The love for your child. There is no love like it, you won’t know it until you have felt it.
This statement is one that we hear all the time, and for good reason- it is entirely true! This staggering connection can be made immediately at birth or years down the road. It can be a gradual bond you build with your child, or it can hit you square in the gut all at once. One thing is for sure, this feeling is GREAT in all the connotations of the word. Beautiful, powerful, raw and BIG. And as beautiful as it is, for some of us it can be downright scary.
With my firstborn I would obsess over this love.
“How would I go on without him here?”
“Is he breathing/choking/drowning? What have I done?!”
“I am entirely responsible for this human. I can’t mess this up.”
These thoughts became intrusive and downright debilitating. They morphed into horrifying imagery, and I spiraled. I thought that I was turning into one of the mothers that you hear about on the 6 o’ clock news (you know the ones.) I thought I was alone.
I am here to tell you, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Intrusive thoughts can happen to anyone, and are more likely to occur with those living with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. You are not a bad caregiver if you find yourself having these thoughts! Finding the help of a medical professional is (and should always be) your first line in defense and recovery, but I would like to share with you some techniques that have helped me overcome intrusive thoughts.
- Accept the thought.
This thought is a fleeting thought, the same as the thousands you have before. Acknowledge the thought. (Oh hey, there you are!) Address the thought. (You are JUST a thought. You mean nothing to me.) And then try to distract yourself! I have personally done this in a number of ways. Try imagining a stop sign, this can serve as a visual key to your brain that the thought is over. Or, imagine a scene of safety. I liked to imagine rocking my child to sleep in peace.
2.) Draw near to your child.
If you are fixating on your child being in harm, it can be helpful to hold them. I found great comfort in wearing my child in a carrier. Once they are in there, take deep, circular breaths and sway together. You are together and you are safe.
Even if it seems like an impossible feat, get up and move your body. You only have so much energy to expend and you have agency over how it is spent! If you are up and moving through these thoughts, you are forcing your body to put more energy into an action rather than a thought. Walking, dancing, singing, and stretching are some of my tried and true methods.
I hope that these methods help you on your journey to wellness. Keep trying with them! The more you work on shutting down the “fight or flight” part of the brain in unnecessary situations the more you will respond with muscle memory. The more you practice, the less power you give to these thoughts which is KEY to eliminating them.
Take Good Care,
*As always, please seek the care of a mental health professional.