Motherhood and a state of constant, sometimes debilitating fear are, for so many moms, synonymous. Many women feel afraid the moment they hold their baby, and that feeling of dread and trepidation is carried with them all through motherhood and (I'm guessing) until the end of time. It's hard not to let your mind wander to the dark place, were parenthood's worst case scenarios play on an endless loop and anxiety becomes an all-too-common state of mind.
What many women don't know, is that many of these fears are nothing more your body preparing you for parenthood. While scientists are still learning how pregnancy changes a woman's brain, they have discovered that activity controlling the parts of the brain responsible for empathy, anxiety, and social interaction, increases. This means, when you start to think about something absolutely horrible happening to your baby, it is actually your brain and your body preparing you for motherhood. It's a biological reaction, that reinforces feelings of fierce protectiveness and devotion. It's also annoying as hell. That too.
And the other fears and anxieties? Well, those are perpetuated by unrealistic social standards about motherhood and what it means to be a mother and, of course, ourselves. When other people aren't being are harshest critics, we are. And while others may grow tired of judging every single parenting choice or decision we make, we never seem to tire of criticizing ourselves.
Here are 13 of 152,557,308 (probably) fears every new mother has. If you're feeling constantly afraid and anxious, give yourself a break and above all, know that you're not alone.
"What If I Lose My Job During Maternity Leave?"
This is not only a very valid fear, it is a fear no new mother should ever be forced to experience. But, the United States of America is the only developed country to not implement mandatory paid maternity leave, so many women fear for their jobs after they have a child.
"My Baby Will Stop Breathing During The Night?"
Many mothers have shared stories of the first few nights they spent with their child, simply staring at them to make sure their little chests kept rising and falling accordingly. Nighttime anxiety is so very normal, and because new parents are constantly warned about SIDS and proper baby sleeping positions, it's only normal that you would continuously worry about your baby and their nighttime habits.
Don't worry, this too shall pass. Eventually.
"Someone Else Will Get My Baby Sick."
Yes, you need to wash your hands with soap and hand sanitizer. No, you cannot touch my child until you do so thoroughly. Channel your inner Meredith Grey, if you must.
"What If I Never Feel Comfortable In My Body Again?"
Pregnancy does some miraculous, amazing, awkward, and uncomfortable things to your body. So does the postpartum time period, where you body is recovering and you're beginning to familiarize yourself with your new figure and frame. It's not uncommon to feel out of place in your own skin, so while it feels like you will never ever be comfortable again, I can assure you, you will.
"Someone Will Fall While Carrying My Baby."
I don't know about you, but I envisioned other people (i.e., my partner, family members, close friends) falling and dropping my baby directly after I handed my newborn over to them. It was difficult for me to relinquish control, and I think this fear was a manifestation of me wanting to do it all so I knew he would be safe. Yes, you can call me Monica Geller, if you'd like.
"What If I Can't Bond With My Baby?"
Many women are afraid they won't be able to properly bond with their baby, especially if they have difficulties breastfeeding or had a c-section. But I can assure you, there are plenty of bottle-fed babies and babies who came into the world via c-section, who absolutely love their parents, and whose parents feel very close to their children.
"My Baby Isn't Getting Enough To Eat."
This is a very common fear among breastfeeding mothers, especially mothers who have a difficult time breastfeeding. It's hard to judge how much your baby is eating, or even keep track of how often when you're so sleep deprived, and when you couple that with the normal postpartum weight-drop your baby experiences? Well, it can be scary.
Bottom line: The baby will let you know when he or she is hungry, and even if they decide they want to cluster feed and demand food every few minutes, they'll make sure they get what they need.
"I'm Afraid I'm Going To Lose My Sense Of Self."
Becoming a mother is an overwhelming change, which bleeds into every aspect of your life. It can take a while for you to navigate parenthood and find your place, all while feeling comfortable and like you have possibly lost your true, authentic, undeniable self. It's perfectly normal to feel adrift in a sea of diapers and wipes, so if you're afraid you're going to lose who you are, make sure you carve out time for necessary (and earned) self-care. Doing the things that make you feel like you will give you the peace of mind that you are, in fact, still yourself — and the effect that peace of mind will have on your attitude will be endlessly more beneficial to your baby than whatever you would've been doing with them during those minutes and hours you could've been doing you.
"The Soft Spots On My Baby's Head — WHY?"
No, really. Why is this a thing? OK, well, we know it's because your baby needs to make their way through the birth canal, and a soft cranium assists them in doing so safely, but for the love of all things creepy, does it have to stay soft?! Pull yourself together, skull! You're freaking everyone out!
"I'm Going To Die From Exhaustion."
You won't. Well, at least I don't think you will.
"I'm Afraid I'm Going To Break The Baby."
Babies are resilient and — to put it lightly — built for new parents who have no idea what they're doing. You won't break the baby, as long as you treat the baby like a baby.
"Sex Is Going To Hurt For The Rest Of My Life."
"I'm Afraid I'm Not A Good Mother."
There isn't a mother in the world who doesn't experience this fear on a daily, unrelenting basis. The truth is, being actively afraid that you are failing is something can hopefully get over, but if you aren't the kind of person who at least asks yourself how good of a job you're doing, and trying to regularly evaluate your parental performance, you're probably not being the best mother you can be. So give yourself a pat on the back, mom. You're doing great!