Am I doing this right? Is he getting enough food?
How do I really know if he’s getting any milk out? What was that noise?
Is he breathing? I think he’s too cold. Oh no, now he’s too warm.
How do you cool a newborn down? Is he breathing?
People are really going to allow me to just bring him home? Shouldn’t you have to prove or show something, pass some test before you can take a baby home?
Is he breathing?
That was the dialogue running through my head while I sat in the hospital with my first child, Spencer, waiting to be able to go home.
As a new parent I had so many anxieties.
I was so nervous and worried that I was somehow going to fail at motherhood.
Sure, I had been a nanny before and taken care of children from birth but they had never been my own. Suddenly, when it was my own child I was terrified that I was going to mess up and was completely unfit to be a mother.
Those worries didn’t get any better after we got home.
I got little sleep because I was convinced that Spencer would suddenly stop breathing or that he was cold.
During the day, I watched and read the news which got me to worry about things that I didn’t even know I should be worrying about.
Did you know that blanket can give your baby cancer? If you want to have a well balanced child in the future you must stop doing x. In order to bond with your baby you must baby wear and co sleep. If you don’t let your baby sleep on their own and if you are always holding them they are never going to learn independence.
Everywhere I turned I felt like I was being bombarded with horrible and rare circumstances that made me worry about everything. I was overwhelmed and convinced that I was a terrible mother and Spencer would grow up to be a horrible person because I didn’t know what I was doing.
How I wish I could go back in time to calm myself down. Go back and reassure myself that things were going to be OK and that I was and would be a great mom. I wish I could share the things that I have learned, instead I get to share it with others.
You moms and dads who are feeling overwhelmed, confused, and tired. This is for you.
NEW PARENT ANXIETY: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Listen to your gut. This is the most important. There are a lot of people out there who are all too willing to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your new baby. They mean well but they don’t realize that it is freaking you out. Ask questions when you are unsure but ultimately trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, change it. You are the perfect parent for your child. No one else can do what you can do.
- Learn something new. And I don’t mean anything having to do with parenting or your baby. It is easy to get lost in your new baby and learning your new role. It’s easy to start to feel unlike yourself and unsure of who you are becoming. Take time to focus on learning something new. Something just for you. Maybe you have always wanted to learn an instrument, or a new language. Maybe you want to become a better cook or a computer programmer. I have always wanted to become an excellent seamstress. Whatever it is you have put off learning take some time every day or week and learn it. This will help you focus on something other than your baby and will help you feel normal. For bonus points, you could even teach your child your new skill as you go along.
- Be in the moment. I spent so much time thinking about the future and what I needed to do to prepare for it. Just stop. Relax. Breathe in the smell of your baby. Hold their hand. Stare at their squishy nose and thighs. Embrace what is happening right then. The future can wait. It will still be there. But this very moment is now. Be present.
- Stop reading/watching the news. The news is a useful tool to help you stay informed of what is happening in the world. However, it can be the worst thing for a new parent. The news purposefully shares things that a rare and horrible. That is how they get people to watch. They convince you that something terrible could happen to you because it happened to a family at some time. Yes, terrible things do happen and it’s sad. But what you see on the news is rare. Meaning it doesn’t happen to everyone. Accidents happen but that doesn’t mean you need to stress that it is going to happen to you. For the first year of your child’s life do not read or watch anything that has anything to do with something bad happening to children. It will freak you out and have you convinced that it is going to happen to you.
- Get outside everyday. When you have a newborn, it is easy to barricade yourself in your house and not come out for weeks. Please don’t do this. Get outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Unless it is some crazy extreme weather, go for a walk everyday. It doesn’t need to be long just get a change of scenery. Take your baby out with you. They want and need a change as well.
YOU’VE GOT THIS
Having a new baby is such a thrilling, exciting, and nerve wracking time. You will be more happy, scared, and sad then you thought you would.
You will have moments where you feel that you can’t do this. That someone else is more capable than you.
You will have moments where you feel on top of the world and a champion of parenthood.
You will worry about more things than you ever imagined you could.
I am here to tell you that you’ve got this. You are the best parent for your child. Don’t let those worries consume you. Listen to your gut, learn something new, be in the moment, stop reading the news, get outside.
No one can do what you can do. You are a great parent. Be awesome. Now go snuggle your baby.