Motherhood

The Everyday Anxiety of a New Parent

Kelsey Miller baby

I used to tell this great story about the time my dad took me to the ER…

…because he thought I was having a heart attack. I was three. We were cozied up reading a bedtime story, and he realized that my heart was racing a mile a minute. He was in such a lather by the time we got to the hospital that they rushed me in for an EKG. This part I found hilarious. Me, sitting there with wires and patches all over my chest, and my father sprinting around the ER like Shirley MacLaine in that scene at the end of Terms of Endearment, so panicked that he convinced a team of medical professionals that his sleepy toddler was having a cardiac event. Once I’d been diagnosed as absolutely fine, the doctor pulled my dad aside and gently explained why my heart was beating so fast: Because I was three. And three year olds have faster heartbeats than middle-aged men.

Thirty-two years later, I have a new baby girl of my own: Margot. The other night I asked my husband to check on her, sleeping in the bassinet next to our bed. He got up, leaned in for a good look and gave me a thumbs up.

“She’s good.”

“Is she breathing?”

“She’s fine.”

“But did you check her BREATHING?”

“She’s moving, so…”

At this point, I rolled my eyes and got up to check her breathing myself. This has become our own little bedtime ritual: First, I check the baby, make sure she’s alive, etc. Then I ask Harry to check her, just in case I was wrong about the alive part. He inevitably does not do a good enough job assessing her aliveness, and I have to get up and go put my hand on her tiny chest and in front of her tiny nose to confirm that air is moving both in and out.

I nod. “She’s breathing.”

Harry scrolls through his phone. “Imagine.”

We do this once, maybe twice a night. I would like to do it more, but I would also like to stay married, so I don’t. Instead, I lie there wondering if Margot is alive and then deciding she is not and then wondering if our marriage will collapse under the weight of this unspeakable tragedy, because if I’m going to get divorced anyway, then why not just go ahead and check her again? And then I fall asleep. This, by the way, is what managing anxiety looks like.

Nervousness is to be expected when you’re a first-time parent. A few weeks of late-night breathing checks? That’s normal. It’s just that for me, it’s always been normal. Just ask my husband, the person I used to stare at in the dark, imagining him to death. To be clear, I’m not suggesting this kind of behavior is a-okay, and if you’re a new parent struggling with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, please do get yourself some help. I can only make light of this stuff because I do. I’ve been managing anxiety and intrusive thoughts my whole life, and I prepared myself to manage them even more — with medication and therapy — when parenthood dialed them up to 11. Yeah, that’s right, checking the baby’s breathing only twice before bed is actually me on a good day! Having a baby may change your whole life, but it doesn’t change who you are. At least, it didn’t change who I am. Oh God, am I doing it wrong?

Am I Doing It Wrong is the queasy motto of all new parents. Babies bring with them endless opportunities for you to screw them up, mistakes to make and things to be afraid of. But don’t worry, there’s a Facebook group for every one of them! Sleep training, colic care, reflux management, weaning, diapering, babywearing — turns out there are dozens of ways to do these things, and whichever route you choose will define you as a parent in the eyes of others. Of course, the only eyes that really matter to me are Margot’s (is what I tell myself).

One night I blew it. I leaned in just a little too close and Margot startled in her sleep, jerking her head and whacking her little nose against my arm. She blinked her eyes open, squinting and disoriented, and then her face cracked into a pissed-off wail. Harry’s jaw dropped and he looked at me like — well, the way you’d look at a person who’s just woken a happy, healthy, sleeping baby for no good reason.

Like my father before me, I had become Shirley MacLaine.

A few days later, I bemoaning this to another mom friend — stressing out about stressing out, if you will. She reminded me of the concept of “the good-enough parent,” made famous by the legendary psychoanalyst D.W. Winniccott. In a nutshell, Winnicott suggested that children don’t need “perfect” parents. In fact, it’s the opposite: they need parents who make mistakes and fall short sometimes. Imperfect parents are how kids learn that the world is an imperfect place, that people are fallible, and that life is not without hardship — and that it’s okay. They’ll be okay.

I think of that phrase every day now. I think of it when I find myself obsessing over finding the “right” teething toy, while Margot is quite happily gnawing on a book. I think about it after spending 20 minutes Googling “how to tell if baby bleeding internally” only to pick her up and realize that she’s crying because she has a wedgie. I think about it when I catch myself wondering if maybe her heart is beating too fast, and perhaps my dad wasn’t so crazy after all.

But of course he was, and so am I — and both of us are good enough. One scary night at the ER didn’t scar me for life, nor did it change the love and closeness I have with my dad. If anything, that story has gotten even better since I became a parent myself. Now it reminds me that parental missteps are important, not just because they help kids learn to accept life’s imperfection, but also their own. And if there’s one thing I would give my girl with absolute confidence — perhaps the only thing — it is the bone-deep belief that she does not have to strive for perfection. She is already, and always will be, good enough.

Thank you, Kelsey! And congratulations on your beyond adorable little one.

Kelsey Miller with her new baby


A hilarious video of Harry walking newborn Margot down the stairs — very, very carefully.

P.S. 15 things Joanna would tell a new mom, and Kelsey’s body acceptance during pregnancy.

(Photos courtesy of Kelsey Miller.)

  1. Ali says...

    This post is so relatable. I have an 8 month old and we live in a 3rd floor walk up apartment. The first few weeks I was terrified of walking down the stairs. What if I tripped and she hit her head on the ground? Would I have fast enough reflexes to make a 180 so I’d hit the ground first? It got to the point where I had the stairs counted so I knew exactly how many steps each level had. Now I carry my pump bag, my work bag, coffee, my baby’s daycare bag and my baby down those 3 flights of stairs everyday. I honestly don’t know how i do it but I do it! Parenthood makes me feel invincible sometimes.

  2. Carrie says...

    I loved this, and I love these comments!! I’m pregnant with our first, due in October! I’m soaking in all this wonderful mama wisdom and honesty.

  3. Emily says...

    Me and three of my neighbors all had baby boys around the same time in the summer of 2018 and the running joke around the neighborhood was about the “diagnosis of the day”. It was constant deciphering of what this spit up or color poop or kind of cry could possibly mean. Is my milk coming too fast or possibly too slow? It was a never ending rabbit hole of searching for answers and never finding them. I had my second just two weeks ago and am wholeheartedly trying to avoid that same trap. We do the best we can and babies are changing everyday and most of the time do not have serious ailments so I’m trying to go with the flow this time and soak in more of the baby snuggles and time with her!

  4. Penny says...

    EXACTLY ALL OF THIS! Oh man, I could’ve used this post 5 years ago when I had my first child. EXACTLY. You are a champion and absolutely good enough, and I wish you all the best.

  5. Katherine says...

    Omg that video!!! Takes me back to the early days! So so sweet. Loved this post and I relate to it all! You’re doing great. It gets easier as you learn to trust they are strong and resilient creatures!

  6. Florencia says...

    This post is just perfect. Also, it applies not only to parents of new babies, but to parents with kids of any age. Trust me.
    And the video! I’m at my office desk and was initially going to let it pass, but on second thoughts I said “no, this I have to watch”. Best decision of the day, I laughed until tears filled my eyes!
    Big understanding hugs to all the anxious moms and dads out there. We are legion. Oh and yes, do get yourself some help if you’re suffering more than allows you to enjoy your baby. Absolutely. Again, trust me.

  7. K says...

    My son is 5 and I still check on his breathing every night. Much less so than when he was an infant thankfully but the worry is still there. Ack. A friend who has teenage kids told me they still check on their kids’ breathing. Oh parenting…the joys and struggles. Wouldn’t trade it for anything though. :)

    Congrats btw!

  8. Quincy says...

    In the early days when my husband had the baby sleeping in the swing with him in the living room so I could sleep, I would have to text him to confirm Foster was breathing before I could fall asleep. He thought I was off my rocker. Now that he’s five months and in his own bed, my husband doesn’t notice the amount of times I look at the monitor. So it all worked out :) The anxieties of new motherhood are very real and scary. I find therapy, my faith and calling my mom 5 times daily help.

    • Lizzie says...

      Lol I did this. Constantly texting is the baby ok

  9. Ceciel says...

    That video is HILARIOUS! We did all that with our first. The very very slow drive home from the hospital. The “oh my gosh, her breathing is so strange” (yup, cause she’s a newborn).

    The checking to see if they’re breathing only lasts a good 3-4 years. And the deeeeeep love, oh that lasts and lasts. I hope I am being the good enough parent who can laugh with my child. We sometimes look at them and say right to them (our 10 year old, almost 8 year old and 5 year old) “who’s that big kid?” Or “how did her legs get so long?” And then we’re reminding of the baby days and we remind them of how deeply they are loved.

  10. Naomi says...

    Love it and love the honesty. Our story (one of many) was when my husband asked our daughter’s surgeon (our daughter was born with cleft lip and palate – this was at a 9 month check-up, pre-palate surgery) if she only mumbles and makes random noises because of the cleft and if this was something we should be concerned about… and the surgeon says “no, it’s because she’s a baby”. what relief! :)

  11. Kathleen says...

    I once Almost took my son to the ER (just over 12 months old) because I thought he has hurt his neck / popped out his shoulder because he was holding his head askew and cried out when I gently tried to straighten it. As I tried to put on some warmer clothes to get out the door, I realized that there was jam plastering his hair to his neck such that it “pulled” when sitting straight. Oops.

    • Katy says...

      Also, more importantly, baby Margot is absolutely adorable. Loved the writing. You are clearly doing a wonderful job.

    • Marget says...

      God, this made me laugh.

  12. Aelish says...

    LOL – I am right there with you. I’m a first time mom to a 5 mo. old – everything is terrifying, new, and absolutely wonderful.

  13. Connor says...

    Hi Kelsey –
    Congrats on baby Margot – she’s so beautiful! This essay is so relatable. I still check my children (6 and 3 years old) to make sure everything is good.

    I love the second picture of you both in matching yellow stripes!! It’s so fun to wear something matching your daughter.

  14. SMK says...

    I love your choice of the name Margot. My Margot just turned five (when she was born the OB asked if we were naming her like the wine or the dancer- like you, we chose the dancer) and it is hard to believe how quickly they grow. My third child is now 8 months old and I still check to make sure she is breathing every night. I also check on my older two. I think of it more as a bedtime ritual now and not anxiety. I will also say that at some point a mom’s intuition kicks in and when you feel like there is something not right with your child and you go to the doctor, chances are you were right to do so. (This just happened with my baby yesterday – despite not having many symptoms I was worried she had an ear infection, and sure enough she did.)

  15. Sara says...

    I brought my then 9 month-old to the pediatrician on a Saturday in a panic. I was convinced she had thrush- there was a huge white spot on her gum! I nearly died of embarrassment when the nurse gently told me that, no, not thrush, it was just a tooth coming in!

    And no, it was not her first tooth, either…

  16. M says...

    Thank you for this!! Before my almost 6 month old was born I occasionally had anxiety issues around my own health (usually I’d feel a lymph node and spiral into thinking I absolutely had lymphoma and life as I knew it was over). Now I find myself projecting all of that and more onto my baby! I constantly have to remind myself that I grilled the pediatrician on his slightly enlarged lymph nodes and she insisted (kindly) that he is perfectly healthy. But what about his weight gain? Is it too slow? Is he spitting up too much? Cradle cap? Eczema? Stuffy nose? Cough? Is he breathing? Why did he leave an ounce in his bottle? And the poop! Why is he pooping so much? Why hasn’t he pooped today? What was his poop LIKE?

    We’ve run to the doctor more times than I’d like to admit and we are burning through sick time. I constantly try to remind myself that we are lucky to have a happy, smiley baby and he’s hitting his milestones. But it is so hard to convince myself that he’s healthy and just let go a little bit!!

  17. Jamie says...

    She’s so beautiful, congratulations and welcome to the anxiety of motherhood! I honestly never really had anxious thoughts until I became a mom. My daughter is almost 2 and for the first 6 months I woke up every night panicking that I had lost her in our duvet cover…except that she has never slept in our bed and I didn’t even nurse her in there. Baby #2 is on the way, we’ll see what sort of panic that induces!

    • Caitlin says...

      This made me laugh out loud. I also used to have this fear and our daughter also never slept in our bed. PARENTHOOD IS A TRIP.

    • Marget says...

      Holy, I thought I was the only one! I’ve had the same recurring nightmare, ending in me bolting upright in a middle-of-the-night spaz attack, digging through the covers like a crazy person with my heart pounding. It’s happened on and off since my first baby was born- and she just turned 12. WHAT!

    • Sarah Dam says...

      Oh my goodness, I did this exact same thing with my first- he’s turning 6! My husband thought I was bonkers- glad I wasn’t the only one. ☺

    • Elise says...

      Yes! My husband did this nearly every night for the first three months. I’m glad he’s not the only one.

    • April says...

      My friend actually lost her daughter in the duvet cover. She said she was running around looking for her everywhere and finally found her sleeping soundly in the bed.

    • Km says...

      Oh my god, I did this too! I would startle awake, convinced she was suffocating under the duvet, thrash around looking for her, then find her sleeping calmly in the bassinet. It was the worst feeling. I never nursed in bed because of it – always carried her out to the couch so I would stay awake.

    • Rahel says...

      wow it is really affirming to hear that other people had this exact same anxiety. My partner and I both had nightmares of losing our child in the bed or between the wall and the bed for months. Probably because of this, we didn’t let him sleep with us until he was three!

    • SEK says...

      I would also wake up in a panic worried the baby was “lost” in our bed or covers even though she didn’t sleep with us or nurse in bed. This happened for about a week right when we got home from the hospital and it was hard to explain why I felt this fear so deeply. Seeing other people experience this, too, in all different ways, makes me feel better and eases my mind for future babies.

    • Amy says...

      I did this as well! I would wake up yelling “THE BABY! WHERE’S THE BABY?!” frantically patting the blankets looking for her, and my husband would always point to the baby in the bassinet next to the bed.

      This seems to me to be post-partum anxiety and sleep deprivation bordering on psychosis. It makes me sad that I/we feel/felt silly for doing this. I think it’s a sign that we all needed some more help (in the physical and mental sense) than we were getting at that time.

    • Katie W says...

      I read this and my jaw dropped! I just stared at the screen. MEEE TOOO. It was one of the first days home from the hospital, and I was taking a much-needed nap. I woke up in a tizzy, and shot straight up. “MUST UNCOVER THE BABY!” Said baby was downstairs with my husband.

  18. Megan says...

    This was such fun to read and SO relatable.

  19. Ann says...

    I love that video so much! I was such a nervous parent. I could never do those front carriers or wraps for fear of falling. I tried it and walked around the block so slowly then promptly returned it to the store. Kudos, Daddio! And Congratulations!!

  20. Alexanne says...

    Hello from the *other* baby Margot’s mom from the Spritzenhaus mom meetup last month–so fun to see you guys pop up here!

    Our first week, my husband pointed out that if we put the baby in a safe space, anything bad that happens to her is a horrible freak accident that we couldn’t have prevented. Possible freak accidents still keep me up at night, but somehow this (slightly cynical) reasoning brought my breath checks down to a reasonable level.

  21. Katie says...

    Kelsey, congrats on the baby! She is adorable and I LOVE her name! Also, your writing is wonderful. The part about not asking him to check on her again because you wanted to stay married was hilarious! And this part made me laugh out loud: “…after spending 20 minutes Googling ‘how to tell if baby bleeding internally’ only to pick her up and realize that she’s crying because she has a wedgie.” I have a 19 month old (yeah, yeah, I know I should say ‘one-and-a-half year old, but it’s too clunky to type out!), and I’ll tell ya — it gets better and better. Every stage seems to be cuter and more fun than the last. But I still hold/steady my breath so I can tell if my toddler is breathing on the damn video monitor…

  22. Kelly says...

    i was never overly anxious about infants and their breathing, or learning to eat solid foods…but i now have a 9.5 year old and I find middle school life full of mom anxiety bombs…sleepovers, sleep away camp, mean girls, looming adolescence…i think it is making me relive my middle school years which I was very very happy to leave behind!

    like all the infant panic stories – nothing even remotely bad has happened! but i have a running thread of what might that is agonizing!!

  23. Katie says...

    HAHAHAHAAHAA! This made me laugh out loud!!!

  24. Carrie says...

    When my daughter was first born, I saw danger everywhere. What if the stroller lost control and rolled down these steps? What if a car jumped this curb and hit us? What if…what if… When I confided in my mom, she told me that yes, things could happen but don’t let that rob you of the joys of this moment. Having a child is having the most precious part of you exist outside of you and outside of your control, and it’s terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

  25. Elizabeth says...

    We called the ambulance the first night we were home with our second daughter. She woke up coughing and slightly choking (I thought) on some milk that she had an hour or so before. She was not blue, but my husband and I were so terrified that something wrong that we had the EMS in our house at 2:00a.m. I would also constantly check both of my babies breathing. The anxiety is real!

  26. Personally I think that the most anxiety-inducing moment of new parenthood EVER is… the drive home from the hospital. Isn’t it agonizing!? You wanna pull over and check that baby is breathing in her carseat like 100x in a ten minute drive and you just cannot believe how FAST everyone is driving. I remember asking my husband “have cars always driven this fast in our neighbourhood?” We were probably in a 30km area. I was sweating profusely by the time we got home and swore we’d never drive anywhere again.

  27. nade says...

    The world is running by love and stupid mistakes we make

  28. April says...

    First your baby is adorable! Especially in that all blue outfit.

    Second I totally lol’d at your description of checking her breathing.

    Third I am a parent of small children and 100 percent relate to this.

  29. Cydney Meyer says...

    I am a pediatrician who specializes in infants. At two weeks with my son, I stormed into my pediatricians office freaked out over totally normal eye discharge, convinced he had an infection and was going to go septic and die.

    They still won’t let me live that one down… :)

  30. Emily says...

    Ah yes, I felt completely unprepared for the new parent anxiety. Hard to say if it lessens, or you just learn to manage it, but it does get better! My oldest is almost a teenager now, but I remember after she was born and my mom was visiting, the extra set of hands allowed me to try to figure out the breast pump, which my painfully engorged A turned to DD breasts desperately needed. I felt overwhelmed with properly sanitizing everything (“but this part doesn’t even come close to the milk, if I heat it will chemicals leak from the plastic?!”) and was having a near panic attack re-reading the directions. To try to assuage my fears, I nervously joked that somehow babies in less sterile conditions manage to survive. My mom, who freely admits she didn’t have a care in the world when her 70’s babies were born, gravely replied from the other room, “But some don’t.” Deep breaths, moms, you’re doing a great job.

  31. Abbey says...

    I’m not an anxious person. I am not a parent either. I am a nanny…. who also checks the breathing of the infants she cares for more than is reasonable or necessary.
    For me, I think the subconscious reasoning going on is “babies are so helpless, they’re so little, they can’t do ANYTHING … maybe they will just stop breathing on their own if I’m not here to intervene? who knows??” There’s also the existential strangeness of the fact that literally a few short months or weeks or days before they barely existed at all! They’re so NEW here! How can they possibly keep it all running smoothly, this heart and these lungs and these complex bodies?? CONSTANT VIGILANCE.
    I can only imagine if you tend towards anxiety, and you are this tiny baby’s parent, and this is your first childcare experience… Phew! I think you’re doing AMAZING. And your baby is insanely lucky to have parents who care so so so deeply. And when it starts to get on their nerves they will surely let you know ;)

  32. Six weeks ago, I watched the EMTs, nurses, doctors, and intake woman at the emergency room crinkle ever so slightly at the corners of their eyes at me; my baby had fallen off the bed, and I brought him to the ER in an ambulance. He had stopped crying immediately, and didn’t have so much as a bump.

    He was fine. Of course.

    Of course.

    “But what if he isn’t?” I thought.

    They held us in observation for three hours. He smiled at everyone who checked in on us, and had breastmilk, and peed his pants so I had to change him into the weird babysuit I’d banished to the diaper bag that makes him look like a turtle, and had a nap. But oh. I was so worried.

  33. KL says...

    I was listening to the Eric Weinstein podcast The Portal and they said two phrases about parenting that exacerbated my anxiety of loved ones dying (and imagining it dialed up a million for kids!) It was the episode with Bryan Callen.

    1. Having a kid is like watching a balloon hover near a lava lamp
    2. The one thing wealth can’t buy that rich people can’t have over the rest is an ability to keep kids safe, we’re all just a knock on the front door away from misfortune. (this was especially heartbreaking because I listened to it a few days before Kobe and his young daughter passed away).

  34. Sarah says...

    I just had my first baby 5 weeks ago and this is the most relatable thing I’ve ever read! My husband and I have had the exact same conversation 100 times over the past 5 weeks. 😂Google is the best and worst thing for anxiety.

  35. Laura says...

    All the comments remind me of a part of the movie Parenthood where Jason Robards is talking about how you never stop worrying about your kids.

    “It’s not like that all ends when you’re 18, or 21 or 41 or 61…There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.”
    https://youtu.be/0t6IIdmOIOQ

    • Lisa says...

      I remember having that horrible realisation when I was pregnant. We conceived through IVF after a struggle, and I was scared that I would have a miscarriage. I kept thinking “when I get past 12 weeks I can stop worrying”, and then it dawned on me that I would probably never stop worrying about this tiny baby. Tiny baby is now a rambunctious nearly four year old, so for my own nerves I’ve had to chill a bit, but I don’t think that worry will ever ever go away. You just live with it.

    • Jenna says...

      I too remember this realization when I was pregnant. I was so worried that the baby would be okay on the inside and then suddenly realized, this is the way I’m going to feel, forever!

  36. Steph says...

    I feel Harry’s pain! We are expecting our second baby in a few weeks, and since #1, we have moved to a two-story house with stairs. Creeky, old stairs. Stairs I’m convinced will startle my newborn into a fervor repeatedly. I have had the thought, “We should have the stairs replaced before the baby comes.”
    Those types of thoughts don’t necessarily go away with subsequent kids, but I’m looking forward to finding the humor in them a little more this time around.

  37. Rebekah says...

    Oh, this is so relatable! Post-delivery in the hospital, I couldn’t sleep when she was awake, and then I couldn’t sleep when she was asleep, because yep — I had to make sure she was breathing. :) That video is totally precious!

  38. Katie says...

    I think it’s very helpful to shine a light on the anxiety new parents (and not so new parents) can feel. I experienced PTSD after my son’s NICU stay following an emergency c section due to a placental abruption. Talk about breathing checks once home from the hospital when you’ve already spent 2 months watching your son’s breathing rate slow to dangerously low levels in the NICU! My mother in law organized shifts so that someone was always awake watching my son for the first week we were home – she’s amazing and was so sensitive to what I was feeling. 6 years later I’m only now just starting to get help with the anxiety. Oof – it can be hard!

  39. Nothing mirrors my exactly life more than this at this very moment. I have a 4.5 month old girl and she is a shining light, such a dream. And I also struggle with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, so I ALSO compulsively check Winnie’s breathing before bed, then ask my husband to do so as well, just to feel reassured haha! Thank you for writing about and sharing such universal life truths. I feel so seen, I teared up while smiling <3

  40. Lorraine says...

    The breathing. Oh man. Almost 7 years ago now when my son was about 5 days old, my husband and I were freaked out by a BOOGER in his nose, how to get it out while he slept, what if it disturbed his breathing?!!!! We were afraid to lay him down, so we held him for a long time and around 1am I even dialed the pediatrician’s emergency line, pausing before I finished the number. My husband looked at each other, and both realized, wait, we’re probably overreacting. Hmm. I put the phone down, and we took a deep breath, and watched our son sleep peacefully.

    • Y says...

      Dying! I actually CALLED the emergency number when her belly button fell off. Wish I had paused and taken a deep breath first!

  41. Thank you, Kelsey! I have a six month old and while I am typically pretty laidback (enneagram 9 over here), I do occasionally have what may or may not be intrusive thoughts – once I think about something (ridiculous) happening to her, especially at night while going to sleep, it goes on repeat in my brain. Thank you for capturing and sharing this crazy season!

    • Kelsey says...

      From another new mom Kelsey, I HIGHLY recommend the Owlet. What a huge help it’s been to the exact anxiety you are describing. Totally worth the price for (slightly) more peace of mind.

  42. Anna says...

    NORMAL! Everything new triggers my parental anxiety, even now six years in. But kids do learn to eat safely! Reading Baby Led Weaning material – even though we didn’t do strict BLW – was really helpful to me because they discuss how babies learn to chew, the importance of the gag reflex, the difference between gagging and choking… it was really helpful information and made me feel much more confident introducing new foods to my little ones. Hang in there :)

    • Hannah says...

      I LOVED baby-led weaning, and was also really freaked out by it as a new parent. What I did (and then repeated with my second) was to actually watch videos on youtube of babies gagging (yes, this is a thing)! Watching those little babies stuff food in their gummy mouths, scrunch their faces up, cough, and even turn bright red, only to spit the food out and carry on as if nothing happened, made it much easier to watch my son do the same and not call 911. I recommend this to all new parents considering BLW, which in the end was so much easier for our family than endless pureeing, etc. And so much less expensive than buying dedicated “baby” food!

  43. First, congratulations! Second, good job on keeping your sense of humor and perspective through sleepless nights. Great post and VERY relatable.

  44. Alison says...

    wow so perfectly said!! I relate to all of this on so many levels! congrats and hang in!! we are all in this together ;)

  45. Rue says...

    My therapist frequently repeats this mantra about how it’s great that I’m test piloting my parenting fears on a dog first before having humans.

    My favorite incident involves taking my new-to-me adult rescue pup, who apparently SURVIVED ON THE STREETS for who knows how long, to a dog daycare that has cameras you can watch remotely. I spent the whole day a nervous wreck because I couldn’t see my dog on camera and the one time I did he looked stressed out and couldn’t the workers see that? Never mind that they’re trying to wrangle half a dozen dogs in the “small anxious dogs” group.

    I eventually figured out that if my dog hates doggy daycare he doesn’t need to go to it. Because unlike with a human daycare is a totally optional thing? I also learned the important lesson that for ME, the “webcam your loved little one” is a recipe for disaster.

    My sweet therapist (who in my mind has zero prolonged struggles because she’s been here for years helping me through MY anxiety and PTSD…) told me a reassuring story about when her first kid was born, she made her husband pre screen all the daycare options first and rule out any places that had the option of a camera feed, because she knew she’d spend her whole day watching the live video and freaking out about her baby, thus defeating the purpose of paying for infant care so she could return to work. This is why she’s the perfect therapist for me, I suppose.

  46. Oh my gosh, YES.
    Hours after our first child was born, my husband, baby and I were snuggled in the hospital bed. Finally all getting some sleep. Suddenly my husband grabbed our baby and ran down the hall in a panic: The baby wasn’t breathing! He was so still! The nurses gently explained our newborn was asleep.
    Its funny now, but parenting in the moment is basically terrifying. HUGS. and congrats!

  47. Joyce says...

    Congrats, Kelsey! She is adorable and sounds like you’re an awesome mom.

  48. Pearl says...

    Have a little guy of my own and this is SO relatable. My mom thought I was crazy and kept telling me to chill out (He’ll be fine! He’s supposed to sleep! So are you! You’ll wake a perfectly fine sleeping baby!) But we just stayed with her for 3 weeks and she confessed by the end she was also up at 3am wondering if he was still breathing and even went in to check on his as well! I once heard a motto of a successful day and keep it near and dear to my heart: “Fed not dead”. The rest is gravy :)

  49. shelley says...

    Ohhh you need to invest in an owlet! I know that’s totally not the point but wow what a game changer for me. I can 100% relate to you and I never understood how so many moms seem so casual about things. I think they must be faking it!

    • Irene says...

      Came here to say this. We got a Snooza for our first and will be using it again with our second. Peace of mind!

  50. Laura says...

    The anxiety of new motherhood hit me like a freight train. Up to that point I had been a pretty calm person and thought I knew what to expect when the baby came so I had zero coping skills. Sure, I’d be tired but I work night shift. I’ve been tired for the last 5 years. WRONG! There is no tired like new baby tired and it messes you up. One of the things that bothered me most was the expectation that I was blessed with some divine intuition at the moment of birth, when in actuality I had no idea what was happening 99% of the time. “Why is she crying?” Was a question I was asked a lot. I’d shrug and turn to the baby, “why are you crying?” (Usually no response. Rude) I’ve never said “I don’t know” so many times in my whole life…. all of this is to say, I hear you Kelsey, and it gets better. Those first few months are intense but blessedly short. My 15 month old daughter is very much alive and thriving. I still don’t really know what’s going on but I’ve become more comfortable not knowing.

  51. Mina says...

    What a lovely post. I am a breath checker (had to have an angelcare breathing monitor with my first baby because I couldn’t sleep worrying about SIDS), and still occasionally check my three sleeping kids (now, 9, 7,5 and almost 6!). Since I also am anxious that way, it’s so funny to feel the reaction in myself watching that sweet video of walking down the stairs: it made my laugh, even in the older-wiser way that bigger-kid-parents laugh at new-parent antics. But it also made me so achingly nostalgic for those early weeks, months and years as a parent. I see so much love and care in that little video!

    • Sarah says...

      I still check my 6 and 8 year old sons before I go to sleep to make sure they’re breathing. It’s part of my nighttime routine. Wash face, check if they’re breathing, go to bed. My husband thinks I’m nuts.

    • Cait says...

      Same! I know my mom always did it, too. My oldest is 8 but I know I will check on them before I go to sleep as long as I can possibly get away with it! I lay a light hand on them to feel, kiss them if I can reach, or just peer in the dark to see if a chest is rising and falling!

  52. Jen says...

    Oh my god, what a gorgeous baba! Congratulations! Love your stories ❤️❤️❤️

    Ps I still do the breathing thing 🤣

  53. Victoria says...

    Wonderful post, fun and endearing in equal measure. Kellsey forever!. That baby is absolutely delicious…Can only add that my kids taught us what to do and not the other way around. Everything will be fine!

  54. Nina says...

    My girls are six years old and either my husband or I still check to make sure they are breathing every night. Last year they fell asleep in the corner of the ballroom at their uncles wedding. I put my finger under their noses to check if they were breathing, not even fully aware I was doing it. My mom saw and told me that her mom did that to all the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren until she was too old to move. Now, every time I check their breath, I can feel my grandmother next to me checking too. I miss her.

    • AB says...

      This so is beautiful. Grandmothers are so special.

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Oh wow. That is so lovely.

    • Katie says...

      Gosh, this made me tear up! So sweet.

    • B says...

      This made me tear up a little. Your girls have angels watching over them for sure.

  55. Emm says...

    The fact that Harry is carrying an umbrella in one hand really added to sense of jeopardy.

  56. I feel so grateful to have had a baby at the same time as Kelsey Miller. This essay had me snorting my coffee. Now time to zoom wayyyyyy in on the video monitor again to check if the baby’s stomach is going up and down…

  57. Lucy says...

    Congratulations to your lovely family! Margot is a beaut.

    Please tell me where I can find that adorable little mint outfit… I’m expecting and I love it! Thanks :)

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Thank you! I took this photo right before we took her home from the hospital. It’s from June & January. Sadly it looks like this color isn’t in stock anymore, but they have several other options. It’s a great set for newborns because you don’t have to pull the top over their heads or worry about the umbilical stump getting snagged by a onesie. Margot wore this for about 4 weeks straight!

    • Lucy says...

      Thank you so much for the info – adorable! 💕

  58. Claire Cornell says...

    I love this so much. As a new mom, I can totally relate. We are all in this together :)

  59. Florencia says...

    This is hysterical. My husband and I went through the exact same thing with him not adequately checking if our son was breathing. When he insisted we move him into his own room (likely to save our marriage) I insisted on sleeping with our heads at the foot of the bed so we could look at his crib. I also insisted my husband leave the nursery window closed in case someone climbed through to steal him. Husband: “You mean Someone will climb through a window on the third story with a metal roof” Me: “yes” him: “so he won’t get stolen but may die of heat stroke.” Me: it is hot, we could turn the fan on, what if a blade flies off….therapy and time has helped. Though our son will be 14 next month and I still check his breathing before going to bed each night.
    Margot is precious, congratulations!

  60. Rachel says...

    COJ friends, help! My son is six months old and just started solids and I find myself having an anxiety attack every time we feed him anything that isn’t milk. I keep picturing him choking. My adrenaline goes through the roof. Normal first time mom? Or therapy required? How do kids learn to eat safely??

    Thanks for the lovely article!

    • MB says...

      I’d recommend doing pediatric first aid. I believe the chances of choking are low (although they do gag a lot in the beginning) but this will give you confidence that if your baby does choke you’ll know how to handle it

    • Kristen says...

      Check out Feeding Littles – they are on Instagram, Facebook, have a blog etc. Their infant feeding course SAVED me. Watching my six-month old gag for the first time sent my anxiety through the roof and I decided he would eat purees until Kindergarten if needed. Then I found Feeding Littles and their strategies are amazing and gave me so much confidence.

    • Agnes says...

      Your doctor will tell you that young children have the best choking reflex. It’s normal to have these anxieties, talk to a doctor, it will help you be rational and know what to do in case of.

    • Thuy says...

      Rachel – I totally understand! Have you tried talking with your pediatrician? I’m sure they can validate what you’re doing with the solids (Which I’m sure is on point!), and I actually found mine to be helpful in making me think about getting help with my postpartum anxiety, which might be popping up for you now? I am so pro-therapy for anyone who might think they would find it helpful, so if you’re thinking that I’d go for it! It’s super helpful to be able to talk to someone and get perspective and ideas on now to cope with anxiety. Your OB might be a good place to start with folks or practices they would recommend, that’s how I found mine. You got this and you’re doing great!

    • Jessica says...

      Rachel, I would suggest reading something about baby-led weaning. There’s a book by that name, I think. It has a lot of information about how kids learn to eat and how its a natural process, like learning to walk, and they have a very good gag reflex to help protect themselves. I found it quite reassuring on the choking front (and also a great way to start introducing solids).

    • Rachel says...

      This is so so helpful – thank you all for all the feedback!!

    • Amber Marlow says...

      We do baby-led weaning and took a CPR course first.

  61. Annie K says...

    Bless you and thank you, Kelsey. I have two little kids and If there’s anything I’d wish on new parents it’s exactly this kind of warm, humorous, comforting, self-disclosing, non-judgy reminder that to be ourselves is good enough.

  62. Laney says...

    As someone who just checked if her 8 year old and 5 year old were breathing…this clearly resonated with me. I even once used a heart rate monitor app on my sleeping child (and may have pulled an ER visit like your father if it hadn’t shown normal results!)

  63. Amy H says...

    The video is the sweetest thing ever!

  64. Jess says...

    Oh, thank you Kelsey for sharing. You’re doing great. Your video reminded me of when we first brought our oldest home from the hospital. The first day or two my husband followed me up the stairs as I carried our son (just in case we fell backwards), and quickly ran up the stairs to meet me when I wanted to carry our son downstairs, again, just in case. Precious cargo indeed. Little Margot is in good hands.

  65. Julee says...

    Kelsey!
    Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. In the photo you shared, you’re beautiful and so is she.
    I’m a nervous mom (and person) too! My youngest is about 3 months old now. I can’t sleep at night until I do the poke check, like you.
    Thanks for the encouraging article. I’m good enough, and that’s good enough.

  66. rachel says...

    I wasnt an anxious person *until* i had a baby, 4.5 years ago. Litterally minutes after i birthed her, anxiety came on fast and hard… and although its gotten so much better with time, its still something i have to pray through. I honestly couldnt wrap my heart around having another baby because of how much i struggle(d) with anxiety and fear. I reached out, had close friends pray with me, i read scripture ( i am a Christian) and have been working through it since 2015. I did not let it rob me from the JOY that came with my daughters conception and my pregnancy and every day since.

  67. Ramona says...

    Does anyone else have more anxiety about something happening to you as the mother? I have had such anxiety that something was going to happen to me and my children will grow up without me. It’s not debilitating, but I never ever worried about my own mortality before having kids. Probably related, I worried ALL the time as a young child that something would happen to my own parents and I would be an orphan! :(

    • Samantha says...

      Yes! This sounds like me too. My husband travels for work, and when he’s away it gets particularly bad. What if something happens to me and my son is trapped in his crib? Or what if something happens to me and my husband lets the kids grow up with too much screen time and doesn’t teach them about … like I would have. We’re such different parents and they need me–they need my side of things too. These thoughts enter my mind more often than I care to admit.

  68. rachel says...

    Margot is such a little beauty!

  69. Sarah says...

    Congratulations! I loved this post and that video had me in tears.

  70. EH says...

    Oh my gosh, this is so good. The video!! Totally relate.

  71. Elliesee says...

    What a cute baby! Love the name too. And that is how you get down the stairs with a baby. I was not a breath checkers with my children, but some accidents happening with other families left their mark on me – the baby that rolled off a bed and has hemiplegia, the grandma that fell down the stairs with the baby and was sued, the light fixture that fell on the baby with the whole family around (a toy was tied to it), the party where the kids eat while running around… other than that I don’t worry too much!

  72. Karen T. says...

    This is the best. My boys are teens now but this post came at an awesome time for me. Just yelled at my son (which I don’t typically do since he’s such a gem) and now I’m texting him that I’m sorry I yelled, I’m not perfect, I fall short sometimes and hope that the still loves me and trusts me. Just like I still do when he falls short sometimes. Parenting is the hardest but the best. More Kelsey please. She’s divine. (And Margot is a cutie!)

  73. kd says...

    Single 30-something with no kids and I adore this. Very well-written and lovely. “Still got a few more steps.” “Shit.” Lollll… sweet.

  74. Charlotte says...

    Girl, get yourself an Owlet and sleep well.

    From one anxious mom to another. ;-)

    • Cassie says...

      I second this. I wasn’t going to get the Owlet, but changed my tune after endless nights staring at baby. It went off the other night while we were in bed at 4am doing skin to skin after a feeding bc baby’s oxygen level was too low (79%)- I didn’t realize his mouth/nose was pressed up too close on my chest. Terrifying moment but so glad I was notified so we could quickly change positions!

  75. Mercy says...

    I loved reading this! Having a baby is still far off in my future but I am 100% sure I will be the same way!

    Also, I live with my mom and up until maybe last year she’d open my door for a few seconds on her way out to work in the morning. My door sticks, so it’s loud when it opens, and I asked her to stop doing it because it would wake me up before I needed to be up. I asked her why she did it in the first place, and she said ‘to make sure you’re breathing and ok’. I’m 28. So, I guess the anxiety never really stops :)

    • Sil says...

      I’m 40 and whenever I stay at my mom’s, she does the same thing <3

  76. Trace says...

    Oi! Thanks for sharing. I also suffer with OCD/ intrusive thoughts (and takes medication and go to therapy!) and it’s a big part of the reason I don’t want kids at all. To me the stress and fear and googling just wouldn’t be worth it. (But that’s just ME.) I go through those motions enough as it is. Power to you though, for fulfilling your parent dream and getting through it 💘👏

    • Penelope says...

      Wow, I feel exactly the same way! I also suffer from similar issues, and as I approach 40, have decided not to have a family of my own because I know I would be a wreck. It’s taken me a long time to come to this decision but I feel at peace about it. I had a very chaotic childhood and all I want out of life now is peace. 🥰

  77. When you become a parent your heart is suddenly outside of your body; you are naked and vulnerable to the world in a way that you can never predict beforehand. When my daughter was born (now aged 7) I suddenly stopped being able to watch or enjoy violence on TV. Having a baby changed me, but the changes are all good. Keep doing what you’re doing; your anxiety means that you’ve already got a strong bond to this human being that you’re going to spend the rest of your life nurturing. It’ll get less shocking over time!

    • Laura says...

      Yes! Before having my son, I loved the show Criminal Minds. But since having him (and he’s 6 now), I can’t watch it at all!

  78. Meg says...

    Oh my goodness. I am due with my first in 5 weeks, and even though we haven’t experienced it yet, I laughed through the breathe checking because it is already so relatable. I then read it to my husband while we both laughed and I teared up. And then, that lovely ending. What a great reminder for me as I head into this new chapter. Much love to you and your new little family, Kelsey. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of writing!

  79. Laura says...

    I had my first parental anxiety dream whilst still in the hospital (following a 3-day labor and eventual C section after pushing a melon-headed, wedged-in firstborn for an unproductive 4 hours, and yes, she was fine–me, not as much). First night being a mother–and I mostly blame the pain pills–in my dream, she’d been sleeping on my chest and rolled from her perch to the hospital room floor, out the door, and into the parking lot. The nurse, who had taken her to the nursery so I could sleep, had to wheel her in as proof of life before I’d calm down.
    Said firstborn is nearly 28. I don’t remember any other nightmares, save the year she was 14…

    • Maggie says...

      This!!! In tears I’m laughing so hard…. omg

    • Lauren says...

      I had a similar first nightmare, post C-section, in the hospital. My daughter was sleeping in the bassinet next to the bed, my husband asleep on the couch. I woke up screaming, covered in sweat, and throwing punches at my husband who was trying to comfort me / wake me up. I dreamt that wolves came and snatched my daughter from her bassinet and ran down the hall. I could not catch them to rescue my daughter because I could not walk (because of the surgery and feeling strapped to the recovery bed). I kept screaming about the wolves and for him to go get them when he had to finally bring the baby to me to show me she was still in her bassinet. I refused to let her sleep anywhere but on me for the rest of our stay.

  80. Laura says...

    I needed this today! After waking my husband up with my “panic-y voice” about 3 times last night because my six week old has a cough. After a doctors appointment this morning that was by all accounts more for me than him, he’s fine.

  81. Catharine says...

    Margot is so dreamy and well written piece…Pediatric oncology nurse here and boy oh boy is ignorance bliss. All of that medical knowledge that is so useful at the bedside suddenly turns me into a crazed lunatic when I notice excessive bruising on my (rough and tumble) kid. I get it, motherhood makes us all a little nutty!

    • Betsy says...

      Oh gosh, I’m reading this thinking how glad I am to be over those anxiety-ridden newborn days and then read this comment and am anxiety-ridden over how I noticed my four-year old daughter had two new bruises today!!! AHH!! ;) (She is also quite rough-and-tumble as is her six-year old brother!!)

    • Roxana says...

      Thank you for what you do, Catharine!

  82. Ellen says...

    This made me laugh out loud so much, my boyfriend was rather surprised when I told him the topic of what i was reading. This really cheered me up, thanks!

  83. Kate says...

    I love this article – she is gorgeous and you and your hubby are doing great! I’m sure you hear this a lot, but it does get easier. And then, if you decide to have another, you’ll have a crazy toddler Margot underfoot and a tiny sleeping baby and wonder why-oh-why you were so stressed about her when she was a newborn when the toddler creates all the chaos! (Or maybe that was just me) ;) Sending love to your sweet family!!!!

    • Alex Pearl says...

      100%! Toddlers are next level. All of a sudden the baby becomes a breeze.

  84. Daisy says...

    This is so wonderfully written, thank you Kelsey! I became a mother for the first time in October and whilst I was (semi) prepared for the sleep deprivation and for my body to take a while to feel like its old self again (spoiler: it still doesn’t…), absolutely nothing prepared me for the anxiety of parenthood.

  85. Iris says...

    I can’t tell if I’m weepy from laughter or from how (bitter)sweetly familiar these anecdotes are. As I read this, my second baby in all his three month old glory is fussing himself awake after a beautifully 2 hour long nap. I’ll tell you this – I look exactly like Harry when I walk down our stairs with the baby in the sling, and I still put my hand on my almost 4 year old before I go to bed every single night to make sure he is breathing. This is motherhood!

    • Kylee says...

      I still Put my hand on my 6 1/2 year old! 😂 🥰

    • Marie says...

      Oh mamas, me too! Have to check on my 5- and 2-year-olds… even on nights I crash and head to bed an hour after they fell asleep.

  86. NN says...

    I love this so much. Thank you for posting.

  87. KC says...

    Thank you for posting this! I’m a first time mom, and I was literally checking that my 5-week old daughter was still breathing as she was on my chest (couldn’t tell if it was her moving or me!) just before I read this! Haha. Your little one is beautiful!

  88. Karen, not like the meme says...

    I have bad news. When the kid starts suddenly sleeping in a bit more than usual (for my kid age 7), you sit downstairs on the couch, trying to enjoy your coffee in quiet solitude. But instead, every 8 minutes that tick by you end up wondering if he’s going to wake up. But there’s no sense in checking on him, because what’s done is done and in due time you’ll know the truth. Ha. Being a parent is maddening.
    That video is hilarious, by the way

    • Leanne says...

      Flip side of the nightmare: they’re awake and they’ve smuggled a marker into their room.

  89. Erin says...

    I love this logic…”Instead, I lie there wondering if Margot is alive and then deciding she is not and then wondering if our marriage will collapse under the weight of this unspeakable tragedy, because if I’m going to get divorced anyway, then why not just go ahead and check her again?” Hahaha! May as well!

  90. t says...

    Such a beautiful piece (and baby), Kelsey. I am afraid that anxiety doesn’t go away, however. It just changes as kids grow up and do terrifying things like RIDE A SKI LIFT or CROSS THE STREET or EAT A GRAPE WHOLE or DRIVE A CAR.

    And in between those major anxiety-inducing moments you are pretty sure they have been kidnapped in the middle of the night or their tummy ache is a sign of childhood cancer or they are going to fall of their hoverboard and hit their head just wrong.

    And unfortunately all of those bad things do happen in the world and although their occurrences are rare, they are just frequent enough to rip your heart out with micro-anxieties that act as major reminders of just how much a parent loves their child.

    • Cheryl k says...

      Hahaha. Omg THIS!! Over and over this!!

    • Roxana says...

      T, this is so well-said!

    • Allegra LaViola says...

      THIS YES

    • Sara says...

      I fear I’m going to be cutting their grapes in half well into their adulthoods. Or at least until they’re old enough to beg me to stop.

  91. Danielle says...

    I’m one of those folks you may see if you bring your baby to the children’s ER at 2am because you’re worried. We’re happy to see you if you need us, and I’ll never be too annoyed to take a look and make sure things are OK. We get that it’s really hard and scary to take care of a new baby. (They’re sort of aliens for the first few weeks-months: “is she supposed to make that noise?” “why is he still crying?” “does that face mean she’s constipated or in pain???”)

    The BEST advice I can give is to get a pediatrician you trust who has someone you can talk to after hours! If you’re able, schedule a prenatal visit with a prospective pediatrician and ask questions like what the on-call system is like for parents with concerns. (Also ask any other questions that are important to you). If you’ve met with your pediatrician early, then you’ve already got a resource lined up if something worrisome happens the first night home.

    My other advice for stressed out parents: (1) If you’re trying, you’re doing it right. (2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it- from your doctor, your doula, your neighbor, the lactation specialist, neighborhood resource groups., WIC, whatever. There’s lots out there when you start looking around, but it can be a little hard to find.

    • What a treasure of a healthcare professional you are, bless you, truly.
      -signed, anxious googling parents everywhere

    • K says...

      Can I just say that folks in the medical field like you are the reason I did not have a total nervous breakdown as a new parent? In case you don’t hear it on an hourly basis: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

    • Julee says...

      “If you’re trying, you’re doing it right.”
      THANK YOU.

  92. Laetitia says...

    I have always been a very optimistic, anxiety free person, but when my first baby was born, I legit started going crazy! I would catch myself memorizing the plate numbers of the cars parked outside of the apartment (in case someone stole my baby!), I had real anxiety that strangers around me wanted to EAT my baby (yep, crazy!). For the first time, I had the need to see a therapist. I cried a lot as I explained my new fears, and he said: “All of this is normal, because you just gave birth to your worst nightmare – which is that something bad could happen to your baby” and then he went on an on about everything that could go wrong, over the years, even in adulthood. And after that, I was able to relax, and accept the fears that come with the most incredible Love I had aver felt!

  93. S. says...

    I’ve never read a more relevant post. I have 4 month old twins, am working full time+, and feel like I’m living on anxiety level 11. I had to keep from crying while reading this post because I’m on my lunch break and don’t want to go back with red eyes. I wish I had the time to cry it out. It took me three hours to address an envelope this weekend. Babies are hard. So hard.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      sending you so much love, S. that sounds really hard. with baby twins plus a big job, you have so much on your shoulders. sending you a hug, and i promise promise promise, it gets easier.

    • Brittany says...

      S. – I echo Jo’s sentiment and love. It DOES get easier and different, I promise. I have 3.5 year old twins and work FT and always joke that I blacked out that first year and a half (or so). But – it gets easier! Promise. Sending you love, moments of peace, and rest for your mind (and body). You are doing a good job!

    • Kelley says...

      S., It gets better! My twins are 2.5 now but the first year and a half of their life was maybe the worst year of mine. I own a business and working + taking care of two babies is incredibly stressful. Hang in there and take all the help you can get. Thinking of you!

    • sarah says...

      In solidarity with taking 3 hours to address an envelope. When I was on anxiety level 11 with my son, I could not figure out how to close the blinds in our living room for a very long time. It wasn’t the blinds fault. I now operate the same blinds with no problems. You will be able to address envelopes again (amongst other things!)

    • S. says...

      Thank you, Joanna, Brittany, Kelley, and Sarah. It lifts my spirits to be seen, supported, and encouraged.

      Sending a high five your way in celebration of all your own motherhood accomplishments. I see you too. :)

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Oh S, I’m so sorry, and I’m with you. Margot is almost 4 months and it suddenly feels like things got even more chaotic. It’s so much to juggle, so much transition, for you AND them. Give yourself a cry if/when you can. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that people aren’t as weirded out about red, teary eyes as you think they’ll be. Really. xo

  94. EJ says...

    At what age should we stop using the “baby” monitor? 3? 6? 17? Asking for a friend, of course…

    • Karen says...

      Haha. I never bought one of those video monitors because I knew I’d never sleep trying to watch for breaths!
      My second kid I realized I couldn’t even sleep listening to his noises so I went, you’ll never believe this, with NO MONITOR. And we have creaky old doors for sneaking in rooms.
      Sometimes I wonder how he’s still alive. :)

    • Kara says...

      Can’t stop giggling.

    • Heather says...

      Oh my goodness I was just thinking this! It’s still in my five year olds room and removing it seems completely wild to me. From a practical standpoint it’s great – if she’s crying or sick at night we hear right away and can go in to help.

    • Kim says...

      I had to get rid of our sound only monitor because it was raising my anxiety, not quelling it.

    • Allison says...

      if ours makes it that long, i’m going to hide it in the basement for those teen parties…

    • Kelly says...

      i stopped using the baby monitor because my very active and wily 2 year figured out how to unplug it (whether disconnecting from the wall or pulling the cord off the unit itself), or would get a hold of it and hold it up to her eyeball, or turn it in a direction that showed only ceiling and wall…same kid who walked at 9 months and at 10 months pulled all the pillows off the couch to pile them up so she could climb on the couch. I am slightly terrified for her teenage years but also feel like she figures out how everything works so darn quickly that maybe she’ll be good at taking care of herself!

  95. Ari says...

    Scratch the “New” – the anxiety never ends, it just evolves :) Worst is when you feel guilty for not being more anxious???

  96. Alex says...

    One other difficult part? Being the person that doesn’t have anxiety. How to calm someone down when they need to as the author notes – just check the baby one more time?
    Should we try to teach them to be like us? Totally chill and nothing phases us? I literally never have anxiety. That doesn’t make lazy or a bad person, or someone who doesn’t care. I just know that nothing I do will change the course of events, so I just sit back and take it as it comes.

    • Ana D says...

      Chillness cannot be taught. It must be embraced (in baby steps and quantum leaps) by the anxious person of their own volition, at their own time.

      One thing that really helps me (high-functioning, well-medicated and therapized anxious person with complex PTSD, married to the least neurotic, most chill person I’ve ever met) is when my emotions and concerns are validated. “You’re right, that would be so scary” and “That would be a major problem that we’d have to deal with together, for sure” and other acknowledgements to that effect.

      When my spouse validates that what I’m concerned about would be a big issue if it came to pass, I can breathe easier. I don’t need to keep bringing it up to him again and again to get him to acknowledge that this bad thing could happen.

      My reality as a person with PTSD is different than his reality – I’ve won the Trauma Lottery several times. Those things that “are horrifying but almost never happen” and “are so unlikely” have happened to me. I’ve lived firsthand that while they couldn’t be prevented, the traumas could’ve been cut short and remediated MUCH sooner if the adults around me had been aware and alert to signs of a child winning the Trauma Lottery in their midst.

      The thing about smart anxious people is, we already KNOW the odds. We can likely give you the stats for how frequently lightning strikes affect a baby in utero, and TBI from defective car seats, and marital dissolution due to clinical anxiety. For me, I don’t need my partner reminding me of the stats. I need him to acknowledge that, while the odds are low, these negative events are possible and we can and should take steps to avoid, recognize, and remediate them.

      He doesn’t need to
      1. get caught up in the swirl
      2. take ownership of my emotional state
      3. become as anxious as I am, or
      4. calm me down

      I’m an adult in charge of my own emotions. I need to create my own chill. But he can contribute on my chill-creation by acknowledging my perspective and validating any truth that he sees in it.

      Also, yay Margot! You’re born now!!!! We’re so happy you’re here on Earth!!!!

    • Kari T. says...

      @ Alex, I am the non-anxious person in my relationship and am constantly looking for ways to help my clinically anxious partner. It is hard for both parties, I hear you.
      @ Anna your comment really spoke to me and was so helpful, I’ve copied it and saved it to refer back to. Thank you so so much for sharing!

  97. Janine says...

    Congrats, Kelsey! You’re doing amazing, sweetie!

    Recently, my friends and I were all talking about the absolute insanity/anxiety/sleep deprivation fueled silliness that new parenthood brings, and one of them told us about how she was checking her daughter’s breathing as her daughter was squirming and wriggling in her sleep. Her first thought was not, “oh, obviously, she’s ok,” but “stop squirming, I can’t feel if you’re breathing!”

    I think new parenthood teaches us what it means to be crazy in love with someone, and the postpartum hormones definitely don’t help anything. Stay strong, you’re doing great!

  98. Heather says...

    My husband once panicked that his feet had swollen suddenly and was very concerned, almost to the point of calling the ambulance, that he was having some sort of thrombosis type scenario. We had gone to the beach earlier that day…turns out it was just sand in his shoes!

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Hahaha, please inform him I too once went to the ER having diagnosed myself with a blood clot, when I was in college. Turns out it was just the night before finals. :)

  99. Angela says...

    Anxiety will make you do some crazy things! I so relate to the breathing checks. Coughing is a huge trigger since my son swallowed some extra fluid at birth and required extra suction. At my lowest point, during their first year I was very close to securing an appointment for suspected whooping cough for a cough my kids had, because I was CONVINCED it had to be whopping cough. Luckily, the kind nurse persuaded me against the diagnostic blood test (!), since they had both been vaccinated and had no known exposure. Surprisingly, I was never questioned on my state of mind, but maybe I should’ve been. We also took my son to the ER because we suspected he had an ant in his ear. He had one at the outer canal after playing outside and I just KNEW there had to be more in there. Turns out the ER doc told me there isn’t much inside an ear that would interest an ant and there really isn’t anywhere for them to go but out. Whew! It so helps to hear more parents talking about this, so thank you. I guess the upside to parenting with anxiety is you can set the bar pretty low- like “Yay the baby survived the day!” Margot is ADORABLE and you can tell she is very loved. Congrats and best wishes to you!

  100. I love this and relate to every word! Hope my story can help someone too:
    After a super traumatic birth I was eventually diagnosed with postpartum OCD — aka, dealing with intrusive thoughts that were next-level. I felt so terrified that I could have these thoughts I didn’t WANT to have (or act on), and afraid to talk about them lest anyone think I was “fantasizing” about these things instead of being horrified by them. Eventually I learned that intrusive thoughts in early motherhood are common and it’s more like where you fall on the spectrum from “had just one” to “have them all day and night and they’re mortifying and I can’t function.” A combination of therapy and meds helped me tremendously; pretty soon I was able to not react to the thoughts and just let them pass through my mind like a cloud in the sky; and soon after, the thoughts just stopped. (Also helpful was switching to formula–I was able to sleep more and that was essential for my healing.) Two other practical things that helped were the book Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts — very normalizing, reassuring, and practical. (Though also potentially triggering when you’re in the thick of it, which the author’s acknowledge). Another was the phrase “ego dystonic” — which more or less means you’re having these awful thoughts but they’re not related to anything you want to do or plan to do. (I’m paraphrasing since I’m not a shrink!) Like your mind is generating the thought but it isn’t coming from your sense of self or desires or plans — sort of like having a song stuck in your head. Knowing there was a name for what I was dealing with was half the battle in diminishing the anxiety the thoughts triggered! Help is out there if anyone is dealing with this! You’re so so not alone. Hugs.

    • Ana D says...

      <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    • Emma says...

      Thank you so much for posting this! I’m not a parent yet, but hope to be in the next two or three years. I struggle with thoughts like that now, and it didn’t even occur to me that’d it get worse with a baby. Hopefully I can get ahead of it!

    • Vanessa says...

      Oh Savala, me too, except that I had two very easy births. It took ten years to go away because I foolishly never got treatment and just toughed it out. I knew that throughout history there must have been millions more of people like me, I just never had a conversation with any. It’s so good to read what you have written.

    • Rebecca says...

      I so appreciate this comment. I have a family member who is dealing with (non-postpartum) OCD/intrusive thoughts, and I’m finding that so few people understand it or understand what it is and can be to the sufferer. I’m going to check out that book, too. Thanks!

    • Nicole says...

      Yes, thank you for this. I have anxiety/intrusive thoughts a lot, and I just had this revelation last week (only took 30+ years!)— my thoughts are not reality. In other words, I have these thoughts but they are just that- thoughts. They are not what is actually, really happening so I don’t need to feel guilt, shame, or fear around them.

    • Anon says...

      Yes this. I had major intrusive thoughts after my son was born and reading “Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts” was a game changer. It helped me so much to know I was not the only one. It was something crazy like a $40 kindle download but worth every penny as I was really suffering and not in a location where I could easily get therapy (which I know would have helped! I love therapy!).

      I am still an anxious parent but it has gotten so much better. I was a MAJOR breathing checker and thought there would never be a time when I would sleep peacefully again. My son is now two and a half and I was horrified and amused to wake up this morning and realize I had accidentally slept with the monitor ON SILENT and only woke up at all because my son was repeatedly “knocking” on his crib “to wake mama up.” OMG.

    • Meghan says...

      Love this comment! I’m two weeks postpartum with my second and dealt with this last time and trying to set myself up for a better postpartum experience this time.

    • C says...

      I too can attest to the life-changing revelations I experienced by being able to separate my generalized anxieties from my OCD.

      I was having crippling worries/intrusive thoughts over motherhood. I’m so, sooooooo thankful I found the right therapist. Now thinking about future motherhood isn’t clouded by terrifying, unwanted/highly unlikely scenarios.

      I felt understood when I stumbled upon The OCD Stories podcast, which has many motherhood relevant episodes. Intrusivethoughts.org is also a helpful launching point for sufferers and their loved ones.

  101. Cece says...

    I, too, have a Margot! She’s four now but I still remember those days (and nights…)

    Congratulations, she’s beautiful!

  102. Sondra says...

    This is timely! Last night, I snuck into my son’s room at 3 am to check if he had a fever- he had gone to bed with a sore throat. I didn’t hear him snoring, so I leaned in real close to see if he was breathing. I startled him awake, he screamed, I screamed, we woke up his brother in the top bunk who screamed. My son is ten. I have been a parent for a decade and I still check if my kid is still breathing….which sounds crazy 😜

    • Kara says...

      hahaha, that’s hilarious! but nope, not crazy. I totally get it. My daughter (who will be 10 in April) has not once coughed w/o immediately saying “I’m okay!” because she’s so used to me slightly flipping a lid with every unusual sound. Major, major post-partum anxiety (where a therapist taught me the term “engaging in catastrophic fantasies” because I kept imagining all of the horrible scenarios). Funnily enough, I heard a grown man in my office cough recently and follow it up with “I’m okay!” – but no one had asked if he was ok since it was just a regular cough. I figure he grew up with a mom like me :)

  103. Jamie says...

    Our son is almost 10 and we recently had a discussion that he is getting too big to come into our bed every night at 3am. I am tired of waking up pinned under the covers, with my husband on one side, my son on the other, and the cat between my legs. He said he would try, and for the past week has made it through the night in his own bed. Of course now every night at 3am I am convinced that he is dead and go into HIS room. Ugh.

  104. k says...

    oooomg I could have written this myself. I still do this with my daughter who will be 2 in a few weeks. You’re in good company, mama.

  105. Sarah says...

    I second this! I would wake up multiple times every night for months until I finally gave in and purchased this sock. It helped my anxiety so much.

  106. Abby says...

    Oh man, while not a particularly anxious person, this really captures the feel of those first few months as a new parent. My fav baby breathing check was zooming in on the video monitor so I could see his little chest rise and fall. Despite my baby being almost two, I have probably done this at least once in the past 3 months.

  107. Cynthia says...

    My four year old twin grandsons and their two year old sister recently slept overnight for the first time. Two of them ended up in bed on me, so I knew they were fine even if I wasn’t. The other child was sleeping in a heap of blankets at the foot of the bed and I actually did get up and check his breathing. The worry eases, but…

  108. Ashley says...

    In my experience, the constant, panic-inducing anxiety slightly subsides as they get older. Meantime, I highly recommend investing in an owlet sleep sock. I’ve found the associated app does a MUCH better job of telling you your child is still alive than your partner does.

  109. Anna says...

    Girl, I did this until our monitor broke last month and my kid is 3.5!

  110. Emily says...

    Kelsey,
    My daughter is named Margot, too! Excellent choice. ;-) Congratulations to you and Harry, and thank you for your words of honesty. You will be amazing! She’s a lucky lady.

  111. Hilary says...

    I so needed the “good enough” reminder today. Spent the weekend sick, barely moved from the couch, and lots of tears about how my babe needed me and I was so sorry I couldn’t play with her more. Welp, I did my best! She had a good weekend! She was fed!

  112. Erin G. says...

    Congratulations, Kelsey! I still check on my seven year old to make sure he’s breathing before I head to bed each night, bits of that new-baby anxiety have stayed with me, but I’m at peace with them now.

    When my seven year old was not quite two, he’d been asleep for maybe an hour when he made a very loud and very weird coughing noise. So loud and weird, his dad and I dropped what we were doing and without saying a word to one another, ran straight into his room. He was sitting up sputtering and coughing and holding his throat. (INSERT TWO MINUTES OF TOTAL INSANITY HERE WHERE NEITHER ADULT DOES ONE SMART THING BUT NEITHER OF US RECALLS WHAT WE DID BESIDES YELL AT EACH OTHER.) I call 911 in the midst of the madness, which results in an ambulance and a fire truck coming roaring down our quiet street and not two, not three, but, yes, FOUR paramedics pile into our living room to examine our COMPLETELY FINE CHILD who’d stopped choking by then. The skeptical paramedic asks me why I called and, red-faced and wrung out, I respond, “He was choking!” and he replies, “Him?” pointing to my perfectly fine child. They all proceeded to politely leave our home, but not before the enthusiastic paramedic asked me for a tour of our house: he’d lived in it as a child (which is why two extra paramedics came along, he heard the address on the radio and decided to check out his old haunt). And that’s how I ended up giving four young paramedics a tour of my house late on a Friday night with my sleepy child in my arms.

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      This is an INCREDIBLE story!

    • Kara says...

      This happened to me except my kid WAS half choking (half because he could still breathe around the object THANK THE UNIVERSE) sooooo you’re not crazy to freak out if you hear scary coughing!! He was able to cough it up, but I took a CPR class the very next weekend. I’ve never been more scared as a parent than in that moment.

    • Robin says...

      This is just such a perfect article and I loved reading all of the comments! I definitely fell down a rabbit hole of anxiety and panic after my first kiddo was born (she had an undiagnosed issue that landed us in the NIC unit for the first 4 days of her life and required close monitoring for the next 9 months). After that time in the hospital the only way I could fall asleep at night (having checked her approximately 900 times) was to say my childhood bedtime prayers on repeat until I finally passed out. “Now I lay me down to sleep” became a mantra that I just repeated endlessly to myself in the hope I could hand off the worrying to the universe/God/something bigger than myself until I could pick it back up when both my daughter and I would wake with the morning light :) So grateful for this writing and the COJ community!!

    • Jill says...

      Omg I’m dyingggg 🤣🤣🤣 Love your story Erin!!

  113. Beth says...

    Brene Brown talks about “dress rehearsing tragedy” and how it robs us of our joy. Once I became aware of it, I realized it stole joy away from my time with my kids. I would think: I love her so much, I would be lost if something ever happened to her OR I would say, “Careful on that branch or you will break your arm and then we can’t go on vacation and we’ll all go insane and and and….” I have learned to turn my “what ifs” around. What if she grows up healthy and confident and wonderful and we stay friends our whole lives? Or what if she doesn’t fall and feels an amazing sense of accomplishment from climbing that tree? Or in your case- what if she sleeps through the night and we all wake up feeling rested and awesome in the morning?

    • Ana D says...

      Beth, this is the reframing comment I needed. Thank you so much for posting.

    • Danielle says...

      I’ve been really working on this too! Another quote that recently helped was “No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.”

    • Laura says...

      Yes! I thought that my need to constantly imagine the worst case scenario was helpful because then I’d be prepared if it happened. And my therapist pointed out that I was just putting myself through trauma unnecessarily over and over.

    • Maggie says...

      Thank you for this! I needed to read/hear/think about this today, and I really appreciate you taking the time to share this comment. What a wonderful community this is!

  114. Kara says...

    I literally checked on my first daughter like this for YEARS. And now, I check my 2.5 year old multiple times in the evening before I go to sleep plus if I wake up in the middle of the night and she hasn’t (sleeping through the night is very new for her and it freaks me out sometimes). I don’t find it odd or a new parent thing at all!

  115. Kelly says...

    But didn’t her daughter die in Terms of Endearment?!?!?!?! So…..

  116. Jean says...

    Literally laughing out loud at this entire piece, so well written and wonderful. 8 months pregnant with my first and feel like it is a super accurate glimpse into my future. People feel uncomfortable when they ask how pregnancy’s going and I tell them I switched over the day I hit 20 weeks from googling “miscarriage rates by day” to “likelihood of having a premature baby by gestational day” but it is so true. Good to know us anxious moms are not alone. xo

    • Cooper says...

      haha, I totally did the same thing, and then once my baby was born, memorized the infant mortality rates and likelihood of SIDs, of course :)

    • Olivia says...

      Did the same thing, theres even a website devoted to risk of miscarriage! (Meant to reassure moms).

      I actually said out loud to other people! That I was so happy to have made it to 35 weeks (normal pregnancy), bc that meant if I went into labor early, my baby would be big enough to stay with me at my small community hospital.

      Glad to know I’m not the only extremely neurotic one :)

    • Hilary says...

      Ohhh I remember those days. I was so anxious my entire pregnancy and one night I was lying in bed and told my husband, “I’ll feel better when she’s here. I won’t worry then.” He rolls over and says, “No, this is being a mom. You will worry about her forever.”

      He was 100% spot on.

    • Jane I. says...

      Ughhh yes! I did the same thing. Me and Dr. Google became best friends during my pregnancy!

  117. Court says...

    When my daughter was five weeks old, her two-year-old brother had strep. I took her to the doctor to get the precautionary strep test out of the way and the doctors told me that someone so little cannot have strep and alas…she was fine. That night, for the first time ever, my little five week old slept eight hours straight. Instead of enjoying this new found freedom of uninterrupted sleep, I awoke with a start on hour 5.5 of her slumber and decided, doctors be damned, something must be wrong. After some contemplation, I got up, got a thermometer and a flashlight and peered over her in the pitch black trying to take her temperature with the flashlight in her face. This obviously ended with her NOT having a fever and me back in bed staring at the ceiling for the next two hours until she decided to wake up and me tired as hell, again.

    I don’t think the anxiety ever goes away really, but it’s just something we learn to live with as the days go by. But, worry not, whether I have a flashlight and thermometer in my hand or not, I can spend ALL night staring at the ceiling worrying about my children. HOW DID THE WOMEN BEFORE US DO THIS?!

  118. emily says...

    Kelsey! Congratulations on an objectively impossibly cute and excellent little tiny sack of sugar. And thank you so much for sharing this with us- I know I speak for many others in this community when I say we’ve been thinking of you and sending good vibes since your pregnancy post! xo

  119. Becky says...

    So beautiful. Mama with their baby. Proud papa with their baby. All of it. Congrats!!!

  120. Blythe says...

    OMG KELSEY SAME! My son is six months old as of yesterday and happily sleeping in his own crib in his own room, yet every time I wake up during the night I always click on the baby monitor and zoom in to make sure he’s breathing. Any more experience mamas out there – does this part ever end?

    • Lily says...

      @Blythe, my daughters are 4 and 1.5 and I still check on them (hands on their bodies!) every night before I go to bed. Partly to make sure they are still breathing, and partly because they are so damn perfect that I could stare at them all night :)

    • Melissa says...

      No, it doesn’t ever end.

    • Erin says...

      My children are 3 1/2 and 6. I occasionally still check to make sure they’re breathing, mostly when they’re sick. I now also check on the dog as well. It doesn’t end:)

    • Leanne says...

      My kids are 4 and 6, and we peek in on them every night before bed to gasp at how ridiculous and sweet they are – they have their own beds but choose to snuggle in the same twin bed with an ever changing pile of extras, from books to stuffed dinos that are much larger than they are. We sneak in, oooh and ahh after we locate them in the piles with their tiny limbs around each other, and then someone will flinch and the mood shifts to “OMG RUN, GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE YOU WAKE THESE MONSTERS UP.” Sometimes, I get bold and just set my cheek against theirs and breathe them in for a few moments.

  121. cr says...

    I LOVE this, Kelsey – so much of it resonates, including describing your husband as “the person I used to stare at in the dark, imagining his death.” Sometimes when I come back from my nightly breathing check of our two year-old, I say, “well, at least it’ll be easier when he’s a teenager since he won’t be so tiny and hard to find in his bed” and then my husband just rolls his eyes and reminds me that I’m not allowed to actually follow the baby to college.

  122. Hilary says...

    This post made me happy for so many reasons – especially the stair walking video. I am a few years out on this stage but remember the breathing checks. I’m happy to report that the anxiety lessened, at least for me.
    Congratulations on your little one, and thank you for your beautiful writing!

  123. Kim says...

    One night with my first newborn, I awoke, glanced into the bassinet in a panic and said “Where’s the baby!?”

    Reader, the baby was asleep on my chest.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha yes! sleep deprivation plays tricks on you.

    • AR says...

      YES! The amount of nights I would wake up cradling my pillow when baby was tucked away in his own bed. So instinctive

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i remember, when i would wake up in the night to pee, i’d stand up with my arms cradling a baby — but the baby was in his crib! i did it all the time. instincts!

    • Michaela says...

      I did this same thing!

    • Kim says...

      I have so many funny stories of the early newborn days that this post is bringing up.

      I am big on checking locks, shutting windows, etc at night. One morning I thought in my half asleep state that the wind chimes sounded very loud, and murmured to my husband that it must be really windy outside…

      Nope, someone hadn’t shut or locked the front door and it had blown wide open in the night! I was crazed about checking the doors after that.

      Another good one- later on when my son was about a year and a half old, I put him in his room to go down for a nap. We had already taken one wall of the crib down because he’s an expert climber. I heard nothing. Meanwhile…

      When I went to check on him, he was wide awake and had knocked over his diaper pail, taken out a poop diaper and was busy using his mini excavators and dump trucks to move the poop around on a board book. The smell alone!

      I love how universal the experience of being a parent is. Thanks for this post today. Margot is really cute and really lucky to have you as a mom.

  124. Lynn says...

    I’m just not this parent at all and ladies, that’s okay too! I have faith that things are fine/normal/not dire. I lay them down in safe environments and chef kiss my lucky ducky stars.

    • Ana D says...

      Love this too. Thank you Lynn.

  125. Catherine says...

    So great! First of all Mazel Tov Kelsey and Harry on your yummy baby. How I wish there had been this loving, supportive community of women 20 years ago when I had my (still adequately alive and amazing) daughter. The internet can make you feel awful, but it can also bring you ladies like these.
    And btw, my new version of checking-for-breathing now that she is away at college is to check her Instagram- oh, I don’t know, 4,000 times per day to check the last time she was on. Active 10 minutes ago? Ergo, alive. All good.

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      That is genius!

    • Whew! says...

      As a single parent with both of my kids going away to college back to back this September and the next, I will thank you a thousand times for this comment in the next few years. : )

  126. B says...

    Congratulations! Margot is gorgeous and you write beautifully. You’re doing it right. This is incredibly relatable, and I also wanted to thank you for mentioning your anxiety and the tools that you use to manage it. Very important stuff. It is always a meaningful act of generosity to share so that people can be reminded that cool, hilarious and super-talented people like yourself cope with anxiety, too.

    • Kelsey Miller says...

      Thank you so much. Agreed, the more we all talk about it honestly, the better.

  127. Anna says...

    Ohhhhh I remember this well. So well. I “slept” with both each of my babies next to me and with a hand on their chests for months. I remember jolting awake afraid they weren’t moving, or had fallen into too deep of a sleep and weren’t breathing.

    My anxiety levels went wayyyy down after they could roll over from tummy to back and then wayyyy down again after they reached the 1-year mark. And yet, that anxiety was replaced with other anxieties. :)

    Being a mom is so consuming! My husband is always like, “I’m not giving you points for the unequal division of worrying labor in this relationship.”

  128. Heather says...

    I love this and as an anxious, over analyzing parent, I can totally relate!

    When we had our second she actually had to stay the the nicu six weeks as she suffered from severe acid reflux which caused her to Brady ( heart dropped and so did oxygen as she’d stop breathing). They were originally going to make us get a hospital grade monitor to let her go home, but thankfully she turned things around before that point. For my anxious mind though we splurged on an owlet and I can’t recommend them enough ( if it’s within your budget).

    She wore it over a year and only had false alarms twice and each time it was only a connection issue ( a different color for the alarm). You can pull up an app and monitor her heart and oxygen levels – it was amazing!

  129. MH says...

    Immediately sharing this with my husband so he knows I’m not the only one! “She’s good” and “Is she breathing?” is a regular exchange (and I too would like to do it more), and we’re almost four months in…

  130. Lisa says...

    This article was so relatable. Congratulations!

    We rushed our daughter to ER one time. Now it’s fine, but at the time we were terrified because she was “breathing weirdly”. She had been in the neonatal unit for a few days post birth with an infection, so we were super cautious. I remember feeling like the worst mother for not noticing sooner (now she’s a perfectly happy and healthy two year old). I was later diagnosed with neonatal anxiety and depression, which I figured out I might have after watching an episode of blackish where tracee’s character develops it. Thanks to an INCREDIBLE GP who made sure I got the help I needed, I got through it.

    So in summary – being paranoid is normal (they’re tiny, but actually a lot more robust than you think). If you feel overly paranoid, or you can’t stop crying months after the baby is born, get help. It was incredibly hard(especially since I don’t like being vulnerable) to reach out, but worth it for myself and my family.

    Oh yeah, and if the blackish writers and tracee Ellis Ross by some chance read CoJ, THANK YOU

  131. Emma says...

    Oh man! The breathing check is too real! I ask my husband 100 questions after he checks on our baby at my bidding! I just can’t help it! And then go check myself. You just have to!

  132. Becky says...

    This made me feel SO MUCH better! And my little girl is now 27. I have been anxious my entire life, but people would be aghast to know that, because I can project an easy going attitude, and confidence in the future. But my husband knows the real me and God bless him, he’s never wavered in his love and support of me, always. But your story? It 100% made me feel I am not alone. Thank you!

  133. The Good Enough Parent theory is the only one to live by.
    And you’re an amazing mom, Kelsey! xoxo

  134. Kathryn says...

    I hear you Kelsey! I still check my four, almost five year old’s breathing every night. I am a little more relaxed with the seven year old, I just look at her to make sure she is alive! I guess it takes seven years to freak out a little less. I also tend to check even if my husband does, because I don’t know if he has checked to make sure they are adequately alive.

    The good news is that you will both excel at different parts of parenting, and your child will learn great things from both of you, although Margot will be alive because of you ;) I have found the most important thing I can do as a parent is to be kind, to myself, my husband, and my children. Kindness can go a long way for everyone.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “to make sure they are adequately alive” = haha

      and i love your words about kindness xoxo

  135. lk says...

    ohhh the steps- those darn steps…. imagine how fast they will be moving in like 2 weeks when it starts to sink in that this is life and the baby is actually staying and that she is not so fragile…… the love and care just shines thru on that video… so sweet

    • Mj says...

      Yes! The video. I seriously teary watching it because it’s just so so sweet and full of love

  136. Taylor says...

    Please–this is so timely!

    Question for all the parents: I need to decide between getting a doula or a therapist for pregnancy anxiety

    Some quick background: I’m 17 weeks with my first baby (much wanted, very excited to have her), I have diagnosed PTSD from a vaginal surgery I had in 2016 (vestibulectomy) that had complications in recovery. Pretty much: crying/shaking I can’t control at every doctor’s visit (have very understanding OB team), anxiety about doing a hospital visit because the hospital is the same place I had my surgery!, constant (normal?) fear that I am completely messing up my little girl with my anxiety/not sleeping, and anger/embarrassment with myself for not having this under control better.

    We can’t afford both a doula and a therapist (in DC I can get about 8 sessions with a therapist for the cost of a doula)–I think both would be extremely beneficial, the doula for managing birth and some checking in before birth, a therapist for mostly managing the current anxiety and the lead up to birth. I have met doulas I really like, but also remind myself that they aren’t licensed therapists and don’t really have degrees or methods to manage my PTSD. I’m so torn. I worry if I get the therapist and do good work in therapy I’ll regret not having a guide and advocate with me during birth, and if I get the doula I’ll put a burdensome amount of emotional need on them that they’re not trained for.

    Would appreciate any and all input!

    • Kim says...

      I’m no expert in anyway, but I would check in with a therapist.

    • Meredith says...

      It sounds like a therapist would be a great support to you now whose benefits would extend through birthing too. Some cities also have doula organizations that are free or reduced fee for those that can’t afford them. I’m so sorry about your trauma, I hope you find some relief soon.

    • Agnes says...

      You might like to think about researching EMDR. It’s quite effective for treating PTSD. Best wishes to you and your little one, and I hope you find the right path for YOU! x

    • Jill says...

      Hi Taylor. You’ve figured out you need a little extra help in some areas. That’s a huge step! You’re going to be a fabulous Mom!
      Do what you can and then don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll figure it all out. Xoxo

    • Alex says...

      Hi Taylor,
      First off! Congratulations on your little girl! I have a 16 m old and she is SO MUCH FUN. This is just my opinion and I truly believe you should trust your instincts, but you asked or input, so here it goes.
      I would recommend therapy. I think therapists help us help ourselves in a way that is more inside out , where the doula is just an external force. Plus you can start thearpy ASAP! A doula really is mostly for guidance during labor and some have a few post-partum visits.
      I was conflicted about getting a doula. I was so scared to give birth and really wanted to attempt a medicine free delivery, but my husband said he’d be there for me and advocate for me in every way. Can your partner help with the advocacy? And learn techniques to help you during labor? In the end, I’m so glad we didn’t go the doula route becuause I ended up getting induced at 40 + 5, had a 24 hour induction, went on an epidural as soon as my OB manually broke my water (becuase the induction didn’t really take and my pain went from NOTHING to OMG THE WORST in like 20 min lol) and then ended up in a C-section becuase my daughter’s head wouldn’t fit through my pelvis! So…. just my 2 cents. Again congrats, and you got this! Xx

    • Anna says...

      Taylor, I literally vowed yesterday not to waste time writing comments on the internet because they never help anyone, and then I read your post and here I am commenting! I had a similar situation to yours after the birth of my first child. Essentially suffered vaginal injury in giving birth and then when I fell pregnant with my second I experienced severe anxiety about the labour to come. I sought therapy and had some CBT. Just eight sessions but they helped me immensely in taking control of my thought processes. I had never suffered anxiety before so was thrown off completely when it started happening. The CBT gave me back control of my own brain. My second labour was beautiful and calm. So, I would recommend CBT but if this is your first pregnancy, I do think a supportive birth doula might be pricelessly helpful in guiding you through. I would be tempted to do some cheap or free online CBT and go with the doula, OR go with the therapist but do some cheap or free online hypnobirthing to support that calm state you need for a peaceful delivery. I think by a whisker I personally would be going with the doula. I think you’ll find that emotional support is a big part of what they’re there for. You certainly won’t be a burden. I wish you so much luck.

    • MM says...

      Both! Keep on keeping on with the therapist and tell your peeps that you want a doula (for the birth, aftercare, sleep training, whatever) instead of random baby stuff! The doula funds would make a great baby shower gift (and it’s what you really want anyway).

    • Hilary says...

      Having had two babies with doulas, along with lots of experience with therapists, I might suggest a therapist in this case. If you can, choose a hospital with a reputation for supporting moms to make their own choices during the birth process (especially if they have midwives on staff). That will help reduce your need for a doula, though I will say they are SUPER helpful (maybe put some money on your registry if you are having a baby shower so you could pay for one? Totally worth it to forgo some extra onesies or baby tech you don’t really need). I had pretty bad pregnancy-related anxiety due to some mental health history and baby health scares. For me, it signaled a higher risk of postpartum depression, which I indeed got – so if you can nip this now, you’ll be much better off postpartum. I wish I had gotten some help but didn’t really know I needed it. You’re already ahead of the curve!

    • Jojo says...

      Hey Taylor – I don’t know enough about doulas to comment on that, but I do want to echo the comments of Agnes and Anna, which is to say: if you go for a therapist, research a bit about the types of therapy they offer. You want to use your funds and time strategically and some methods lend themselves to fewer sessions (like CBT, which could be done in 8 sessions) while others are really meant for long-term work (like psychoanalysis, which is supposed to take years).

      Nothing against long-term work, but I just want to advocate knowing your timeline and your goals and not being afraid to share that with possible therapists.

    • Emily says...

      Hi Taylor
      Congratulations on your pregnancy! It’s a wonderful and also, frankly terrifying time.
      I have a 15 month old baby and none of the issues or trauma you have so apologies – this comes from a place of opinion rather than experience, but from what you’ve said, I would pay for the therapy.
      It’s an investment in yourself and your wellbeing, and who knows, maybe you’ll work through your fears before the birth.
      Birth was the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me and I had hand on heart terrified. Completely terrified of all of it and in particular the lack of control. But I survived and it was empowering and amazing, and of all my friends with children and all the varied birth stories between us, we can all agree that it is incredible and WOMEN’S BODIES ARE AMAZING. And YOU will be amazing. You don’t necessarily need a doula to advocate for you, could you get some hypnobirthing books from the library and listen to some positive birth podcasts? Your partner might be receptive to going over the books with you and be the best, most in-tune advocate ever?
      I’m sorry this is just ramblings but I wish you luck and a happy healthy pregnancy and a future full of love whatever you choose.
      Remember to take care of yourself, being pregnant is tough xoxoxox

    • Meghan says...

      I had a doula for my first birth, and she was really helpful, but I think sometimes that expecting moms can put too great an emphasis on the birth experience vs. everything that comes before and after it. From the sounds of it, you could really benefit from a professional helping you manage anxiety and building internal resources that you can use whenever you’re spiraling. (Also, make sure you’re not magnesium deficient — that can make anxiety worse!) EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) can be incredibly helpful, particularly for discrete trauma like a surgery, but you need someone who’s really intuitive and compassionate and can help you manage the stress that comes from unearthing trauma. Maybe you can ask a friend to support you as a doula? I do think you need support for both the birth and the anxiety! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from having kids is to ask for help, to admit I need help. I used to think that being self-sufficient made me more lovable and it turns out the opposite is true. I had a lot of medical trauma before babies and I found the birth process to be healing. I do hope the same will be true for you too!

    • Angela says...

      PTSD here too. I had a doula and sought out therapy after the birth of my children, but see where I could have benefited from it during my pregnancy. I second what was previously stated about looking into a doula in training or another way to get the service for a lower cost. I know sometimes doulas need to get their hours in before getting certified so hopefully that is an option for you. You deserve all the support you need during this roller coaster ride of pregnancy and motherhood and I hope you get it!

    • Kate says...

      So many wonderful, helpful comments here! I follow a British YouTuber who had severe anxiety regarding pregnancy and childbirth, and she found The Positive Birth Company and talked about her experience with them, which was incredibly positive Perhaps this could be an extra help?

      https://thepositivebirthcompany.co.uk/

    • Jo says...

      I’ve had two very difficult births that very much went opposite of how I would have wanted them to. I had an incredible midwife (in Canada – midwives are highly trained and overseen by a regulatory body) but she could only provide so much support. That is to say, I think a doula would be a nice to have for a “normal” birth experience, but if things to awry, being emotionally equipped to handle it would be far more helpful. I’d go the therapy route – you’ll nip this issue before it gets more intense and you’ll learn tools that you can use in other anxiety-inducing situations.

    • Taylor says...

      Thanks all for your wonderful comments!! My husband is super supportive, we’re both the first of our friends to have kiddos or get married and so we’re kinda on our own with figuring all the baby stuff out. My mom and I are very close, and she’s coming out to stay with us, but she was my caretaker after my surgery and I think that experience was traumatic for her (I worry about us feeding our anxiety off of each other.) I love the idea of registering for a doula fund, I think many of my friends who know me and know that this is a debate I’ve been having for a while but feel kinda unable to offer advice with gladly contribute to that instead of being like “umm…do you really want me to get you some butt paste off your registry? :)” Gonna start therapist hunting tonight. Thanks so much to everyone who offered feedback! I really love the Cup of Jo readers and I’m so grateful for this space.

    • Heather says...

      First of all, congratulations! It sounds like you have a lot of the same fears and anxieties that I had. I chose to have a doula, and in retrospect, would have opted for a therapist who specializes in pre and post-natal care. While I really thought a doula would be a huge support to me during birth, I ended up leaning more on my partner than her. I did have another post-partum doula who helped me, but if you have family/good friends nearby who will help you with the baby and just be around you when you’re feeling low, then I would go that route. PTSD requires specialized medical attention, and so a therapist would help the most with that.

    • Anya says...

      Hi Taylor – your anxiety and PTSD sounds really hard. I can understand a bit.. often when I’m at the doctors when I’m sick (with a cold/cough, even), I start crying! I think I just hate it that my body isn’t doing what I want it to do.
      I’m 15 weeks pregnant with my first child and see a therapist regularly. I am also planning on having a doula (a good friend) also attend our baby’s birth. Fortunately I haven’t had any crying episodes at my OBGYN (yet), but maybe it’s because I have a healthy pregnancy so far and things are going smoothly. My husband has also come with me to all my prenatal appointments for support, which helps me feel less alone.
      My sister-in-law and brother just had a baby last month and spoke very highly of hypnobirthing and the Positive Birth Company. It’s not as crazy as it first sounded to me… when they first described it! It helps you see birth as a positive event and teaches you skills on how to use breathing to manage the pain. There are some online classes you can take as well as books and youtube videos that talk about how to prepare for the birth. Perhaps these tools can help you and your partner (or someone who will attend the birth with you) get ready. I’d probably recommend the therapist over the doula because of the mental care before and after your birth, and can help you with your PTSD. My sister-in-law chose to look into the Positive Birth Company after having a traumatic birth and post-partum with her first child. Have you looked into a birthing center and a midwife? That may be something outside of a hospital setting that can bring you some calm/less triggering for your PTSD?
      I noticed someone else talked about using EMDR therapy for PTSD – I have a friend who had PTSD and the EMDR therapy worked well for her – it was really hard when she was going through it, but she’s been able to be a lot healthier since then and even has her own baby girl now!
      Sending lots of hugs to you during this hard time. You’re going to be a great mom! Don’t forget to care for yourself too in all of this.. I’ve having to learn that by taking more naps, resting, saying no to some activities so I can stay healthy for my baby during my pregnancy (I’ve already had 2 colds this season!).

    • Mj says...

      I’m a former doula and current therapist specializing in pregnancy and postpartum. I’d recommend a therapist. Also before doulas can receive their accreditation they need to do three births usually at no charge. Maybe you could have both 🤍

    • Kara says...

      I would echo others and say therapy could be a great option. I was in a very similar situation, with PTSD from a surgery that left me crying/shaking at every subsequent OB visit. I met regularly with my therapist throughout my pregnancy to work through my anxiety and shame/fear associated with all of that and it was tremendously helpful. I think what’s great about therapy is they can help equip you with tools/help you practice beforehand to help you feel more empowered & in control once you’re in labor. I also found the books “Nurture” by Erica Chidi Cohen (which I discovered here on CoJ) & “Strong as a Mother” by Kate Rope super helpful! Sending you lots of love. <3

  137. Resi says...

    Congratulation Kelsey and Harry! What a lovely baby you have there, hope you get to enjoy many more moments of the total perfect imperfection that life is! Lots of love to you three

  138. … I nod. “She’s breathing.” Harry scrolls through his phone. “Imagine.” …

    OMG, that exchange was so me and my husband in the newborn days with our son. I also would ask him to check if our son was breathing and he wasn’t nearly as thorough as I felt he should be. Hahahaha. Those early newborn days are mindf*ck thanks to those hormones coursing through your blood stream. I had no idea how terrifying it would be to walk up and down stairs with a baby! Then I heard a podcast, I think on “The Mom Hour” and they had a guest that explained that those thoughts are completely normal and it’s your natural defense to fiercely protecting your child. Obviously those thoughts can be unhealthy if they spiral out of control. But it was comforting to know I wasn’t crazy to be having them!

    Margot is so adorable and that video of Harry walking down the stairs with her painfully slow is the cutest, sweetest video.

  139. Kelly says...

    I love this essay! I can totally relate. And since we can’t just erase our anxiety, but instead we can just manage it, we might as well laugh when we can!

    One day, my husband was changing our newborn son’s diaper, and he nervously called to me. His voice was shaky and slow. I ran across the house. “It’s…what’s coming out…it’s white.” He showed me our son’s open diaper, which had a smear of a white substance in it. My husband’s face was contorted in worry. I burst out laughing. It was diaper cream, and I had just applied it for the first time that day. “Oh God! Ok! I thought something was very wrong!” he said.

    • cg says...

      This reminds me of the time we picked up our little one from day care and changed her diaper, looked at it and was shocked to see her poop look so gritty. So I called the pediatrician and spoke with a head nurse. Told her what we saw and was concerned. She asked me what my baby had eaten, i said that she gets a good home cooked meal from the day care b/c it’s run by a grandma/grandpa type lady. She paused a moment, then asked if they had a sand table/sand pit, which they did. It was sand…mixed in.
      Hahahahaha!!

  140. Sarah says...

    Oh man, I remember that new mom anxiety. Mine was more about being judged by strangers. It went away, but those were some hard months.

  141. Becka says...

    Oh Kelsey I love this so much. We have a one-year-old daughter and it took me so long to break my habit of obsessive nighttime breathing checks. I relate so much to everything you said and couldn’t love your heartfelt and funny writing more (“wedgie” is a word that has sadly been missing from my life for far too long).

  142. Rachel says...

    Congratulations Kelsey! What a beautiful little gift.

  143. Ange says...

    It reminds me of the time I took my 4 year old daughter to Accident and Emergency, concerned that the strange looking bruise on her shoulder could be meningitis (my brother in law had just had it).

    We stayed for 5 hours, they ran blood tests.

    Then I realised, and my daughter confirmed it, she’d given herself a love bite.

  144. Martha L. says...

    Congratulations Kelsey and Harry! She’s beautiful! I remember those early days of so much worry and being astounded that we had kept our newborn sons alive to see another day. It’s not easy, but a good sense of humor about it helps immensely.

  145. Jaime says...

    A few weeks ago I was processing some anxieties I was having about parenting my 5 year old daughter, i.e. potentially messing her up for the rest of her life. My therapist shared with me a statistic that gave me an immediate wave of relief and comfort: 30%.

    She said that is the percentage of attunement that children need from their parents to create healthy, loving attachments. Not 100%, or even 70%. Just 30%. It was a relief that perfection is not required. I’m doing great and so is every other parent who is doing their best. <3

  146. Ange says...

    I’m belly laughing…. so much so, my 12 year old is asking what I’m laughing at. Some things never change. Fabulous article.

  147. Thank you for your honesty and compassion for yourself and all new parents! I had post-partum depression with my babies and truth-telling (the lovely and the hard) from other parents helped me SO much.

  148. Candace says...

    Oh dear – that video had me cry-laughing because Exactly That and then I slipped into some legit deep breaths because ohmyword were my first few months postpartum ever riddled with crushing anxiety and dark thoughts that were difficult to escape. The sleep deprivation and worry are a dangerously potent combination. I managed to make my way through it thanks to my tribe of strong women who had been through it before me and weren’t going to let me do it alone. Thanks for sharing. x

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, candace, i felt the same! and that video is TOO FUNNY.

  149. Amanda says...

    As a very anxious person planning to have kids in the not-to-distant future, thank you for this.

    I can’t wait for “is the baby breathing?” to become the new “did we lock the door?”

  150. cg says...

    Oh those first parenting days!I still recall, with lots of love and fondness that one night when my husband called out to me to check our daughter’s very delicious chubby thighs. He was changing her into her little sleeper and noticed her thighs had an unusual blue tone to them. With serious concern in his voice he asked if she was losing circulation in her legs, she had been sitting on his shoulders a lot that day when we went out.

    I looked at them and they were sort of blue, it made me worried, I picked her up, giggling and squirming. I looked at her legs more closely as he walked out the room to get the phone. I touched her legs and she didn’t scream or cry, he walked in with the phone. I squeezed her legs again while he started dialing the pediatric urgent care center.

    Then it hit me! I quickly turned and grabbed a wipe and swiped her leg. Blue!
    It was residue from her new denim overalls!! He quickly hung up the phone before anyone answered.

    First we were shakily relieved. Our daughter was going to live after all! Then we had the most embarrassing laugh at it all. That was more than 1thirteen or fourteen years ago, and it still makes me laugh and get teary eyed.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha that is hilarious/so real. we took toby to the emergency room twice when he was a newborn — both times he was 1000000% fine.

    • Jennifer says...

      CG, you should watch American Housewife- there’s an episode where her husband ends up in the ER running multiple tests and it turns out it’s blue jean dye! It’s pretty hysterical. How great that you figured it out right away!