After I gave birth, the hospital nurse ran down a checklist of things to be aware of as I went home with my baby. Don't co-sleep while I was still on painkillers, don't be afraid to put the baby in his crib and step away if things got overwhelming, and be aware of persistent weird thoughts. "Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes, but if they start to interfere with your life let your OB know." I certainly had scary thoughts post-birth, and I wanted to know about the terrifying thoughts guys had after their baby was born. After all, my partner and I were now in this together, and he looked just as scared as I was.
Look: I know it can't just be us moms. True, those of us who deliver babies have tremendous surges of hormones that can make us prone to so-called "weird thoughts," but that only explains part of it. The much larger aspect, I would suspect, that leads to nightmare-inducing, racing thoughts is the monumental change associated with becoming a parent to a brand-new human being who is entirely helpless and completely dependent on you. In some cases, it's the overwhelming love you feel for these tiny creatures. And for all you do and try to do, at the end of the day there's so much outside of your control that it's maddening.
You know what else doesn't help? Horror stories and urban legends you read on the internet. So I thought it might be useful to harness the net's powers for good (for once) and let all parents know that when it comes to fears and concerns following the birth of a baby, you're not alone.
"Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)! It punctuated every happy moment I had with [my son] for the first few months, though it did get better as time went on. There was always this voice in the back of my mind, like Debbie Downer going, 'Hey, don't forget about SIDS1 No one knows what it is and it strikes without warning!' It was the topic of a lot of my conversations with my therapist for a while."
"I was afraid I was going to shake the baby without meaning to. Not that I was actually going to shake her, but I wasn't sure what constituted a shake. What if I just moved her really fast and that was enough to do damage? I had no concept of the appropriate level of caution to exercise with handling an infant."
"It's not actually terrifying, but I was really concerned about how the baby and the dog would get along. At first I was worried that the dog would feel unloved and be said once the baby was born. But it did get terrifying once we got home. I worried that the dog would get jealous and attack the baby. (Which was completely unfounded, but I saw something on the news [about a dog attacking an infant] and freaked.)"
"I'm going to have to say SIDS. That sh*t is terrifying."
"I was afraid I wouldn't know how to be a father. Mine was a piece of sh*t, so it's not like I had a role model, so I knew I would have to learn everything as I went along and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do that. But, so far, I haven't broken the little guy, and he seems pretty happy."
"Our twins were in the NICU. I pretty much only had terrifying thoughts for weeks until they came home. But let people know that they're healthy and cute now. I don't want to be a bummer."
"This is a fear I had slightly before birth. I was afraid I was going to miss it. Not that I wasn't going to be able to make it to the hospital, but afraid I would blink and miss it because it would happen so quickly. It's so stupid. I don't know what I thought childbirth was going to be like; like she just sneezes out the baby or something. But I didn't realize that the head was going to be stuck in the same position more or less for, like, 20 minutes."
"I was afraid my girlfriend wouldn't love me anymore. It was completely immature and self-centered, but so was I when our daughter was born. I like to think I'm slightly less of a douchebag now."
"I worried I would never love the baby. I didn't love him right away. It wasn't instant. It was more like a, 'WTF did we do?' kind of panic. I was scared that made me some sort of monster. But after talking to a lot of people, I guess it's not instant for everyone, maybe not even most people, including moms. I love him now, of course. It just took some time to get to know him."
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