Parenting Anxiety: The Struggle is Real
Being a parent comes with a whole new level of anxiety. I mean, you no longer just have to worry about your own two left feet tripping you up—you’ve created a mini version of you who has two left feet, too. Oh, and this little person who you love and adore so much you often wonder if it’s unhealthy?—he likes to climb. No big. Just never let him leave the house, bubble wrap him, disinfect him regularly, and maybe (if you’re lucky) you can avoid taking him to the emergency room 14,000 times before he turns 3. (What? No good?) If only it were that easy… Anxiety during pregnancy and parenting is a very real and common thing, and it can be really hard to keep your cool.
There are times that it’s almost too much to bear thinking about the responsibility to keep your family safe, especially when you realize that so much is really and truly out of your control.
Children need to explore, to test their limits and boundaries—it’s how they learn. We know that. But at the same time, we’re conditioned (through evolution, I’ve heard) to see all the dangers that lurk, the worst case scenarios. You see your two-year-old climbs fearlessly to the highest point on the playground… You’d really like to be proud of him, just enjoy that look of accomplishment, the sheer joy on his face. But all you can think about is how hard it will hurt when he falls and breaks his leg. Before you know it, you’re panicking and telling him to get down RIGHT NOW or you’re going to pack the car up and leave the park so fast his little head will spin.
I’ve often wondered if I’ve saved my child from undue harm or I’m just transferring my own fears and anxieties onto her by freaking out about every potential danger. Am I doing more harm than good? Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our little ones is to calm. the. EFF. down.
Anxiety During Pregnancy
I know this was true for my most recent 3 months of panicking. I recently survived my first trimester of pregnancy. I use the word survived because that’s exactly what it feels like… I knew (and I still know) that things could go wrong. So. Many. Things. Everywhere I looked, all I could see were signs of danger. It seemed like a matter of time before the happiness and hope I felt for this new baby would be erased and replaced with despair at any moment. Doom and gloom. panic attacks and freak outs. Yes, the first trimester of a pregnancy after experiencing a pregnancy loss might be the scariest, most anxiety-producing thing I’ve ever had to endure (and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve lived through some scary shit—I’ve been to the playground with a toddler.) Add to it the crazy hormones, utter exhaustion, weird cravings, nauseousness and morning sickness, and sporadic, heart-stopping spotting and, well… it really sucked. If it weren’t for the support of the many people I shared my news with (and, also, many of the the subsequent freak-out moments I had thereafter), I might be typing this blog from the confines of a rubber room.
I know that stressing out would only make things worse. All I could do about it was take a deep breath and stay as calm as possible. That’s what I teach my yoga students, after all. But it’s also much easier to say than it is to do when you feel like a life is hanging in the balance.
Of course, every pregnancy comes with some anxiety—even if it’s just the usual what-ifs. In the beginning there’s anxiety about the health of the pregnancy, birth defects, and miscarriage. Then, once you get past that you can worry about premature birth, low birth rate, and freak accidents. Then, there’s the anxiety about becoming a parent—Are we ready? Can we handle it financially? How will it change your relationships? Your life? There’s anxiety about the birth and about all the things that could go wrong during and right after it. There are just SO many things to worry about. It can be overwhelming. And, well, it doesn’t stop after your healthy, beautiful baby comes into the world. And if you don’t learn to manage it in some way it can drive you absolutely bonkers. Believe me. I happen to be an expert on this topic.
An Affirmation Meditation for Anxiety during Pregnancy and Parenting
The one thing that helps calm me down when my mind starts to spiral down into the depths of all the things that could go wrong is this simple little affirmation practice. I sit up tall and close my eyes. I place one hand on my heart and the other on my belly. I take a big breath and repeat to myself:
We are safe. We are healthy. All is well.
We are safe. We are healthy. All is well.
Because, here’s the thing. As far as I know, we are! And I have two choices here. I can allow the fear of the unknown to consume me so I don’t enjoy all the excitement, anticipation, joy, and hope that should define the early months of pregnancy (and the years of parenting after). Or, as one of my dear friends told me when I let her know I was pregnant but trying not to get too excited yet because it could end in another miscarriage, I could LET MYSELF EXPERIENCE THE HAPPY. I could feel my muscles relax. I could imagine the two hearts beating, anticipate all the joyful surprises that are on the horizon (sharing the news with friends, finding out the sex of the baby, hearing that everything looks healthy and perfect), the amazing sibling relationship that might be between my daughter and this baby. I could focus on the bad or I could focus on the good in the present moment. I can share stress hormones or happy hormones with that tiny little person growing inside. I can’t control the outcome of this pregnancy, but I CAN control my feelings, at least to an extent.
We are happy. We are healthy. All is well.
I’m choosing health, happiness, and harmony. It’s not always an easy choice, but it’s the only one that makes sense
*Featured image by Take Back Your Health Co