Anxiety is a Mother

Last year on Willow’s 3rd birthday, she came down with the norovirus. We had a wonderful morning, put her down for her nap, and then…well…things went downhill. That night Violet caught it. And then two days later, when it seemed like the virus had cleared our house, I caught it. It was a truly awful and disappointing weekend, especially since I had anticipated it being a really wonderful one.

Ever since then, if I hear one of my kids coughing in the middle of the night, I practically go straight into a panic attack. I mean, yeah, I’m one of those people who would do almost anything to avoid vomiting, but its more than that. In my mind (and in reality) if I catch the stomach bug, it immediately translates to me not being able to care for my children. And that stresses. me. out. To no end.

I’ve been an anxious person forever. When I was six, I used to get regular stomach aches that I am positive were caused by stress. My parents love to talk about what a terrible sleeper I was, way past the age that kids are supposed to be terrible sleepers.

I slept with a light on until I was twelve. I used to alternate between biting my nails and cuticles and chewing on the insides of my cheeks until I drew blood. I’m the chick who gets an eye twitch for two weeks straight. You get the picture.

Well, nothing could have prepared me for the anxiety of motherhood. Worrying about yourself is nothing compared to worrying about your child. Honestly, it’s laughable.

You wouldn’t believe the horrible things I imagine happening to my kids. I don’t even know where these images come from. I’m going to spare you the specifics, because if you’re a current (or future) mom reading this, I don’t want to give you any ideas. You probably have enough of your own already. Let’s just say that I can take any situation and imagine something horrific happening that would result in one of my children’s serious injury or death.

I also worry about dying young. After having cancer at 24, I can’t say that I feel the confidence I’d like to have in my body to function properly. Every morning at 5 a.m., when my phone tells me to take my synthroid, I’m reminded of how fragile my existence is.

Oh, did I mention I’m 8 months pregnant?

Just for laughs, let’s talk for a minute about anxiety during pregnancy! Between my first pregnancy and now, I have become aware of a million more things that can go wrong while pregnant. A million! On one hand, I’m grateful to the internet for allowing me to connect with other moms and pregnant women who are going through a similar season of life. But on the other hand…ignorance is bliss.

So, this seems like a perfect time to add another child to our family, right??

Have you ever watched Sister Wives? (Bear with me here.) Like so many others, I’ve become fascinated with the dynamic between husband and wives in a polygamist household. I can appreciate the benefits of the arrangement from a mothering perspective, but the issues of jealousy and frustration that arise within the individual marriages are a little more difficult to justify to a monogamist like me.

The way they usually explain it goes something like this: Living polygamy is something that they feel strongly compelled to do. Jealousy is a test that forces them to work through issues and emerge stronger and better people.

Sure. Okay. Different strokes.

The reason I use that as an example is because I believe – no, I KNOW – that becoming a parent has made me a stronger, better person. On my worst days, you’ll still hear me admit that I’m a selfish piece of you-know-what. But on the whole, parenting has challenged me in ways that I am ultimately so grateful for. In the beginning, it pushes you to the brink of your own personal limits with sleep deprivation and physical/emotional exhaustion. As time goes on, your patience, good humor, and endurance are tested daily. Parenthood has made me aware of all of my very worst qualities and put them under a microscope; one of which is my inability to deal with anxiety.

And you know what? It’s great. Because once you are aware of the problem, you can start to deal with it. As a controlling, anxious person, I am always down with information. For me, receiving a diagnosis has always been much easier than waiting for one.

At some point in the last two weeks, Willow woke up from a nap looking pale. She started coughing in a way that made me run to get a bowl. In those seconds between her bedroom and the kitchen, I felt a strange kind of relief. Well, it’s happening. Norovirus has found us, so the next few days will be hell. Time to roll up my sleeves and deal. As it turned out, she was fine, and it continues to look like we dodged the vomit bullet this season. (Knock on wood!!) But it was helpful to remember that I have the strength within myself to deal. So maybe I should try to focus on that instead of wasting all my time and energy on worrying.

Wouldn’t it be nice if moms everywhere could go there first? Why does self-doubt have to be this universal symptom of motherhood? (That’s probably a topic for a future post…) There have been so many times in my life when I could have crumbled, but instead I rose to the occasion. The next time I feel anxious, I’ll try to remember that. The next time youfeel anxious, try to remember that.

Easier said than done, but, it’s a start.

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