I'll start off by saying that I'm new here, and could use some insight and help from parents with hands-on experience. This post is long, so want to warn you upfront. :)
I'm in my early 30's, have been married for a couple of years (but together for many years), and have two strong, working-breed dogs (that are known to be great with kids) that I love dearly. In terms of my personality, I have never been good with change - I always end up managing in the end, but it's a struggle for me for months whenever I try something new. I end up feeling pretty needy and looking for someone to support me and help me get through the difficult time, cry easily, get anxious, panic/freeze, etc. I had a falling out with my parents a couple years ago and feel more alone as well because of that. My husband is a couple years older than I am and is ready to start trying to have a baby and starting a family - he is very understanding and isn't pressuring me or doing anything to make me give in though. He's also "normal" and able to adapt to change and notes that we've always managed things before.
For the last week or so, I've been really thinking about kids and whether or not I want to have them, and (as with anything "new" that changes the status quo), I'm feeling queasy just at the thought of all the changes a baby and child would bring. I realize that I'm not ready right now to have a baby, but I guess I'm worried that I'll never be ready - that my fears will always be there. But I don't know if it's that I won't be ready because my fears are getting the best of me, or if it's that I really won't be ready ever and I should just embrace that I don't handle change well and just be okay with that? I've listed my main fears below (I could probably think of many more, but am trying to stick with the more realistic ones that others have probably experienced...lol.) Can you please tell me if my fears are realistic or not....I don't know what to do! I want to feel like I'd be able to manage, but am terrified to have a child and find out the "hard way" that I can't afterall. I also briefly read through the "post-partum" section and that has me terrified too. :(
Based on the below, my guess is many will say...DON'T DO IT! I expect that, but I'm also hoping that some of my fears can be dispelled. I think right now, everything is so unknown and I'm letting everything morph into a big deal. But also am thinking I should go with my nervous gut. I always like to know things - unknowns scare me because I feel out of control.
- the life-long committment. When things get hard my reactionis to freeze and panic and go into despair - how do I not have a meltdown when everything is new? How do I calm myself, especially through the first few months of getting into a routine? How do I not end up in major depression?
-as part of the above point...that I'll always have to be "on" - always make sure I'm aware of what I'm saying or not saying, that I'm teaching my kids properly, that I'm not teaching them bad things, that I'm a good role model. (Basically that I'm "perfect, super-mom"...lol.)
- being pregnant, feeling sick and how I'd feel
- that I'd have post-partum depression. I'm susceptible to depression and anxiety and am scared that that will go through the roof and how I'd manage.
- the overall responsibility - especially in the first year - babies are so dependent and I'm so used to being independent. What if I don't have the energy, the desire, the joy? What if I end up hating it? (Is that normal?) I think I'd end up feeling guilty if I didn't feel joyous or happy.
- I feel like I don't have a clue as to what I'm doing when it comes to babies. (I'm the youngest in my family) - I don't know how to soothe a baby, how to know what's wrong, how to diaper, etc. I'm also very hard on myself when I don't pick up a skill or concept quickly, and end up feeling depressed and anxious.
- that my dogs may resent having a crying, screaming baby in the house
- that my dogs will be neglected because I won't be able to spend as much time with them - I feel guilty just at the thought of that. Right now I walk them before work on my own - how would I do that with a baby or a toddler (especially since one still pulls on the leash a ton)? As I said earlier, I love them dearly and worry about how they'd feel (even though they're dogs and don't think the same way as humans). I don't want them to be left out or not getting attention they normally get.
- As the baby gets older, what if the toddler/child/adolescent, etc. doesn't listen to me? Truthfully I'm fully expecting this - I know it's normal, but I am so afraid of being challenged (especially if I'm already feeling shaky and not confident) - I don't want to break down in front of my kid and lose control of the situation. I'm not great at saying "no" now, even though I know in theory it's what is best for the child. I'm not great at standing up for myself either.
- What if my child isn't completely healthy? Would I be able to manage that?
- What if I can't control my anxiety and am a basket case, worrying about everything all the time? What if I can't turn it off and end up not being a good role model?
On the flip side to all of this, while my husband is extremely supportive, patient and loving, I am also scared that if I decide I really can't and shouldn't try to be a mom that I'll be disappointing him hugely and making a decision for him and his life that he may not be happy with. I know it doesn't make sense to bring a child into the world just for someone else - I am reminding myself of this, but I do worry about his feelings, his life and what all this means for him too.
Is it just that I'm not ready now, or that I'll never be ready? How do I know? I hate being in limbo. I think as a worst case scenario, I'm envisioning that I'll have a kid that is difficult, hard to manage, hard to control and I'll feel completely helpless and depressed and that I'm going to be a bad mom. :(
Whoa Nelly, my friend, you seem to be quite up a tree tonight! Let's help you right down from there, OK?
Full disclosure: I am not a mother, but I am stepmother, a doula, and a former therapist.
Let's start with this: you've got to start talking to moms (hey, exactly like you did here tonight!) because when you do, you're going to find out that every single thing you mentioned fearing and thinking you might is is totally normal. Can you believe it? I'm pretty sure all of the things you mentioned are universal.
Letting your husband down: You cannot go back in time and do what would have been most advisable--discussing this, in detail, even the yucky parts, prior to getting married. However, you can have a similar conversation now. If you need your husband to tell you that he will love you 1) if you cannot have children and 2) if you do not feel that you want to have children, please ask for that from him. It feels scary, I know, and you might think "If I have to tell him what to say to reassure me, it won't work." I get that. But it will help. And you deserve to know that you're married to a man who supports YOU, not an attachment he has to an idea of a family.
Dogs: I tear up when I think of my dog not feeling like my baby anymore. But they adjust, just like you will, if that's what you choose.
Being "on": Girl. Totally. This is exactly it. You'll go to bed at night thinking about the billions things you could have or should have done during the day to be the perfect mom, and then you can make the emotionally healthy choice to flip the tape over to the B side, the side that stops talking about how crappy of a mom you are and starts telling you that you are competent, capable and courageous. This is totally normal. I do this even as a stepmother.
Feeling guilty: it sounds like you're really good at this already because you have some practice. I can identify! Here's the thing: you will feel guilty if you're not joyous or jumping up and down and cooing and freaking out about the baby like everyone else 100% of every minute...and that's normal! it's normal to not feel joyous 100% of every minute AND it's normal to feel guilty about that.
Postpartum depression: Encapsulate your placenta and take the pills. I have heard that this is one of the best methods of staving off PPD and I fully intend to take this advice. I advise clients to take this advice, too, and it has worked. Also, exercise, drink plenty of water and speak kindly to yourself. Get a counselor. Also, hire a postpartum doula.
Unfortunately, the answer to a lot of these might not soothe you. And it's that you simply can't plan for a lot of this. If your child is defiant and doesn't listen to you, you have to deal with that when it's a problem, not now. If your child is born with complications, you have to deal with that as it comes. But I can tell you this: it will do you good to do some things for yourself and your spirit to build your confidence. You must learn that you are capable. You are! You are a woman! We are incredible creatures. Really stop to think about what you are considering doing: creating a whole human life within your own body. When you think on it like that, you can assure yourself that if you are certainly capable of the hiccups and learning curves you will experience. Some things I have done myself or recommended: begin a new exercise regimen you really identify with (running is mine), complete a course in something that interests you, engage in a volunteer activity, travel by yourself, create art.
I'm so sorry for the length of this post, but I really hope that you can take a breath tonight and realize that there are women all over the world scared of these exact things, and you are so, so not alone. Hugs, friend.
Doula and freelance writer , married to the best man I know
Stepmother to DSS (9)
8-9-12 and planning on
IntownDoula, First I want to thank you deeply for taking the time and energy to respond to my long-winded post. I'm sure I'm coming off sounding crazy (which I don't like), but when my anxieties take hold, I get panicky and impatient and my fears just balloon. I just wanted to follow-up on a couple of your points.
Thank you for the reassurance that my fears are normal. I was hoping so! I guess I tend to think that even if everyone else is having these fears, they don't have anxiety like I do, and they'll just manage to cope healthily whereas I turn everything inside and it eats me up. I have been talking to a few of my friends who are moms to get their perspective as well, so sounds like I'm on the right track there.
When my husband and I were dating in our 20's, we both said the same thing – that we weren't really all that into kids, and that we both liked our lives – we were free to do whatever whenever. So we were leaning towards not having kids, but neither of us 100% said "never". (And I don't know that either of us felt 100% that we never wanted kids.) Now that we're a few years older, are married and seeing our friends and family members having kids and building their families, and as we realize our own mortality, I think my husband is realizing that kids are actually important to him. And, I'm realizing just how terrified I am and not sure.
We did have a conversation a few nights ago and it went well. We were both open and honest and he was as reassuring as he could be, considering his feelings and perspective. I'm still worried though about whether I, alone, and our lifestyle as it is now would be enough - it's one thing if you physically cannot conceive, it's another when you're making the choice to not conceive. I fear that he will think that my feelings and choice to not do it would not a good enough reason. I keep reminding myself that my opinion has to be more important to me than anyone else's, and my husband would totally agree with that – he even said that to me. I do think he is supportive of me, but I also recognize that he has his own feelings and opinions and desires. I mentioned my high anxiety levels and he acknowledged that, but I'm not sure he fully understands and he may think that I'm just exaggerating. I'm also struggling with this because I'm a follower and people-pleaser, so it seems easier to just go along with having a kid, but my anxieties are just so strong and I know deep down that's not a reason.
I'm sure you're 100% right about the dogs adjusting. I just put so much emotion into them and worry about them because I want them to feel great and happy all the time and want to be the best mom to them. (My friend who is a mother often reminds me that we're not as responsible for these things as I like to think!)
Being "on" – what if I can't get myself to side "B" of the tape? I'm so good at being negative towards myself. I know I don't need to be perfect and I've been told to drop that ideal, but don't know how.
Thank you for your points on "feeling guilty". I'm totally great at bringing guilt onto myself…maybe I think I need to be a martyr? I don't know. Maybe I think that people will be less harsh towards me if I make a mistake…afterall, I'm already being hard enough on myself so they don't have to "beat up" on me too?
PPD – thanks for the suggestion. I'll look into that – never heard of it before, so that's interesting to me.
I think my biggest problem in life and with this situation is that I'm so insecure and don’t have enough confidence. My husband believes that we'll manage, and he's pointed out that we've always managed in the past. So, I don't think it's him pressuring me so much as him believing that I can do it (even if I don't believe it). Change always brings out my insecurities and then I end up feeling really bad and like I can't make it through the situation. Babies, toddlers, kids are always changing and bringing on something new and I'm so worried about always feeling insecure and scared. I feel like I won't be a "fun" parent, I won't be good at disciplining and the kids will run the house and I'll be out of control, that my dogs will resent me, and I'll walk around on egg shells not wanting to bring on conflict. I hate feeling like this...stupid anxiety blows everything out of whack!