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The Fantasy of the Non-Anxious Mother

I have learned that the world does not revolve around me. I have learned to let go of things that won't matter in the end. I have my daughter to thank for that.
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Woman in Bed
Woman in Bed

Sometimes I look back at the days after giving birth to my first child and I have certain pangs of regret.

I wish I hadn't been so stressed out and anxious. I wish that everything I felt I couldn't control in the early days of my daughter's life hadn't distracted my focus away from the joys I could have been feeling.

Those early years of constant worry and waves of overwhelming fear definitely put a damper on my first experience with motherhood. The desperation for sleep and the hormone roller coaster ride took their toll.

Occasionally I'll look around and I see new moms who appear so serene and organized. How I longed to be like that. I had a fantasy in my mind of being a wise, smiling mother. A fantasy that probably doesn't exist in real life. It was mainly my own perception of how I felt I should have adapted to motherhood.

Then came reality.

Don't get me wrong, when my child was born she was beautiful and healthy. The only problem was, I was a wreck. Like many babies, mine was very active and didn't sleep too much. I often wondered if being an "older" mom of 35 played any role in my constant exasperation.

Breastfeeding was an uphill battle from the beginning. I assumed it would be easy. I didn't do as much research about breastfeeding prior to the birth as I should have. I had no friends or family members around me who could help -- because they didn't know how. The majority of them had never breastfed.

Nevertheless I persisted, cramming in as much information about breastfeeding as I could during the few hours while my baby slept, Googling online and reading books. I was stubborn and afraid of switching to formula out of fear of failure. I continued to breastfeed. Over time I became more and more depleted with exhaustion.

In the end, a doctor told me my child needed to gain more weight at a faster pace, so I gave in and supplemented with formula. I worried, I obsessed, I drove myself crazy. I barely slept, thinking I needed to be up doing something.

Did I need to go through trials like this in order to figure out that worrying so much wouldn't matter in the end? To figure out that stressing over every- tiny - little- detail really has nothing productive to offer anyone -- especially my child?

Yes, I did.

Would my baby have known the difference if I had actually taken the help offered to me and napped for two hours instead of being so rock-hard stubborn that I dismissed sleep? Probably not.

Yes, I do have these regrets. But I've come to realize that having a baby later in life after being a single, working woman living on my own for many years was a complete shock to my system.

I realize now that most of the fretting I did was because I was shedding my old skin.

The transformation that occurs when you go from only caring about yourself to having a tiny person to worry about 24/7 is indeed a revelation that comes through trials by fire.

What having a baby did do for me was to wake me up from the slumber of being overly self-absorbed. I learned that it isn't all about me anymore.

Now, by no means am I saying single, childless people are selfish. I'm saying that I was -- to the point that I needed a wake-up call.

By worrying about my own performance as a mother while my baby got older, I was still being selfish. In the beginning I didn't comprehend that my child only needed me as I was, whether I was a perfectly organized mother or not.

Letting go of my selfishness was a gift from my child. I still have it, of course, but I have learned how to put it on the shelf more often. I'm learning.

I know now that my anxiousness wasn't just about having a baby to take care of, but it was also my reaction to letting go of my previous life. The withdrawal from doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

My anxiety was a great friend of my perfectionism about being the best mother in the world. Letting go of that has been the biggest hurdle in my new mom journey so far.

The fantasy of being a non-anxious mother still exists in my mind, but I've come to realize that all moms are worried about something. It may not be the same things I worry about, but it will be whatever lies in the path toward their own journey of self-discovery as mothers.

Some women do adapt to motherhood in a less anxious way based on their own experiences and personalities. Every woman is different.

My perception of how a new mother should feel and act was disconnected from what reality ended up being because I couldn't let go of the fear of failure and my own ego.

I was so locked into my own expectations and fantasies that I couldn't see anything else. The stubbornness and determination I had prided myself on for so long ended up being detrimental to my emotional well-being as a mother for a period of time.

The important thing is that I can see it now and I want to share my thoughts with other new mothers who may be going through the same tumultuous flood of thoughts and emotions.

I have learned that when you let go of things, quite often the results turn out even better than they would have by clutching on with too tight of a grip.

I have learned that the world does not revolve around me. I have learned to let go of things that won't matter in the end. I have my daughter to thank for that.

***

Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle now resides in California. Besides pursuing her creative passions, Michelle is a mother, stepmother, and wife.

Catch more intriguing reads at The Pondering Nook website and Facebook page. Topics include society, culture, relationships, parenting, step-parenting, health, domestic violence, adultery, and more.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, please contact your doctor.

If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.