I am not by nature a fearful person. Okay, so I have a slight fear of heights and an hysterical fear of cockroaches…but in general, I don’t tend to fear the worst, worry about bad things happening or always anticipate a rainy day, literally or metaphorically. But ever since I became a mom, I now find I have these random, mostly irrational fears playing in my head, all of them related to my daughter.
So here are my top three new mom fears—are they irrational, realistic, or a little of both?
1. My baby will be kidnapped.
That one’s kind of crazy, right? We live in a small, close-knit, very safe community. When she’s a little older, my daughter won’t be able to throw a rock or play with matches without someone reporting back to me. So why should I fear that she’ll be kidnapped and sold to a black market child smuggling ring?
Well, for one reason, those things do exist, and children do get snatched, every day. Since poor little Madeline McCann disappeared during a family vacation in Portugal in 2007, there has been speculation that she is alive and living with her captors, with reported sightings of the girl (now 10) in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and as far as India. I don’t know what must be more horrible for her parents—fearing that their daughter is dead, or fearing that she is alive and in the hands of evil people, scared, sad and wondering when her mommy and daddy will come for her. Heartbreaking.
Sometimes, when I really let my imagination spin, I concoct a plot that my daughter’s beloved babysitter is secretly building up our confidence in her, all so she can kidnap Naomi to Eastern Europe and sell her to child smugglers. Now that’s just nuts!
Read Related: Fear, Relief & Protecting Our Children
2. Her father and/or I will die.
I mean, eventually we’re both going to die…but hopefully when our daughter is well into middle age. But now I worry about something happening to my husband, or to me, or to both of us. I never used to worry about my own mortality. But, I guess I never had so much depending on me. My husband Paolo and I are both healthy, so the likelihood of us succumbing to some disease or illness is slight. But what about a car accident? Or what if Paolo falls off a roof while he’s working as a stonemason? Apart from my obvious grief at losing my husband and the father of my child, how would we survive without him? Would I stay in Italy, or go back to the U.S. to live? Ugh! I can really get myself worked up with these fears.
In a couple of weeks, we’re taking our first overnight trip without Naomi. What if something happens to us? It’s too late for us to write a will before we leave for our trip, but I think I’m going to insist that we have simple wills drawn up that assign custody of Naomi should something happen to the both of us. Now we’ll just have to agree on who gets custody!
3. I will faint on the stairs while holding my baby.
I have never fainted in my life. I’ve never even swooned. So why is it that every time I carry my baby downstairs, I’m afraid that I’ll feel lightheaded and drop her or worse, that I’ll trip and fall on top of her? It makes no sense. Yet if I pay too much attention to looking down and planning where I plant my feet, sometimes I actually think I feel dizzy. I know that is fear talking, though.
Still, I am a little clumsy. One time, I tripped going up the stairs, while I was holding Naomi. Fortunately we both landed in sitting positions, and neither of us was hurt. But it was enough to scare me into thinking it could happen again. Yet short of getting one of those wheelchair lifts installed on our stairs, there’s no way I can avoid going up and down stairs in our two story house. I think I’ll be glad when she’s old enough to manage the stairs on her own. Of course I’ll still worry about her falling, but at least her center of gravity is lower than mine.
I think that if I spoke to other new moms, I’d find that my “irrational” fears are not so far from the norm. In fact, I’m sure most of us have some variation of these fears. And it’s true that in many ways, the world is a more dangerous place than it was when we were kids, when we could play in our street until it got dark, and walk or ride our bikes to school without fear of being abducted. Bad things did happen to innocent children back then, but not at the rate they seem to happen now.
Yet I, for one, want to raise my daughter to be a bold and fearless adventurer—and to use her head, of course. And I know there will come a time when I can no longer protect her from real and imagined danger, just as I know there may be that moment when she falls on the stairs and splits her lip. (I hope not; but it happened to me as a kid and I lived to tell about it.)
So how is a mom supposed to have reasonable fears, without driving herself nuts and carrying her baby around in bubble wrap? I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Right now, I’m too busy installing padded carpeting on our stairs, upping my husband’s and my life insurance policies and doing an Interpol background check on our babysitter…