Hi, my name is “Mom X “ and I feel like I’m failing at about 90% of this new mom thing. In fact, I feel with an 8-month old I don’t even get to claim the “new mom” excuse and that other moms are judging me for not having my life together by now. Or at least having the baby on a much-touted schedule, or sleeping by herself, or a million of the other things she “should” be doing now.
The truth is that the “new” stage (0-3 months) was actually a lot easier for me than this current stage. At that stage, the baby slept (if not at night, then at least during the day), there was constant help and I figured that in a month or so I’d be moving and grooving again back at my normal, or near-normal, pace.
At this stage now I feel compelled to smile and tell everyone it’s all great when they ask how I’m doing when in reality my eyes burn like two fireballs from not having slept since July 5th (it’s on my calendar the last time the baby slept for more than three hours). The kicker is that I can’t talk about how I actually feel because most everyone will quickly respond with “Why haven’t you sleep trained her yet” and then an uncomfortable conversation about my anxiety of her dying will take place. I know, that sounds drastic. But that’s the reality of what it’s like in the mind of someone with anxiety.
You see I take a recommendation (like the one from the World Health Organization) and twist it into a warning that something awful will happen to my child if I don’t follow it directly. So even if I did move her out into another room I still wouldn’t sleep because I would stay up and stare at the monitor all night.
And if I share any of those dark feelings then other moms will know just how weird and crazy I am and judge me or think that I’m somehow judging THEM for not having my same anxieties.
So thank god for concealer so I can just smile and say “Everything’s great”.
The layers of self-judgment
That’s just one tiny layer of the self-judgment of myself as a mom. I worry that I’m a horrible mother for watching Bravo while breastfeeding for the hundredth time that day. All those articles about TV causing every problem in the book replay in my head but god I NEED those crazy housewives to get through the day sometimes! I worry that I’m exposing her to too many WiFi rays and modeling way too much screen time because I’m constantly on social media to feel “connected” to the rest of the world while at home all day.
Of course, there’s also the learning and developmental anxiety right at the surface. Things like sign language have me frozen in indecision. I worry that if I teach her sign language then her speech will be delayed, but also that if I DONT teach her sign language she will be behind somehow.
Let’s not even talk about the shame I feel as failing as wife right now. We can leave it the fact I burst out laughing when my OB asked me what I was using for birth control. Will I ever feel attractive again? Will we ever have more than five minutes of the baby sleeping in a different room? Will it be weird and awkward when we finally reconnect?
My biggest worry and shame
But my biggest worry and shame is that I somehow love her too much. That sounds impossible, right? I love her so much that I cry easily at the thought of her leaving in seventeen more years. I worry about who I will be after eighteen years of living and breathing for her. My entire world and identity quite literally shifted the moment I became her mother and when that shifts again what will I be left with? And my darkest thought is if I ever, god forbid, lost her, how would I ever breathe again? These thoughts are like a snake wrapping themselves in the crevices of my subconsciousness warning me to never take my eyes off of her, to never forget it can all be taken away in a second.
It’s all there right at the surface but I push it back down and instead, I will ask you how your summer was, show you my beautiful smiling baby and cross my fingers that you don’t look beneath the surface too far.