The fear of being a parent starts the minute you think about maybe becoming a mom or a dad. I can only speak to the mom part, but I know the minute that my husband and I decided to start trying to actively get pregnant (what a mind bender that is, since I have spent the vast majority of my life trying to NOT get pregnant) I was scared.
I immediately started taking prenatal vitamins. I started researching. I started thinking about where we would live. Should we move? Were the schools good? Could we afford it? How would I handle maternity leave? I started being more cautious in general. I started to dream. I started to get my hopes up every month. I went to my doctor and discussed all of my migraine medications and possible interactions or birth defects.
This was all before I ever even missed a period.
It took us about 6 months to get pregnant and I knew immediately when I was. But then the real worry took over. It was not just: am I getting enough sleep, can I eat this, is my stress stressing the baby out, but it was greater than that. I was now responsible for this child getting here in one piece. In my head I would be responsible for all the bad that may get passed along too. I know, I know, this seems pretty harsh. But this is what we do.
In my eyes my husband is pretty fantastic. When I look at him, the things I choose to criticize are that he drinks too much diet Coke and cannot get his socks into the laundry hamper. Whereas with me, I see how my anxiety can cripple me, I see how depression has played a role in almost every one of my family members lives. I understand that alcoholism has run on both sides of my family and is something my entire family is accuately aware is a disease and not to be taken lightly. But I attribute this entirely to myself and feel as though I will automatically pass this on, and my child is almost entirely ruined already, what was I thinking?
I was speaking to someone I care about very much about this subject the other day and reminded her that, although we have these fears and they are very much legitmate, we live in a different time. We live in a time when it is all right for kids to admit they are worried or scared. We live in a time when children are getting properly diagnosed with autism or ADHD rather than being displined because no one knows what the hell was going on with that child. We live in a time when children have car seats and people don’t smoke in cars with the windows rolled up while their children roam around the back seats. Shit, we live in a time where a mother can openly talk about her Post Partum Depression and isn’t automatically shunned or put in a room to “deal with it”
When we decide to start a family, or in some cases the decision is made for us, it is easy to let the fear of life get in the way. Life has sometimes swallowed ME whole, so how can I possibly stop it from engulfing my small, chubby, soft, sweet little innocent that has no concept of the big bad world out there? Simply, you can’t. All you can do is to lean in to being a parent. Lean into being scared and make sure that you are aware of how you are feeling in those moments. Recognize all the things that make you shirk from the world and teach your child how to face those same things head on. Whether it is depression or anxiety or things we have not named, we need to teach our children that it is ok to feel those things and how to tackle them, how to process them, and then how to take the next step.
So you change the dialogue a bit. Instead of me noticing that my child may inherit the “bad” in me, I choose to recognize that he may inherit my tenacity, my ability to sympathize, my ability to laugh at the really absurd and my strength. I choose to recognize that Mike and I are raising this child surrounded by so much love, he will more than likely get annoyed. He will always know that and will never doubt it. And hopefully, when he really needs to, he will be able to really lean into that too.