"The more you care, the more you have to lose." If that's true, then a new mom suddenly feels like she has a whole lot to lose. The stakes are higher than you've ever imagined when a baby enters your life, and your worries are boundless — from your life as a new mom to how to keep your baby alive, and everything in between. Being forced to handle these new fears basically overnight would put anyone in a constant state of panic. So trust me when I say there are totally normal things all moms of newborns panic about, and they'll definitely make a gal feel like she's going off the rails.
I felt fine voicing my worries about my new baby, but I was careful about saying my more "selfish" worries out loud. Things like, "What is happening with my postpartum stomach?" or worries about my C-section scar didn't seem like valid concerns a new mom was "supposed" to have. I felt like it wasn't normal to be stressing out about my body or how I looked. It wasn't that I was not panicking about the baby, too, because I was. I had equal room for all kinds of panic. My real estate for anxiety was quite expansive, so "Come one come all" was basically the big sign hanging in my brain at the time.
It took a while for me to feel comfortable talking about how panicked I was. It was just so damn difficult not to care about how I'd be perceived by my friends, family members, and even my partner. Could these things possibly be important compared to whether my baby was hitting his growth milestones, or whether he was wetting enough diapers?
Yes. Yes they are.
Ignoring my panicked feelings, feeling shame about them, and deciding they weren't "normal" meant that I was missing out on wonderful opportunities to connect with other new moms in my life. Once I joined a local mom group and we started airing our grievances, I realized I was not alone. Other people — who seemed like completely normal, loving, non-self-involved mothers — were also freaking out about their postpartum hair loss, the loss of their independence post-baby, and sometimes just plain irrational things that I feel comfortably saying almost every new mom can't help but think.
Knowing that these feelings were something I shared with other new moms helped me relax into motherhood more easily. It was good to at least be able to cross "panicking over the types of things I'm panicking about" off my list. So if you're worrying about the following on a regular basis, please know that you're not alone.
That You'll Never Sleep More Than Two Consecutive Hours Ever Again
When you're pregnant, everyone from your mail delivery person to your coffee barista will warn you about how you'll "never sleep again" after the baby is born. And you hear them, you do, but you don't like, really hear them. Then, you get that newborn home and you finally understand the gravity of the situation. You truly are never sleeping again. Well, at least that's how it feels.
It didn't take long for me to start panicking about whether sleeping a total of three hours over the course of a night was something I could sustain for the rest of my life. My first child was the worst sleeper I have ever met, and I have met plenty of babies since he was born (he's almost 6-years-old now). There were nights when I couldn't even sleep because I was up worrying about how little sleep I would be getting. Productive, I know.
That You'll Look Pregnant Forever
I don't feel like we tell pregnant women enough that after their baby is born, they will not all-of-a-sudden not look pregnant. It honestly does not work like that. After you give birth you will probably still look about seven or eight months pregnant. (That's because pregnancy is the gift that keeps on giving.)
Postpartum gals not only find themselves worrying about losing "the baby weight" — which usually implies the weight that they've gained all over the body from having gestated a human being for nine months — but also losing all that excess stuff in the stomach that helped house the baby. This is a totally normal thing to worry about. You've spent all this time getting bigger by the day, and now that's supposed to be over. The good news is, of course, your stomach will not look seven months pregnant forever.
After my c-section I somehow managed to look even more pregnant than I did when I walked into the operating room. It probably had something to do with the surgery itself, but I like to think of it as my special extra pregnancy super power.
That Your C-Section Scar Will Always Look This Way
If you do end up having a c-section, you will probably end up panicking about your postpartum c-section scar and the "c-shelf" (the extra fold of skin that can hang over your c-section scar) that may accompany it. For many women, like me, the c-shelf and the scar will fade and go away over a number of months. But your newly postpartum brain doesn't know that. Oh no. Instead, every time you look in the mirror, your brain is wondering what new horror show it is going to encounter next.
That Your Pre-Baby Friends Will Forget You
Since you've disappeared into a black hole of caring for a helpless newborn person, and you don't really know the difference between night and day anymore, you begin to panic about whether your friends will start writing you off. The negative voice in your head will say all kinds of not nice things about how you're just no fun anymore, how all you talk about is sleep and poop, and how all you do is breastfeed.
Side note: you only had a baby three days ago.
That You Won't Figure Out Your Breast Pump
Goddammit all to hell with these pump parts, right? Do you look like you're in the position to read manuals and conduct science experiments right now? You can barely fasten your nursing bra. But if you don't figure the pump parts out soon, how will you produce extra, life-giving goddess milk for your precious bundle?
It is easy and normal to get caught up in the ideas of what you're supposed to do and according to what time frame in the weeks postpartum. I remember breaking out the pump about a week in, because that's what my lactation class had said to do: "Start pumping extra milk a week or so postpartum to help up your supply and to have extra on hand so your partner can do night feedings." It ended up being kind of a waste, as my baby refused to go to sleep with a bottle-feeding anyway. All I ended up with was an addiction to pumping in order to handle my oversupply and a baby that just wanted to be on my boob while I was busy pumping away.
That You'll Go Bald
This one doesn't usually happen immediately postpartum, but sooner or later many postpartum moms start to see those telltale clumps of hair in the shower and start freaking out. As if you didn't have enough to worry about already, what with keeping your baby alive and thriving and all that jazz, now you get to panic that you're going bald. How is a new mom supposed to be chill about seeing a rat's nest of hair at her feet when she's just trying to take her first shower in days?
That You'll Bleed Until The End Of Days
As I've been informed, by my friends who have children, that the bleeding I experienced postpartum was, by most standards, excessive. I bled for about eight weeks after my c-section. It wasn't the kind of bleeding that required a "light days" panty liner or pad. For this kind of bleeding, my friends, I needed the kind of pad that resembled a rolled up towel in between my thighs. I called my doctor several times a week to make sure I wasn't going to bleed out, but she assured me that this actually was perfectly normal. I guess she was right, because here I am, almost six years (and another kid) later.
That Something Horrible Will Happen To Your Baby
Another reason new moms don't get much sleep is because they're too busy imagining all the horrible ways their baby could meet a tragic end. I suffered moments of extreme panic on a nightly basis, where I imagined horrible but impossible things happening to my babies (for example, my baby living through the Shoah or a zombie Apocalypse). Everyone has their own dark places, but new moms tend to have especially dark ones. I've learned that lots of other moms engage in these strange, dark "fantasies," too. Why do we go there? I don't know. Maybe it is a safe way to explore our worst fears, because we're imagining something that couldn't actually happen, but get to play out the feelings associated with it. Again, this is about us, and our feelings as mothers, and not a practical thing having to do with the baby. But it is just as valid a worry.
That You'll Have Not Enough (Or Too Much) Breast Milk
You just can't get it right when you're a new mom. You either don't have enough milk, or you have too much. Or you actually (and very likely) have just enough, but you're worried you have the wrong amount, because your mom friend told you you should be pumping such and such ounces at such and such time of day and you pumped an ounce less or more than that. So here you are, trapped in a Google wormhole, researching what kind of herbs or supplements you're supposed to drink or foods you're supposed to avoid in order to get yourself to a "perfect" milk production state. In other words, you're going out of your mind.
And that's pretty much par for the course for your postpartum life.