AFRAID MY BABY WILL GROW UP LIKE ME
by Mary Follin and Kristi Crosson
THE PROBLEM: My childhood was the kind you want to forget. (Abuse, neglect, you name it.) I’ve been able to escape it, and by some miracle, I married a nice guy who treats me completely differently. Without going into detail, I still suffer residual fears, depression, and anxiety about what happened to me. It’s hard to describe, but it feels like my trauma is part of who I am. A few months ago, we had a beautiful baby daughter, and I cried when I saw how pure she was. I am terrified I will ruin her, and she will become just like me. I almost feel like she was born under an unlucky star to have me as a mother! I am desperate to not feel like this for my daughter’s sake. Please help.
MARY SAYS: You may find this hard to believe, but many new mothers feel the way you do, even if they’ve never been through the kind of abuse you’ve experienced. You are embarking on a journey you’ve never taken before, and the roadmap isn’t entirely clear. GPS? Not a chance. And this isn’t just any old journey—it’s a critical one. Raising a child is scary, full of unknowns, and backed by a sure-fire guarantee you’ll make mistakes.
Who wouldn’t have at least a little self-doubt?
In your case, you’ve attached your feelings of inadequacy to the neglect you experienced as a child. I can assure you, the moms you met in your birthing class (and the ones you’re going to meet in playgroups, school activities, and in your neighborhood) all have their own version of why they feel insecure about how they’re doing as parents.
But that doesn’t make how you feel any less real, or what happened to you any less painful.
So, let’s start with what we already know about you. Even though it’s common for abused children to grow into adults who seek the same, you’ve broken that mold by choosing a husband who respects you. And despite being raised by people who were unable to offer you a loving home, you are determined to figure out how to provide one for your daughter.
But what I love most is how you were moved to tears by your daughter’s “purity.” You wouldn’t be able to see that purity in your daughter if you didn’t somehow recognize it in yourself. It’s almost impossible for we humans to project an emotion we don’t somehow experience inside. What your eyes are seeing is coming straight from your heart. It’s that sweetness inside of you that will be your guide—if you let it.
Do continue to address your feelings of unworthiness (if possible, with the help of a therapist), but give yourself more time to get used to being a mom. As your relationship with your daughter develops, your confidence will grow. Along with the mistakes you make, you will find joy, learning, and a special intimacy only the two of you will share. You are exactly the right person to be your daughter’s mother, and she is very, very lucky to belong to you.
KRISTI SAYS: First of all, the trauma you experienced was not your fault. It wounded you and caused you so much pain and heartache. That type of trauma takes a lot of time and professional help to heal from. Hopefully, raising your daughter in a healthy home will aid you in the healing process.
What if instead of fearing she becomes like you in a bad way, you look at all the positive ways she could be like you?
Your trauma led you to desire a different life for yourself and your children. You chose a good man who treats you and your daughter well, and that is truly something to celebrate! Many women do the opposite and end up in situations like the ones they grew up in. That trauma is repeated in their children’s lives and the cycle continues. From the sound of it, that is not the case here.
You have developed strength and resilience through the years, so if your daughter is like you, she will be strong, determined, and level-headed. She will make great choices in life no matter what happens to her. She will love others with a fierce, passionate love that brings her to tears, just like you experienced when you first saw her.
We moms experience so many fears. Before I had my first son, I was terrified he would walk in front of a car. I would feel so much panic when he got old enough to walk, especially if we were near cars. When he ran ahead in a parking lot one day, I yelled and raced toward him, in a panic because I was so gripped with fear. My heart was racing and my imagination was running through all the things that could’ve happened if he had been hit.
I find that when my fears get ahead of me, I need to focus on the things that are true and good in that moment. I also need to make sure the words I speak about my children’s lives are positive and don’t leave me feeling more scared.
Flip the script your fears are telling you. Then, find something new to declare over your daughter’s life and yours. A declaration is something you want to see in the future. If she is going to be like you, pick the best parts you want her to be. Our words have power. When we say and think certain things enough, we start to believe them and act accordingly.
Declare something like this:
My daughter is a wonderful gift. I am so thankful for her. Her dad and I are not like my parents. She is in a healthy environment where she will learn how to love others and handle conflict in a healthy way. She will be like me. She will choose to be around people that lift her up and don’t tear her down. She will be kind, compassionate, loving, and good. No bad thing will harm her the way I was harmed.
Use this declaration when your fears attack you. As for your own emotional state, post-partum is a challenging time and can increase depression and anxiety. It’s okay to seek out counseling for those issues. There is hope for recovery from trauma with the right approach. Your daughter is truly blessed to have you as her mom. Don’t let your fears lead you to believe anything else.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising small children (Kristi). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
If you have a question for Mary and Kristi, we’d love to hear from you! email@example.com
Read more ASK MOM advice.
Kristi Crosson is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom of three children, and author of Healthy Mom Revolution, a blog that offers insights on healthy parenting.