As a mother with often debilitating anxiety, I know firsthand what things aggravate or alleviate the disorder. While I try to avoid things like crowded places when possible, and try to maintain my structured routine, I know I can't always avoid my triggers — especially when it involves my children. If you're like me, you might not realize some of the ways your baby monitor is making your anxiety worse. Yes, that's right. Your baby monitor. While there's a lot of baby-related products and devices that contribute to anxiety, I think this one tops the list.
When I was a first-time mom over 10 years ago, I thought the baby monitor was my saving grace. If I couldn't be right there, hovering over my newborn daughter, the monitor could relay all the important information I thought I needed so I could determine whether or not to rush in to "save" her, or try to go back to sleep. I hadn't realized how reliant I'd become on every little blip, beep, static fuzz, or stray cough, until I reached the point of nearly no sleep.
The point is, not only did the technology contribute to my anxiety (i.e. making me paranoid about every last sound), but it also gave me insomnia. I worried myself into a depression, fearful if I closed my eyes too long I wouldn't hear my daughter if something terrible happened. Spoiler alert: nothing terrible ever happened and she's fine, 10 years later, while I'm still as exhausted as ever.
The same was true for my youngest, too. Though I knew not to give into all the noises a monitor can pickup, I couldn't help myself. I became paranoia personified. And actually, I admit it: my partner and I only just ditched our baby monitor a few weeks ago, and our son is nearing 6 years old. It's not that I needed it, but it was a safety net and a "just-in-case" that I was in no way rushing to say goodbye to. Honestly, it was the only thing that made me feel like I could save my children should something go wrong at night, and my anxiety worsened because of it. With that, here's some of the ways your baby monitor isn't helping you, but instead, making your anxiety worse.
I did have pre-existing anxiety before my daughter was born, but it definitely manifested in new ways once I became a mom. The baby monitor made sure of this, actually. Whenever she fussed, even slightly, I was sure something was terribly wrong. She could've choked on her acid reflux, turned into an impossible position, or got a body part caught somewhere. I imagined every scenario and they were all worst-case. Fussing is normal, but the monitor made me feel like it wasn't.
You know that feeling in the middle of the night, when you hear a stray noise and are positive someone's come to steal your baby? Yeah, I always had that feeling. Every. Single. Night. I wouldn't have noticed any of it, though, if the monitor wasn't right beside my bed.
The baby monitor is a double-edged sword. I never wanted to hear my baby fussing, because it could've meant something awful. The silence, however, was worse. A quiet baby might've equated to her death (in my mind). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a valid concern, so in this case I'd almost rather her fuss than sleep through the night without a single squeal.
The lights, you guys. The damn lights. Our baby monitor has a color span of green to red. A low, green light tells us there's no dangerous noises or anything to be too concerned with. Sometime, it leans all the way red which can be a draft from the air or heat, interference, or — as my anxious mind told me — trouble brewing.
I turned our monitor up as high as it would go and still never felt like it was loud enough. In reality it was, of course, but my anxiety reminded me not to fall asleep because I might miss something important, such as a cough that's so much more than a cough, a lingering fussiness that might clue me into a medical condition (that I'd have to self-diagnose in the midnight hour and probably via the devil that is Google), or any number of things.
In the weeks since giving up on our baby monitor, I haven't felt my anxiety subside but, instead, increase. Even though my kids are now old enough to physically come get me if something's wrong, I'm always afraid I'll miss something important.
Because I've given in to the baby monitor's every whim, I've checked in on my babies more times than necessary. I know I'm overdoing it, to be sure, but I still can't stop myself. I'm convinced it's for the best to over-check, rather than miss something that requires my attention.
My anxiety may always be complicated part of who I am as an individual, but having a baby monitor definitely made it worse. If I had it to do over again, though, I'd probably do it the same way. Because, well, anxiety.