I didn't plan to get pregnant and I found the whole pregnancy hard emotionally. I was so anxious that I couldn't be a parent when I still felt a bit of a child myself! My children are now 1 and 3, and I realise I can be a parent and I am a good Mum.
What challenge does this story focus on?
The challenge I faced was dealing with my anxiety and worries about having children. I felt so childlike in some ways - how on earth could I be a parent? I worried that I couldn't care for a child practically, I wouldn't have the capacity to love a child in the way it needed. I worried I wouldn't know how to respond when it cried continuously. It was desperately hard to imagine what it would be like during my first pregnancy. I felt like I was the only one who struggled with worry.
How has this challenge affected you?
I used to spend hours daydreaming about it going wrong, what I would do in this situation or that. I didn't share my worries too much because I thought people would laugh at me. I felt that my friends who were pregnant were focused on worrying about the birth. Not me, I trusted the Doctors and Nurses to look after me; it was being a Mum that troubled me. How would it feel to bring a baby home from hospital? What would I do with it? Maybe I didn't have enough love and maybe I wouldn't bond.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
I never really moved forward with this until the day the baby was born. The anxiety throughout pregnancy continued and I just tried to accept that maybe it would be okay, but I did find controlling my mind really tough. Once my beautiful daughter was born though, I knew it would be okay. It felt much more natural than I originally thought, I had an instinct to love and care. And the practical things, well they weren't that difficult in the end.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
I learnt that my anxiety was fueled by panic and not talking to others about it. With hindsight, I think some of my friends felt similarly but didn't talk about it either. I learnt that sometimes worry gets out of control and distorts our thinking, and I learnt that I should try to talk to people as soon as I have worries because this can really help to 'nip it in the bud'. I learnt about myself that actually I do have 'Mum skills'. I can love, I can do the practical things needed, and actually, I am not the perfect Mum but I can do a pretty good job if I just love my children and go easy on beating myself up.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
My children are a little older now, and I know that loving them is the most important thing, I don't have to be perfect, I just have to love them and try to do my best for them, but it is okay to make mistakes. I think when I was anxious I thought it had to be perfect and I had to be perfect. I don't feel that anymore. My children are part of my life and I love them to bits, but I realise now that I am the same person, I still feel a bit childlike(!) but I can still be a good Mum.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
Whether it is having a child or something else that you might be worried about, please talk to someone. It really would have helped me back then. Keeping it secret just made me more and more anxious, it added fuel to the fire. Try to believe in yourself even before you achieve something, I believe I can be a parent now I've done it - but actually it would have been great if I believed in myself before it happened - I could have avoided so much anxiety! If it is parenthood you worry about, then try to enjoy the journey, try to just love your kids and do your best by them - you don't have to be perfect.