What the BLEEP am I doing?
I don’t know. Is that the baby monitor or my alarm clock? It is 3 am and I would JUST really like to go back to sleep. That baby monitor gives me so much anxiety. He is breathing, so I should fall back asleep but I can’t. I mute the baby monitor, but can’t help feeling guilty.
When I see scissors or a knife, morbid thoughts appear. What am I doing? Am I being a bad mother for having thoughts that I don’t seem to have any control of? Maybe my family is better off without me if I’m that crazy. Self-loathing and more intrusive self-harming thoughts ensue, which perpetually feeds the anxiety. I scored poorly on the postnatal depression survey, and was referred to Managing Motherhood. It wasn’t, however, until I started seeking cognitive behavioural therapy (through AHS) that I could co-exist with such thoughts by not giving anxiety any power.
Parenting without a reliable village is isolating and difficult. Other than my husband, no one else can help with the night waking. Post a photo of my smiling baby, it gathers 75 likes on social media. Nobody knows what I’m going through on a daily basis: feeling guilty or judged, inadequate, alone, and exhausted.
Our parenting journey has not been perfect. Our birth plans did not go accordingly. My anxiety began when we didn’t know if Art was going to live (it took over 20 minutes to resuscitate him in the delivery room). I gave him a quick kiss on his left cheek before he was whisked away to a ventilation machine in a different room. I lost a lot of blood and could not breastfeed properly. Not only was recovery hard, but trying to nurse Art enough was also challenging. He just barely missed having the feeding tube re-inserted during his 8-day stay in NICU.
As a new parent, it was hard not to let any advice or old wives’ tales impact my confidence and self-esteem. Reading parenting books just caused more anxiety, not less. But there is a reason why there are so many parenting books being sold – there is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting. It finally hit home when I was attending the “I Am a Parent” seminar hosted by Southwest Early Year that I have been struggling with naming my own emotions. I cried in my seat at the seminar. I grew up in a dismissive and authoritative parenting environment where I was not allowed to express any feelings. I hid them. I often don’t know what I am doing and it isn’t healthy if I do not have any coping strategies when I feel overwhelmed. It is only through recent therapy that I am starting to acknowledge every feeling (including doubt) while knowing that it is okay to have these feelings, that I am okay.
If you can relate with my experience, please know that you are not alone. Visit your nearest Parent Link Centre (PLC) to register for resources they provide. The PLC at Jasper Place hosts empathy coaching (contact Pam) and Family Futures in Milhurst and Westbrook host Managing Motherhood (contact Lori).
If you are experiencing a crisis and need immediate help, there is the 24/7 Crisis Response Team (780-342-7777). Dropinyeg.ca provides free drop-in counselling services. Alberta Mental Health Services is also a no-fee self-referral program: 780-342-7700.
Born and raised in Brunei, where co-sleeping is a cultural norm, Cynthia Priest is a cloth-diapering and baby-wearing first time mother, who loves to cook and bake. Cynthia plays and teaches piano, develops recipes, maintains a food blog, Cynful Kitchen, and aspires to write a cookbook in the near future.
Photography: Lorraine Marie Fotography
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