I have always been a believer in trusting your instincts – trusting your gut. And I’m not usually an anxious person. In fact, I think I’m pretty easygoing about most things, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I embrace change. Motherhood takes change to a whole new level, though, and to say it has been an easy adjustment would be a boldface lie. One day it was just me and my husband, the next we had this little person entirely dependent on us for everything! Rationally, we knew this would be the case when we found out I was pregnant. Before baby arrives though, you just can’t imagine the sheer quantity of information you will come to need and know. And since babies don’t come with instructions, whenever I have had a question or concern about my son or his development, I go where everyone goes with their questions and concerns in life: Google.
Every year in the classroom, I tell my students to be critical of the information they find online when conducting research. There is just so much crap out there, so much to sift through. I tell my students to really think about what they are reading – does it make sense? Is the information helpful? Don’t just be passive receivers of loads of useless, and sometimes (lots of times), erroneous information. Somehow, since becoming a mom, I managed to forget my own (sage) advice. I became a passive receiver of crap loads of unhelpful information that did nothing more than cause this normally easygoing gal to become a self-doubting, anxious mess.
I joined an online forum for mothers where I could post questions and get answers and suggestions from moms who have been there, done that. Initially I thought it was great! Hundreds of women share their experiences on this forum. As a brand new mom, I found it really comforting and often validating to post my concerns and hear back that many others had experienced or were experiencing similar situations. There were always lots of answers for my queries. But therein lies part of the problem: there were lots of answers, and lots of opinions…many times quite different from each other. In case of Situation A, do this. No, do that. Or that other thing. Why not this instead? That will never work, try this. Ummm…? I soon noticed that I was feeling more anxious after time on the forum, when it was supposed to have the opposite effect on my (rapidly fraying) nerves. Most of the time, the responses I got seemed to come from people who really wanted to be helpful; it was just information overload.
On top of the anxiety I was starting to feel from reading responses to my own questions, there was also the plethora of topics posted by other moms. I read their posts in the hopes that I might be able to either help them or learn something. Boy did I learn things! By reading the questions and concerns of other women, a boatload of new things to worry about were brought to my attention. Did you know there is something called Toe Tourniquet Syndrome? Me neither. Until I read someone’s post. (Don’t Google it. You’re better off not knowing or seeing the pictures.) Did you know that some women have a stash of stored breastmilk in their freezers totalling more than 3000 ounces??? Are they planning to leave their baby for 2 years? Kind of makes my 13 ounce stash look a wee bit inadequate. These are things I learned by reading the posts of other women. These are things that were never a concern for me, weren’t even on my radar – until I read those posts. So now on top of my (fairly standard new mother) concerns about breastfeeding, sleep patterns, and growth spurts, I could also start worrying about my hair cutting off circulation to my son’s toes and not having enough milk in the freezer to get us through a nuclear holocaust?
What happened to trusting my gut? Why did I feel so dependent on this forum for answers when I have the innate ability to keep my son healthy and thriving? All those posts became nothing more than noise in my head which made it near impossible to hear the voice of reason.
That’s not to say I won’t still turn to the internet when I have questions. For example, I wanted some tips on tummy time and how to build up my son’s endurance for it. In my search, I found a great blog – Mama OT – and she suggested using a stability ball for tummy time. I tried it and my son didn’t hate it! Victory is mine! I will still turn to the internet when I am seeking strategies or new ideas…but when I have concerns, I will turn to my mom friends, my son’s doctor, my husband, and my own mother. Oh yeah, and myself. I will also put trust back in myself to figure things out. No more (hundreds of) strangers online, no matter how helpful they might be. All that noise and extra information is decidedly not helpful.
I suspect I will always have an undercurrent of mild anxiety now that I’m a mom. I think that’s par for the parenting course. But I am going to make every effort to get back to the easygoing version of myself as much and as often as possible. Life is just too short to be worrying about Toe Tourniquet Syndrome! (Surely that belongs on a bumper sticker or magnet!)
As a gift to myself, my husband, and my son, I deleted my forum account yesterday. No more of that noise. Just baby coos from here on in 🙂