By Caitlin Melvin
It’s common for moms to experience anxieties surrounding motherhood. I know when my son, Huxley, was born in 2019, I had a lot of anxieties that came with being a first-time mom. So, when I had my second baby, the birth and her first 3 weeks felt like a breath of fresh air. I knew what I was doing. I was in a better headspace. Things just felt easier – even while recovering from a C-section. What does not feel like a breath of fresh air are the anxieties and fears I have to process with my oldest child after my 3 week old baby passed away. Yes, you read that correctly.
My daughter, Scottie, died suddenly when she was 3 weeks old. And while her death is still extremely fresh, on top of grieving, I have been experiencing severe anxieties about my son. And if you are wondering what these anxieties could be – it’s literally everything. Rational to irrational fears. I have never felt I needed to protect him and keep him safe more than ever before. And in addition to this reaction, I worry about being ‘too’ protective and keeping him from becoming his own person and learning his own abilities and limitations.
When Huxley was first born, I would lay awake at night thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and then reminding myself that these are just fears, and I would never put my son in a situation where that could happen – and that was that. I went to sleep, no problem. But since my daughter passed away, fears like accidents, everyday hazards, threats, and other 1-in-a-million tragedies – whether inside or outside the home have become very real and very possible for us. My daughter’s death showed my family how fragile life is and how easily things can change for the worse. While my anxieties might be heightened more than others, I am very well aware that I am not alone in worrying about my child’s safety.
My family will be moving from our comfortable life in Toronto to Vancouver for my fiancé’s ophthalmology fellowship. Initially, I was very excited for our change, but now I feel more anxious than ever. Moving across the country has a lot of logistical problems to sort out, but it also requires a lot of changes for Huxley as well. This terrifies me. Especially putting him into a new daycare. The truth is, Huxley will be fine. He’s already been in daycare for over a year and he absolutely loves it. But suddenly, the idea of putting him in the care of a stranger seems irresponsible. Worrying about things going wrong while they are at the park, his peanut allergy, and just his general well-being have now come to light. It all seems like such a huge threat. I’ve started to wonder if my anxieties are turning me into a helicopter mom, where I manage to seek out every single danger that falls in his path and try to do everything I can to prevent something serious from happening, when in reality, there was no serious threat to begin with.
Anxiety is a reasonable and rational response following a death. But I am not the only mother who has irrational anxiety around their child, and what’s more scary is that it’s not spoken about enough. The idea of talking about my anxieties out loud to anyone is frankly, scary. What will that person think? Will they think I’m crazy? Will they think I’m taking my fears too far? Will they understand? Knowing it took me some time before speaking to my doctor about my anxieties – and actually being a little nervous to tell her (a mother herself) what I was feeling says a lot about society and how we expect mothers to be strong and hold it together. And that’s just not the case. My anxiety stems from trauma, but another mother’s anxieties could stem from stories she’s read about on social media. It makes me wonder, what is considered a ‘normal’ anxiety in motherhood before you are judged for being too anxious?
I’m happy to be part of this campaign to bring the anxieties of motherhood to light – because they arise in so many different circumstances, and yet we feel so ashamed of them because we are told they are irrational. I hope that many of you reading these stories will feel less isolated in your feelings and identify with us.
Caitlin Melvin Digital Media
Follow me on Instagram: @caitlinalison