Before I start this post, I want to make it clear that I have never had clinically diagnosed anxiety. I have been lucky that my anxiousness has, for the most part, mostly manifested itself in being highly strung, hard on myself, and very un-spontaneous rather than stopping me from going about my daily life, so it’s never been something that I’ve sought treatment for and, to be honest, I don’t think doing so was necessary. I appreciate that for people who suffer from more extreme anxiety than me might not have the same experience and I don’t want to suggest that having a baby is some kind of cure for what is a serious mental health condition. Far from it, in fact.
However, that said, I *have* always been an anxious person. I’m a Type A perfectionist who doesn’t really know how to relax and *hates* when plans are changed or things don’t go as intended. I panic when going to new places (especially if I have to drive there on my own) and worry about every little thing it’s possible to worry about. Whilst my anxiety has only very rarely seen me refuse to leave the house, it has regularly sent me into paroxysms of stress before I’ve been able to do so.
So I assumed that having a baby would only add to my anxiety. There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to babies; their health, their development, their safety, whether they’re too hot or cold, whether they’re eating enough or too much, whether they’re sleeping enough or too much (and whether when they’re sleeping is the right time to be sleeping). You can worry about them in their current state and entertain yourself with all sorts of nightmares about the months and years to come.
But, despite all the potential for worry and anxiety that comes with parenting, I have found myself a lot more relaxed than I ever expected to be. Whilst being a parent is hard, each individual task is relatively easy (at this stage) but all-consuming, so I have found it easier than ever to let worries slip to the back of my mind. It helps that Ben has, so far (touch wood), been a healthy and chilled out baby. He is teaching me to be a mother every day, and he is so relaxed and happy that it makes me that way.
I think part of it is just that you have no choice but to get things done. The first time we left the house with Benjamin, I was practically beside myself with worry, but after Paul had gone back to work and it was just on me to get us up, dressed and off to an appointment, I found it much less anxiety-inducing. There was no option to panic, because we had to be there, so I had to just get everything done. Ben is relying on me, and so I can rally myself to do the things I am worried about a lot more easily.
Being a mother is many things, but once you have a child it is no longer optional. My mantra over the past few weeks has very much been ‘you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do’, which has a dual meaning. Sometimes it means that you’ve just got to do what you need to get by, whether that’s eating cake for breakfast, pouring yourself a glass of wine or binging on Netflix and ignoring the chores list. But it also means that you’ve got to get done what needs to be done, even when it feels like an insurmountable task. There’s no hiding under the duvet when you’re solo parenting a newborn (unfortunately) but it turns out that’s the very best thing for me.