When I was pregnant with Miss, I read everything I could get my hands on about being pregnant, labor and delivery, taking care of a baby, the necessary gear to take care of a baby, and so on. I joined a support group for breastfeeding moms before she was even born. I extensively researched every baby item I bought, learned all about making my own baby food (bought several “cook books” for this in fact), and obsessed over having the perfect nursery. I had waited a long time to have a baby (I was almost 33 when Miss was born), and I was kind of a fanatic about wanting to do it right.
Then she was born, after a labor and delivery in which nothing went as I had so carefully planned for it to, and I was a hot mess of anxiety and worry. I got nervous about everything when we brought her home from the hospital. My husband set her car seat on the counter and I freaked out. What if she falls?? I set it on the floor and worried, what if the dogs lick her?
I worried all the time and went through all sorts of possible catastrophes in my head and what I would do to minimize harm to her if they occurred. For example, if I fell down the stairs while holding her, I would simply throw my own body under hers so she would not hit the floor and I would not land on top of her. Seriously. I visualized this every time I walked down the stairs while holding her. Or up the stairs. Or near the stairs.
I was never one to worry before she was born. Afterwards, I could not seem to stop.
As she grew, I continued to worry and obsess. I never put her on the floor without a blanket under her. I didn’t want her playing with plastic toys. I never let her wear socks for nap time in case she took one off while out of my sight and shoved it in her mouth and suffocated (yes, really).
I didn’t let her eat anything crunchy until she was two. Once when she was about 14-months-old, my nephew tried to give her a little pretzel stick at snack time (while I was anxiously discussing with my sister-in-law whether it was okay for her to have yogurt made with skim instead of whole milk; I was that crazy). I screeched, “Noooo!” and lunged across the kitchen to prevent him from handing it to her. I’m sure I scared the crap out of the poor little guy. I don’t even know what I thought would happen if he gave it to her. She’d poke her eye out? Choke on the skinny little thing? Who knows? I was utterly insane in those early days.
I could go on to list all sorts of crazy first-child moments like this. But I won’t (any more than I already have). Because eventually I started to relax a bit. I had another baby, and I began to lighten up. I had to.
Happily, though some of my decrease in anxiety came from necessity once Lass was born, much of it came from a realization that I sort of knew what I was doing. See, when Miss was a baby, I felt totally clueless. I always doubted myself. I had read so much about every little thing that I was supposed to do, that I was nearly paralyzed in the face of the real life decisions that needed to be made. Okay, not quite paralyzed, though it sure did feel that way sometimes. But after going through that trial by fire, I felt so much less worried when I had to do it all again with Lass.
With Miss, I worried about whether she was getting the right amount of sleep, at the right times, in the right places. Was she on a good schedule? Was I ruining her sleep forever by letting her nap in her bouncy seat? Was she becoming horribly spoiled because she woke often at night wanting to eat, so I nursed her, even after she was four-months-old and my pediatrician told me she should be able to make it through the night?
With Lass, if she slept, it was great. She napped in her swing for months, and I didn’t care. Well, I cared a little. I still worried a little bit that if I let her sleep there for too long she’d never be able to sleep in her bed. But more important to me was that she was sleeping.
I was learning to just do what worked and worry about the rest later.
Everything did fall into place too. It worked out just fine. I realized that mistakes are not catastrophes and it all turns out okay in the end.
When Sis was born, even more of my uptightness melted away. These days, I really don’t worry about where she sleeps as long as she does it at the same time her sisters do for afternoon naps.
I am no longer worried about feedings. I used to try to nurse Miss and Lass in private whenever possible. Now I nurse Sis while walking around the state fair, the farmer’s market, Target, wherever. With two other small children, I can’t afford to be uptight about where I nurse. In fact, much of the time I can’t even afford to be sitting down while I feed Sis. Quite often I have to do other things simultaneously, like making sandwiches for her screaming hungry sisters, coloring, or adjusting dress up outfits.
I’ve learned that all the things I thought were so stressful and anxiety provoking when Miss was an infant are child’s play compared to trying to figure out the best way to discipline a preschooler. That’s not to say that the anxiety I had with one baby was less real or less important than what I sometimes struggle with now. It was just different. I've changed as a mom. I used to feel worried all the time. Now I have less worry and more frustration and fatigue and doubt. So many things that I used to fret endlessly about, I now consider to be no big deal. I find myself worrying now about character development and modeling good behavior and maintaining connectedness with my kids in spite of sometimes temporarily losing my sanity.
I still worry about my girls. I know that I always will (truth is, I still sometimes visualize throwing myself under Sis if I happen to fall on the stair while holding her).
That worry will always be changing to fit the developmental stages of my kids and myself as a mother.
Motherhood is an ever-evolving state of being.
They grow, and I grow. I do my best to make the most of where I find myself each day.
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