When I became a mother in late 2013, my husband already had ten years of being a dad behind him. On top of this experience are our vastly different personalities. I am a pretty classic Type-A person: anxious, impatient, achievement-oriented, perfectionist, and a tendency towards “worst-case scenario” thoughts. My husband is very Type-B: low stress, relaxed, patient, and a bit of a procrastinator. One of his favorite sayings is “I don’t worry about something until there is something to worry about.” Not only do I not understand this mentality, it drives me crazy that he can fully embrace it while I have devoted hours, weeks, months, of my life to worrying. I have it down to an art.
Given our personalities, it was no surprise that as parents of our newborn, he would be more relaxed about it whereas I would be more anxious. My worry and anxiety was off the charts when our daughter first came home. I would lean over the bassinet at night, straining to hear her little breaths and terrified to go to sleep for fear that she would stop breathing during the night. The SIDS “back is best” sleep campaign is wonderful and necessary but it put me in a nightly tailspin that this would be the night that she would cease to exist. When she hadn’t woken up in six hours one night at around five weeks old, I woke up in a panic and made my husband go over to check on her and wake her up. I also lived in fear of her getting a fever as a newborn, which would necessitate a trip to the ER. Any sniffle was a sure sign the fever was on its way and I reacted accordingly. When she vomited for the first time (and what I heard is true – if you aren’t sure your baby has vomited, then she hasn’t. When they do it’s a whole other ball game than spit up!) I was trembling with worry that she would get dehydrated and again end up in the ER.
My husband handled all of these situations in his calm, patient fashion. He assured me that our daughter was much more resilient than I was giving her credit for but at times I would wear his patience pretty thin. It was exhausting dealing with me and he couldn’t say “she may be getting a cold” without me pulling out the phone ready to dial 911. Because we weren’t reacting in the same way to many of these situations, I felt increasingly alone and like I was circling the drain quickly. In hindsight I realize that if we were both anxious, worried messes, that wouldn’t have been a good situation. But at the time I was looking for a bit more acknowledgment that what I was feeling was “normal” even though it might have been driving my husband nuts. And he was looking for me to be more rational and not go to extremes about every single sneeze.
Has my daughter been sick? Yes. Did any of my worst-case scenarios come to fruition? No. Does my worrying prevent or control future situations from happening? Although I would like to say “yes”, the correct answer is no, I can’t hold bad things at bay by worrying them into extinction.
How did we overcome this impasse? For me, it was about putting in place tactics and strategies that have worked for me in the past when I have let my anxiety and worry start to consume me. I began exercising again, checked in with a therapist, and got myself back on a low-dose anxiety medication that has worked well in the past. These tools, coupled with my daughter growing out of the newborn stage, brought a certain level of calm back into my life. I am hard-wired to be an anxious, worrisome person and have battled against it for the majority of my life. I already see some anxieties coming out in my daughter’s personality and it (surprise!) worries me that she will face the same challenges I have had in dealing with them.
My husband and I will always be very different people, which is why we complement each other and sometimes drive one another insane. I am grateful to have entered into this parenting journey with a calm, stable partner. Hopefully we can impart on our daughter the strengths of the Type A and Type B personalities and help her navigate the weaknesses accordingly.