Did you know that over 90% of moms have scary, intrusive thoughts about their babies? They might be images of your baby being hurt, thoughts of you or someone else harming your baby, or something unimaginable happening. When I was a new mom, every night when I was putting my baby to bed I would have the thought that she would die during the night. Every night. I started to dread bedtime because of that thought, and I felt there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t stop it from coming to me.
There is nothing wrong with you if you have scary thoughts in new motherhood. Thoughts happen. They pop into your head completely uninvited, unwelcome, and very often unrealistic and unlikely. You are not to blame for your brain’s musings. You also can’t control them by feeling guilty about them.
What you can control is what you do next. After you have a scary thought pop into your head, you can dwell on it, spiral about it, feel terrible and like there’s something wrong with you because of it. Or you can acknowledge it, and then remind yourself of the reality of the situation: It was just a thought. It doesn’t mean it is going to happen. These thoughts are just your overactive Mom brain trying to protect your new baby the best it knows how, by thinking. If you can practice saying these things to yourself after you have one of those scary thoughts, you can start to grow some self-compassion in place of self-judgment. Each time they pop up, if you greet them with acceptance and understanding, you’ll start to see that your thoughts are not you. They’re just your protective Mom instincts. Thank them for being concerned about your baby’s safety, and let them know you and your baby are okay.
Then you might need to do something else to allow yourself to move on from the thoughts. You might need to give yourself some extra self-care to soothe the impact that those scary thoughts have on you. You might need to check-in with someone: your partner, a supportive friend, or a therapist. Talking about those scary thoughts takes away their power. You also might need to refocus yourself on your strengths, give yourself affirmations, or do a grounding or mindfulness practice to put yourself back in the present moment where you and your baby are okay and you’re doing your best.
*Check out the book Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman – it’s wonderful and the foundation for the information in this post.