Fearful Parenting vs. Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum anxiety is different from fearful parenting, and it’s important to distinguish between them. Fearful parenting is, in part, taking your personal fears and concerns about a dangerous world and bringing them into your interactions with your children. It’s also letting worry around your child’s safety cause you to become over-controlling,or inform your parenting decisions. This can fuel an ongoing sense of dread influencing your thoughts and feeling about your child’s safety.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety, on the other hand, means focusing on your perceived inadequacies as a parent. It’s more immediate, and impacts both how you parent, as well as how you interact with your children.The focus of postpartum anxiety is really more on how your “poor parenting” may be negatively affecting your child. The biggest concern that drives postpartum anxiety is constant worry about whether or not you’re doing the parenting thing right. The challenge is, no matter how much reassurance you’re getting, you feel like you’re messing up or doing something wrong.
When you experience postpartum anxiety, you often feel like you can’t settle down or relax. You may have racing thoughts, and feel like you have to be doing something all the time.If you think you’re not actively parenting, you may end up feeling like you’re a bad or even failing parent.
You may also have disturbing thoughts, called intrusions, flying into your head. So, no matter what you try, you may find you can’t seem to get all of the “what if” scenarios out of your head. That “what if” kind of thinking can throw you into an almost constant state of stress. You may find you’re afraid to be alone with your baby, but also fearful to leave the house because of all the bad things you imagine happening. You might feel the need to check things constantly,like whether or not your baby is breathing, if the diaper still dry, if you locked the door, turned off the oven or any other myriad tasks that overwhelm you throughout your day.
Postpartum anxiety can also present you with physical symptoms, like stomach cramps, headaches, or nausea. This can result in a decreased appetite or even no appetite at all. You might also have difficulty falling asleep, even though you are exhausted or start having panic attacks.
If you are concerned about the possibility of postpartum anxiety, its impact on your daily life and your ability to interact with your child and family without fear, please contact a counselor or therapist. Discussing ways they can help you stop experiencing debilitating anxiety around your interactions with your child can help you as a parent and enhance your relationship with your child.