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Fear of Motherhood
Rebbetzin Feige

Fear of Motherhood

I am almost paralyzed by the fear of having a baby.

by

Question:

Dear Rebbetzin Feige,

I have been married for the last eight months with no luck in getting pregnant. My husband and I have full faith (at least we are definitely trying) that God can and will give us a child whenever He decides the time is right. But my problem goes deeper than just faith. I don’t know if I want to have children at all.

I grew up with the idea of having a large family (although I grew up with only one sister). I figured that my unease about having children was just part of the great unknown. But now I am not so sure.

As the months have gone by and there is greater possibility of becoming pregnant (as we are now following progress throughout the month much closer), I feel my unease about becoming a mother grow exponentially. I feel stifled and like a total hypocrite. Here I am asking God to help us have a child, when I am not even sure myself if I want to or if I am able to take care of a child.

Whenever we speak of having children, my husband’s eyes light up and mine darken. He dreams of holding a little bundle of joy and I imagine a harried me rushing to pick up a screaming baby in the middle of the night. I am almost paralyzed by the fear of having that much responsibility on my shoulders. I am already working myself to the bone and just can’t imagine taking more on my plate.

I just don’t know where to turn and as I have read many of your previous articles, I figured I would reach out for some answers. I hope you can help me. I am eagerly awaiting your response. – Fear of the Unknown

Answer:

My Dear Reader,

The first issue I would like to address is what might be seen as your excessive concern about getting pregnant when you are married for a mere eight months. Most medical and religious authorities that I have dealt with advise women not to seek intervention of any kind before the conclusion of two years of marriage. This approach is consistent with common sense, as adjustment to the marital state takes times in all aspects; physical, emotional and psychological. The desire of young people to accelerate the process is often a product of peer pressure or parents whose unarticulated questions are written all over their faces.

Use the time before having a child to relax, deepen your personal relationship, and integrate the demands and joys of married life.

Nonetheless, it behooves a young couple to use the time before having a child to relax, deepen their personal relationship, and integrate the demands and joys of this initial stage of married life. In addition, my dear reader, working full time (“to the bone”) and creating a home for your husband (meals, housekeeping, etc) can be in and of itself stressful and consuming. For whatever it’s worth, be aware as well, that your apprehension of adding a baby to this overwhelming situation is one that is not uncommon. Many women like you are anxious and plagued by “fear of the unknown”. Their minds conjure up the worst case scenario, where they envision themselves undone and unable to cope.

Related Article: To Baby or Not To Baby

Scary Transitions

In large measure, this is due to the fact that transitions can be frightening. Moving from one passage to another, letting go of the familiar landscape can be terrifying if one allows these troubling thoughts to gain momentum. Alas, this negative thinking can distort our perspective and inhibit our appreciation of the positive, of the great and precious gift that children are and what they bring to our lives. It is to your credit that you are choosing to articulate your feelings and seek guidance for your fear of the unknown.

In tracking women who have had similar fears, consider the following insights and perhaps you will find one or more that resonate with you.

Rachel shared that in retrospect; the unknown factor prior to her having a baby, she realized, was due to the fact that the unborn registered in her mind as an objective “thing” that threatened her already shaky equilibrium. After its birth, however, the “thing” morphed into a baby, and more importantly her baby. Her maternal instincts thankfully kicked in and it became “a precious bundle of joy” for both her husband and herself. She added, that as a matter of fact, looking at the early pictures of her baby, she cannot even to imagine how she deluded herself at the time to thinking that this “was the most beautiful creature that God ever created”. But such is the blinding force of the bond between a mother and her flesh and blood.

Sarah related that her personal meltdown happened before her decision to get married. Her analytical mind brought to the fore of her thinking all of the negatives of the relationship. David worked long hours, was rarely home, traveled too much, had responsibilities to his aging mother, was a neat-freak, etc. The list seemed endless and the fears gnawed at her to the point that she convinced herself to break off her engagement. The next time she met with David, however, she was able to momentarily let go of her fears and her intuitive mind took over. She was able to see beyond her fears, to a man who was kind, gentle and committed to making her happy. Her perspective shifted to a more balanced picture. Unquestionably, she understood that there would be challenges and adjustments, but in this state of mind she felt that together they could succeed.

Sharon spoke of her insecure feelings that would overcome her at the thought of having and caring for a baby. What made things worse was that her peers appeared to sail through the experience in a free, easy, happy and totally natural manner. Why, she agonized, was it so effortless for them and yet so complicated for herself? On one occasion, one of those same women confessed to Sharon that she could not fathom how Sharon successfully juggled full time work, marriage, and the running of a household. Sharon was astounded. She had never given herself credit, or given that which she did daily with such great ease, a second thought. She realized at that moment that everyone has areas in their life which flow smoothly and painlessly, and others that are more challenging and require additional expenditure of effort. It became clear to her that despite outer appearances to the contrary, nobody excels in all areas of life. The good news, as a postscript, was that not only did she survive her anxiety but proceeded to thrive as a loving mother as well.

You’re Not Alone

The most critical factor in all of this, my dear reader, is that you need to feel supported and not alone. Toward this end, I suggest that you share your feelings with your husband. Hopefully, he will reassure you that you are in this together. He will commit to helping with the baby (his baby) and do whatever is necessary to alleviate your burden. If family members live nearby and are available to assist, hopefully they will pitch in and help. If additional household help is affordable, that too should be put in to place.

It is also important that you avail yourself of an objective party with whom you can share your feelings. This third party would be available to you in the future, after the baby, during your adjustment period, should you need it. Knowing that you have the support of your husband and this third party will surely dissipate much of your anxiety.

For now, centering yourself to a place of calm and emotional health is most critical. In part, this may be achieved by a gratitude check; by listing the many ways God has shown you His love, the blessings with which he has endowed you, i.e. good health, caring husband, work opportunities, etc. This should help you see and acknowledge that God has been there for you, and thus recognize that there is good reason to believe that such will continue to be the case.

My dear reader, there is a mystery to the “unknown”. While it can be frightening, it is also most exciting. If, at the outset, any one of us who have been “around the block” a few times would have had access to a crystal ball predicting the future, undoubtedly we would have shied away from what was awaiting us down the line. We might have chosen to avoid the inevitable pain, but at the same time we would have forfeited the unparalleled adventure that life is, even given its many trials and tribulations. As someone once said, “Life doesn’t have to be easy to be meaningful.” Thinking too much, a product of the analytical mind doesn’t serve us well. It fosters the mistaken notion that we can control our destiny. Contrarily, the more reliable, intuitive mind encourages us to relinquish the illusion of control and place our faith and our lives in the hands of the Master of the universe.

Challenges force us to dig deeply into ourselves and win victories we never thought possible.

Moreover, and remarkably, faith in the Almighty extends to faith in ourselves, in the great resources that God has invested within each of us. We all possess untapped God-given resources that we can draw upon if we choose to do so. This means there is strength within you which you have as yet to garner. Challenges force us to dig deeply into ourselves and win victories we never thought possible.

A story is told of an atheist that fell off a cliff. Halfway down, he was able to grab onto a branch and interrupt his fall. He found himself suspended between the sky and the jagged rocks below. In desperation, he looked heavenwards and called out “Is there anyone up there?” A Divine voice was heard saying, “Let go of the branch.” The atheist responded by screaming “Is there anyone else up there?”

In conclusion, dear reader, in your current state of mind, letting go might feel like heading for catastrophe; but be assured, that placing your faith in both God and in your innate God-given abilities, will actually be most liberating. I wish you the best of everything.

Published: March 3, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 14

(12) Molly, August 26, 2013 1:33 AM

A baby is not a pet....

I would recommend that you not "add a baby" to an already stressful, busy life. If you are excited to begin a new stage of life, where your priority will be motherhood, then I think that is a good time to start trying! If you assume someone else will be raising your child most of the time, while you devote the evening hours to him or her, you will become very frustrated. A child needs to be raised by people he can bond with, and you are fighting against the current to try and give him everything he needs from you after you've exhausted yourself at work. Please don't conceive a child that neither you nor your husband plan to raise. When that happens, everyone tends to suffer. On the other hand, motherhood is an extremely rewarding profession. I have five kids now, and I'd have a dozen if Hashem blessed me with them. Just don't underestimate how much of your focus it will take.

(11) SusanE, March 25, 2012 2:13 PM

Something Doesn't Make Sense.

If your husband insists on conceiving a child when he knows how severely you are against it, there is a lot to consider before a child is born. Unless you have lied to him and told him you want a child. Then that is a deal breaker and you have some explaining to do to him. Why on earth would you try to conceive when you don't want a baby? Every baby deserves to be wanted.

(10) Sara, March 5, 2012 4:56 PM

I felt EXACTLY the same way!

when i was first married, my husband was ready to start having kids ASAP. I was not and our rabbi (thankfully!) agreed with me. After one year of marriage my excuses for pushing off pregancy were running low (other than my anxiety about motherhood) and we began trying and thank Gd i was blessed with a child pretty much right away. I was still quite anxious and i did not have an easy pregnancy either, which did not help my anxiety. I would say, though, that what helped me the most was talking to my husband about it (constantly!) and his constant reassurance that he would help me with everything. He acutally proved himself during pregancy---he was doing plenty of the cooking and cleaning while i laid on the couch! and another really important thing for me was previsiting all imaginable scenarios after birth. My husband and I came up with a schedule for who is "on call" at night and in the mornings (when we are both home). Before birth I worked full time and I returned to work part time (3 days a week) and i lOVE IT. i am always on vacation-either from work or from baby. taking care of baby is usually the more difficult of the two. Books also helped very much, probably the most useful book to prepare for immediately after birth was the "baby whisperer" series

(9) Malka, March 5, 2012 11:15 AM

don't do it

My reaction is that if you don't want a baby you shouldn't have one, for your own sake and the child's. I suspect that your urgency to have a child is caused by the expectations of others, not your own wishes. You may just nor be ready, and your feelings will change, but if not, remember that there are plenty of unhappy people about who were not really welcome as children. You need the strength to discover your own individual mission in life - we're not standardized units.

Julia, March 5, 2012 6:37 PM

fear of motherhood

Don't have a baby until YOU are confident of the decision. The consequences are huge. My mother walked out on my sister and me when I was 7. I grew up with a fear of motherhood. I think that is one reason I never found my bashert; all the men I dated wanted kids ( or said they did). I never understood women who deliberately get pregnant without marriage. For me, it's too late to change my mind, and I'm OK with it. (although I'd still like to find a husband). You & your hubby should be travelling around the world and getting ahead in your jobs . You can revisit this issue in 1 or 2 years.

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