When we first became parents my husband and I would take turns waking up in a panic to check on our sleeping angel. We worried about everything – his health, happiness, and future. During the night I used a flashlight to check on the up and down movements of his chest. During the day, I wondered if he loved me back, and if others knew how to support his neck.
Any amount of crying panicked me as if our attachment would be put in immediate jeopardy. I fretted over mosquito bites, milk-intake, and my inability to get all three snaps of a onesie fastened in one sitting. I avoided any proximity with strangers, and would have gladly put him in a bubble.
Thankfully, we now laugh at most of the worrying we did, and take comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones who suffered from baby-induced anxiety. In fact, lots of first-time parents worry about all kinds of weird things, like these:
Actually having the baby.
If you really think about expelling a fully-grown baby from your body, you’ll probably panic.
Megan, 31, told me, “About six months into my pregnancy I realized I would have to get him out. I had no clue how it would work, and I was terrified.”
Once it happened she was shocked to just leave the hospital. She thought, “Wait, don’t you want to give us a class first? How am I supposed to know what to do?”
The baby’s looks and personality.
When I first had my son we lived in the Caribbean. We’d go on daily walks, and the security guards we passed always talked to the baby. My three-month-old would never even crack a smile.
The guards didn’t hide their surprise, they’d laugh and say, “That baby not friendly. He serious.” I’d smile and walk away, but secretly worry he was going to grow up to be cold and anti-social. Maybe he’d never have friends and be terribly boring.
I didn’t only worry about his personality, I also worried his looks.
In fact, the first thing I said after giving birth was, “Is he cute?” I know it’s lame and shallow, but it was a legitimate concern. Even though he was adorable, I asked Google if his eye lashes would continue to grow, and wondered if he was going to have an underbite.
And I’m not the only one who had these concerns. Laura, 30, said, “I worried she would have an outtie belly button and now at 6 years old, she does! I also thought the baby acne and cradle cap were signs she would have terrible acne as a teenager.”
Harming or losing the baby.
When our baby was five-months-old, we went to Costa Rica. Many of the roads were unpaved and bumpy, and I worried he’d get shaken baby syndrome. I took him from his seat to cradle him, but still looked up the signs and symptoms.
Many moms fear accidentally harming their little ones. I have a friend who thought she might break the baby’s arm when dressing her, and another who would lie awake wondering if she put enough Vaseline on her son’s circumcision and if she placed the gauze perfectly. One friend reported being scared of using her cell phone while nursing because of radiation exposure, another feared a bird would swoop her daughter up from the park and carry her off.
Lyssa, 34, said, “I worried someone was going to come in the night and steal my baby. Once I grabbed a survival knife out of the closet, hid it against my headboard, and planned how I would defend my child.”
I remember whining to my mom during those early days of parenthood, “He’s sleeping so much. Do you think he’s okay? Is something wrong with him?” She assured me that’s what babies do and to enjoy it while it lasts. (If only I’d known that bed time battles lurked just around the corner.)
A friend of mine shared her concern that if she didn’t sleep-train immediately, or stick to a strict regimen, her child would never rest properly through the night. Jackie, 33, laughs that she used to make everyone whisper and tiptoe when the baby was asleep. She just had her third and says, “Now we have dance parties through her naps.”
I didn’t trust anything. Nipple cream, butt paste, pacifiers. I was suspicious of it all.
When my son started to enjoy chewing on empty water bottles, I was certain he’d be poisoned by BPA. Rita, 30, shares similar sentiments, “I worried all the time about chemicals touching the baby. I wouldn’t let my dad hold him if he was wearing cologne. I also made my own baby wipes for the first six months because I was convinced Huggies were the devil.”
On play dates, I’d see the baby gear other people had and wonder if I also needed it? Would his intellect develop without Baby Einstein toys? Would he ever learn to sit without a Bumbo? I was worried bouncers would affect the development of his legs, but also worried he’d miss out on something without one.
Lori, 29, jokes, “I worry that the kid of the annoying wife in our group is going to do things earlier than my kid, and I’m going to hate her even more!”
Early in the baby days, I realized I didn’t know enough songs or their lyrics. I sat down at the computer and looked up the words to “Old MacDonald” and “Hush Little Baby.” I worried if I didn’t sing and recite enough, his language acquisition would be delayed. I sang to him constantly, mostly out of obligation.
A friend of mine told me she worried if she sang to her son he would become tone-deaf like her and miss his chance to go on the “Voice.” Julie, 31, said, “I was afraid my baby would hate my singing voice, because it really is awful.”
As badly as I needed to know I was a great mother, I needed others to think so too. If my child was barefoot and someone suggested socks, I pretty much heard them say I was a terrible parent. One mom-friend said she feared that if her baby got sick people would think it was because she wasn’t attentive enough. Another friend didn’t want the world of social media to think she was a slacker because she didn’t dress her daughter in festive outfits on holidays.
Lisa, 29, admitted, “Sometimes when I leave my house and it’s such a mess I’m scared I’m going to die in a car accident and someone’s going to see how messy my home was. Then it occurs to me how ridiculous that is because I should be more concerned with dying.”
Getting it together.
Oh, the days of sitting on the couch with a baby attached and a mountain of dishes in the sink. I remember not thinking I’d ever shower or eat in peace again. One friend told me she worried she’d never be on time anywhere again. Another said she worried she wouldn’t get out of the house again for the rest of her life.
Chandra, 34, says, “It seemed like every time we were almost ready to go he’d spit up on me, himself, or both of us. By the time I changed him again he’d be asleep and I wouldn’t want to pick him up to put him in the car seat.”
When we became a family of three, we had a one bedroom apartment, and the baby slept in a pack-and-play beside our bed. The first time we had postpartum sex my husband said, with concern, “Shhhhh, don’t let the baby hear.” (Never mind that he was asleep and only a few weeks old.)
I also worried that my lady parts would never be the same and my husband would secretly be disappointed. Other women report being afraid their libido would never return. Angela, 32, of Orlando, FL says, “Postpartum sex was the worst! I thought I would never feel the same. I loved being intimate with my husband, but after having a baby I thought, ‘You touch me, and your life is at risk!'”
When I went to my first prenatal appointment I told my doctor I was experiencing shortness of breath and excessive worry. As a father of four kids himself, he smiled knowingly and said, “Welcome to parenthood.”