A friend of mine recently announced her pregnancy to me -- she's 8 weeks along and forever nervous. I get 2-3 texts daily, asking if she can eat this or eat that, and messages filled with worry and fear. What if she didn't take folic acid early enough? She used to drink three cups of coffee daily until she found out she was pregnant at six weeks -- could that hurt the baby? Is she allowed to sleep on her stomach? Hot showers? What if the baby has a birth defect?
I try to give her as much comfort as possible, without getting exasperated because I remember this feeling so well. The constant worrying, the weekly trips to the L&D ward at my local hospital, drinking half a litre of orange juice to get my baby to move. And of course, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because hello, cute baby clothes and curse because holy shit, I didn't know about x,y and z.
She told me she couldn't wait until the baby was out because then she could stop worrying and I couldn't help myself -- I laughed (like a mad woman, I'm sure).
I laughed because I know that the worry doesn't stop once that baby has entered this dangerous and beautiful world. The worry multiplies.
And this holds especially true for women who have felt anxiety and/or depression. And even if you're a woman who doesn't have a history of depression, it can still hit you like a ton of bricks.
I remember staying up until my husband came home and then forcing him to stay awake so I could sleep, even though the baby was sleeping too. I was so afraid of SIDS that I made sure someone was always awake staring at the baby. I know my husband thought I was nuts, but he did it, and I'm so grateful that he didn't try to make me feel like a crazy person.
I would write down every single one of his feedings, his diaper changes, his wake times, I would study them daily to see whether he was filling the right amount of dirty/wet diapers.
I called Telehealth 3 times, most of the time in tears.
I had a lactation nurse come to my house to help me teach my child how to nurse properly because he just wasn't latching and I thought I was starving him.
I cried big ugly tears many nights because I was scared of being a mother.
I ate half a donut one night when he was 2 weeks old and he cried all night -- I automatically gave up donuts.
(Don't worry, it lasted only a month.)
What if I raised him wrong? What if I screwed up? How do I make sure he's a great person, with a kind heart?
The truth is, no one prepared me for any of this. Yes, I read about postpartum depression and I read about the sleepless nights, but no one told me that these fears and worries are common and can happen to anyone. I thought I'd be in the clear, and thought I was a bad mother because I was scared.
But so many mothers feel the way I did; they just don't talk about it.
Of course, I think there are some women who do have a magical birthing experience and have children who sleep through the night on their first night home from the hospital. But I think there are more moms out there that feel scared than not. And I think that it's SO important to share these stories with your pregnant friends.
This should go without saying: Don't scare the woman into preterm labour. Just tell her the truth. I'm tired of women sugarcoating everything because this just sets unrealistic standards for ourselves. This needs to stop.
Let's start being honest with one another. Who knows, you might make motherhood just a little easier for another mother.
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