed a baby to sleep.
But then I realized that my sister was right, all of this worry meant I was already a great mom. I knew deep inside that no matter what, I wouldn’t fail at motherhood because the love I felt for for my baby could never be destroyed.
This got me thinking about how much I wish I would have come to this realization at the beginning of my pregnancy. Knowing this previously would have saved me from a lot of sleepless nights, arguments with my partner and anxiety.
In speaking with women on Expectful’s platform, I’ve learned that my worrying wasn’t unique to me. So many women have their own struggles with uncertainty during pregnancy and new motherhood.
Realizing how common this is, I put together three tips that helped me find comfort in uncertainty and allowed me to manage my anxiety.
Create your own “right”. Growing up, my idea of a good mom was based solely on my mother’s personality traits. My mom is someone who never complains, curses, raises her voice or does anything for herself. So, when I became a mother and found myself complaining about lack of sleep, yearning for alone time and getting frustrated often, I felt like a failure. Then, one night, I talked to my husband about my insecurities and he said something to me that changed the whole way I looked at life. “You’re not your mother, you are you.” He was right. I wasn’t my mother and although I admired her characteristics, it didn’t make me a bad parent to not share them. Comparison truly is the thief of joy and I was living my first few months of motherhood comparing myself to my mother and it was taking me away from really enjoying the present moment. Once I realized this, I was able to embrace my unique traits which helped me to let go of my beliefs around what a good mother is or isn’t. The truth is, there’s no one way, there’s just the way that works for you.
The Power Of Vulnerability. When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with a learning disability in comprehension. I was told I was slow to understand things, that I would never be proficient in writing or reading and that I would always need extra time to learn anything. In my mind this diagnosis told me one thing and one thing only; I was stupid. This belief followed me throughout most of my life, up until just a few years ago when I was explaining my disability to a friend and they said “What if you don’t have that? What if that test was wrong?” I sat still for what felt like an eternity, realizing that I had never contemplated the idea of it not being real. Those simple questions burst the bubble I was living in for the last 30 years in an instant.
This experience really showed me the power of a vulnerability and how when we open up to people about our insecurities, they can spread new light and guide us to a better space within our thoughts. During my pregnancy and now as a new mom, I have often reached out to other women for support and new perspective. It has always provided me with the tools I need to be the best version of myself for my daughter.
Surrender To Uncertainty. When I was 18 weeks pregnant, I went blind for 5 minutes. I was eating dinner at home with my husband, when suddenly the outside edges of both of my eyes got blurry, and within 30 seconds everything became black. I sat still for a moment and then calmly said to my husband, “Alex, I’m going to need you to get my phone and call our OBGYN, there’s nothing to panic about, I just can’t see out of either of my eyes.“
Let’s just say, my husband didn’t share my calmness. He instead panicked and frantically called the doctors. I, however, just sat there and thought “well this is new.” I know it sounds odd but there was something that happened to me in that moment that said, “you’re ok.” Luckily five minutes later, my vision returned and I was indeed, alright. That experience helped me to realize that sometimes the best thing I could do during my pregnancy or as a new mom, is surrender. Not stressing out about losing my vision prepared me for not stressing out when my labor didn’t go the way I planned, or when my daughter couldn’t latch for six hours straight, or when I realized my daughter was a 1 year old and I cried because of how time was flying by. Surrender allows us to trust in what’s happening even when it’s scary, uncertain or difficult.