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Coping with Worry as a Mom

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
Elizabeth Stone

When my son was born, I couldn’t believe everything that I started to fret about.  It really was like holding my own heart outside my body, and leaving it completely exposed.

This is what my heart looks like outside my body.

Was he breathing ok?  Did I swaddle him too tight? One night he was just a little TOO still after I had gotten him to sleep; I gasped and practically threw him down on the bed to inspect him and those beady little eyes opened wide, in an instant, before his brow furrowed to tell me he did not appreciate this interruption.  I resumed getting him to sleep from square one.  Sigh.

Of course, the fact that we worry is an indicator of our love – it is because we love and value these little individuals so much that the thought of anything happening to them is just too much to bear.

Fast forward to 20 months later, and I still have worrying spells.

Yep, that’s a belt around his neck. IT… NEVER… STOPS

I get to my desk at work and then my mind runs through some of the things that could go wrong, like someone spilling coffee on him, or [insert awful thing that happened to a child recently].  It’s a normal part of parenting, to some extent. I suspect there is a genetic component as well, as my mother,  constantly worries that her grandson isn’t eating enough.  Like really worries.  Nevermind that he is developing well, tall for his age, and of average weight.

Look at this fear-mongering book. Yes, you read that right “Parenting with Wit and Wisdom in times of chaos and loss” – SERIOUSLY?!

I know I’ll worry about him the rest of his life, but I try to keep it in check because it’s hard to enjoy life and be a good mom if you are constantly stressed.

Anxiety is Linked with Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever noticed that worrying can get a lot worse when you haven’t slept?  Yup, it’s is a side-effect of sleep deprivation, among others.  My labour lasted 36 joyous hours during which I hardly slept.  Then, those first few nights with him as a newborn I couldn’t sleep because I was so worried something would happen to him while he slept, like that he would roll over and get smothered.  It was a constant-panic clusterBEEP.  Plus my emotions were going insane – I would cry at the mere MENTION of that awful book that rhymes with “Shove You For-Leather.” If you must know, it’s this.

My Coping Strategies

One strategy I found helpful was self talk.  I would say to myself (in my head, but sure, out loud works too), “I am sleep deprived, and I am thinking these thoughts because of this state.  I need to focus on what I can do to get me back to a normal…ish state (cuz let’s not reach too high here)” and then I would try my best to take a nap and/or do a relaxation CD.  Does it sound ridiculous? Maybe.  But it really does help.  I also focus on the fact that the moment will pass, much like I learned to do with contractions during labour.  I guess those hypno-birthing techniques continue to come in handy, which by the way, can reduce the need for pain medication during labour.

Resources for Managing Anxiety and Worry

I thought the Mayo Clinic’s list of resources on this was pretty darn good – it even includes some apps!  Check it out here.

The Canadian Mental Health Association also has some great info on mental health as it coincides with parenting.

If in doubt, it’s best to talk to your doc about how you are feeling.  When you think about all that our bodies go through to create a baby, it’s no wonder that birth and its aftermath can have a huge impact on us psychologically as well.

Do you guys have any good tips to share?  Let us know in the comments.

DISCLAIMER: As a (former) lawyer and current expert on Hagen Daaz Rocky Road consumption, I am not qualified to give medical advice of any kind.