Four Ways to Deal With the Anxieties of First-Time Parenthood

Daughter waking up mom

I had big plans to be a super chill mom when my first baby was born. Whatever happened, I’d roll with it—I’d stay calm, the baby would stay calm, and it would all be super, super chill.

Cut to me sobbing within ten minutes of returning home from the hospital with my new baby because I couldn’t get his onesie on—I was afraid I’d “ruin his head.” That was just the tip of the anxiety iceberg for me. Nothing can prepare you for how vulnerable it feels to bring your first baby home, but there are ways to handle these anxieties and feel more in control as a new parent.

Mom meditating while daughter jumps on couch

Seek reassurance.

I asked some friends what made them most anxious as a first-time parent, and the responses were overwhelmingly about the baby’s health: What’s with this rash? Should her head be shaped like that? Is he too small? Is he too big? Oh my God, why did she sneeze??

If a quick Google search can’t convince you that the color of your baby’s poop is normal (and trust me, there’s an abundance of resources on the subject), ask their doctor. Calling the pediatrician about your newborn’s poop is practically a parenting rite of passage. They’ll be happy to reassure you, and if anything concerns them, they’ll help you handle it.

Be flexible.

“I will NEVER let my kids sleep in my bed.”

-me, pre-kids

Guess who wakes up most mornings covered in children? I managed to hold firm on some of my pre-kid “I will nevers,” but some nights, the only way to get any sleep is to let a kid snuggle in with me after a bad dream.

It’s great to have plans for your parenting, but you can always change your mind. Maybe you planned to breastfeed, but the baby couldn’t latch. Maybe you planned to use cloth diapers and tossed that idea in the diaper genie with the first midnight blowout.

It’s ok to acknowledge that something isn’t working for you. Being flexible will help you avoid putting unneeded pressure on yourself during an already stressful time.

Do what works for YOU.

The most common advice I got after my first baby was born was to get out of the house. So days after giving birth, I pulled on my sagging maternity jeans, strapped a seven-pound newborn into a car seat, cried because I hadn’t figured out breastfeeding yet and wasn’t ready to do it in public, and went to Target (like a moth to a flame). I was bleeding, sore, scared, self-conscious, overwhelmed, and out in public because everyone said that’s where I should be.

It might be good advice for some people, but not for me. When I had my second baby, I made a nest on the couch and declared it my home for the next two weeks. I wore pajamas, binged The Office, let my husband bring me drinks and cookies, and snuggled the baby. That was the right recovery plan for me.

Advice from seasoned parents can be helpful, and you’ll get a LOT of it, but you only have to use what’s right for you.

Share your fears.

Here are some other answers I got when I asked what made people anxious as a new parent:

  • What if I misplace my baby?
  • What if someone breaks in while I’m showering and takes him?
  • What if I fall down the stairs while holding her?
  • What if I talk too loud and hurt his tiny ears?
  • What if I’m driving and the car goes over a bridge and into a river and I have to get the baby out of the car seat and smash a window to free us before the car is fully submerged??

Are these rational fears? Not really. Can I relate to every single one? Absolutely, and hearing that other people had the same worries I had was so validating. If you open up to other parents about your fears, you’ll likely find they’ve felt the same way.

Becoming a parent can be alienating when you feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t know what you’re doing, but talking to other parents will help you see that NONE OF US know what we’re doing. We’re learning day by day. So take a deep breath, remember we all kind of suck at this, and try to stay super, super chill. You’re doing great!

Written by: Kristen Mulrooney