I teach childbirth education classes, so I hear a lot about what worries couples as the birth of their first child approaches. Usually I hear more about how these anxieties manifest themselves rather than their root causes. Some examples:
The dad is really, REALLY worried about the stroller and/or car seat installation. Perhaps this is a manifestation of a bigger fear about being a good father, able to provide a safe home for a baby?
Mom is worried that the baby is going to be “too big” to give birth. Well, this one is sadly encouraged by a very alarmist birth culture; in almost all cases its the positioning of the baby that matters in labor, not the size of the baby or the size of the mother. But what is really happening here?
Listen to the words: It’s too big. I won’t be able to do it. First of all, any pregnant woman will nod when told she has a big baby. I mean really, how WILL this baby come out? Of course it’s way too big! It’s totally understandable. But on a deeper level she may be wondering, how will my body withstand this? How will my life withstand this? Can I do it? Am I big enough?
Often, huge feelings come up about taking on responsibility– becoming a parent can be and most often is enormously empowering but not without some struggle and some facing of real fear.
It’s so important to know that these kinds of often-taboo feelings are not only perfectly normal but an important part of taking on the challenges ahead.
When I was training to become a childbirth teacher, one of my mentors told me something I’ve never forgotten. She said, ‘It’s the ones who express fear that will often be just fine. They know they are facing a mountain. They are describing it. They are talking about how hard it is to imagine climbing it. But they know it’s there. It’s the ones who don’t see a mountain at all who need the most help.’
So I say acknowledge your fears about becoming a parent! Look up at that huge mountain and tell me what you see! I want details. Is it complicated car seat installation instructions? A twelve-pound baby? The loss of a care-free life? Irrevocable changes to your marriage? A dangerously withering bank balance? And know this: You’re way down there at the bottom. It can seem like you’ll never be able to rise to the occasion, but you will. And when you do, you’ll be amazed.
What are your biggest fears?