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What to Know If You’re a New Mama Worried About Your Child Dying

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

I have never been what you would call a “helicopter mom.” Even when my child was pretty young, I would not hover over her at the playground, fearing every boo boo that might come. Even now that she is older, I am one of those moms who would let you fail if you just refuse to do your own homework. This has never been an issue though because she does it, usually without help, but I do help when occasionally needed of course. However, when it came to things that could be life or death, such as swimming, or getting into things once she could crawl and walk, I constantly worried and hovered. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and it causes anxiety. It got severe postpartum — known as postpartum OCD — before I finally realized I had always had it and got some help. Medication, therapy and a lot of other things helped. Once she got old enough to not get into everything, that helped as well.

Looking back, I would have maybe done more to make me feel better safety-wise too. I mean, I baby-proofed and took certain precautions, but years later I now work in a preschool where the environment is set up for kids to play freely without constant fear of them getting into everything. It is harder to do that with your entire home, but maybe with certain areas, at least you can. Also, when it came to swimming, I would have scheduled swim lessons sooner, as early as possible. You can even teach babies. What happened to me, though, apparently happens to a lot of people. It is like that overprotective mama bear goes overboard. You take sole responsibility for this new life and think anything that happens to them is now your fault and responsibility, even things that may be out of your control. Of course, it is good to be protective of your child, but not to the point that you are in a constant state of panic and anxiety.

Many women have thoughts of something bad happening to their child, and when they have them as often as I did and they become obsessive, you will often hear them called intrusive thoughts. Sometimes, these even turn into thoughts of the mother hurting the child. This did not happen to me, but I will say as I have said many times before, that if a mom admits to having these thoughts and ask for help, she is asking for help because she feels guilty for having these thoughts. She does not have control over them and she does not want to hurt her child. She is being a good mom, doing the right thing, and deserves to get help without judgment or without having her children taken away. I had a friend tell me she once thought about dying by suicide with her child in the car years before, when she had postpartum anxiety. She thought for a moment that she would be doing the right thing by taking her daughter with her. I instead wanted to run away at times, or prayed to not wake up, or had thoughts about suicide when alone, thinking my daughter would be better off without me.

It was so conflicting to be such a protective mama bear, scared to have anything happen to a child you love so much, but at the same time feel so overwhelmed being this mama bear, that you just felt like you could not keep going sometimes. It is because no one can keep going in the state I was in, and no one should have to. They need the help I eventually got and wish I had gotten sooner. My daughter is 13 now, and deep down, my worst fear is still something happening to her. I do not think that fear ever completely goes away as a parent, so a little fear of that is “normal,” just like a fear of death in general. As Eleanor on the show “The Good Place” once said, “All humans are aware of death, so we are a little bit sad all of the time. That’s just the deal.” I think she is right, that is the deal, but I have learned to live with it and to not let it consume me anymore because that does not have to be part of the deal.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Originally published: May 6, 2021
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