Motherhood and Anxiety: Walking with Christ Day by Day

Motherhood and Anxiety: Walking with Christ Day by Day July 13, 2012

I was talking with Kellie yesterday about a family’s near-miss with drowning. It involved a 2.5-year-old at a lake and thanks to the heroism of an 11-year-old girl, the baby is still with us. Praise God. But immediately my mama mind goes to forbidden, sinful places–what about the times where things don’t work out?  What about the near-misses and the misses to come in my future?  What about my family?  My brain takes over and my body shuts down while I manage different scenarios and imagine scenes playing out, both good and bad.  The fear can be crippling.

I’m a worry wart, if you haven’t already surmised.  I am blessed with worrying genes– it runs in the family.  We are balls of nerves, depending on the circumstance, and champions of “what-if” scenarios.  Now as a mom-of-five with surging postpartum hormones, I’m finding the fear rises to the point of keeping us inside, away from pools, behind locked and alarm-sealed doors, to prevent whatever scenario possible from playing out.  I am like a mama bear with my cubs, hackles rising as I attempt to protect them from any harm the world can cause them.  This is definitely not the answer, but for now, it’s how we’re managing.

This is a season for our family.  We don’t get out much and I’m at peace with that.  We meander over to our local YMCA for kids’ activities, but I park along the sidewalk so we don’t have to navigate parking lots.  We manage our needs with wise choices and lots of pre-planning.  We make sure to have extra supervisors and hands when the outing is beyond my ability to manage.  While I have so many young ones, these measures help my brain handle all of the responsibility.

But where it becomes sinful is when I allow the worries to acquiesce to fear.  These are times when I have to reach for God’s Word.  I have to cling to His promises…

“…I will never leave you and I will never abandon you… The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

“So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.”  Matthew 6:34

My second son, T, has also been “blessed” with this tendency to worry.  He is aware of dangers most happy-go-lucky five-year-olds never notice.  Last night he approached me, asking, “Mom, why does God allow the evil things in this world?”  Oh, my precious son.  We talked a little about Adam and Eve and sin entering the world and how God is there for us through the dark times.  During our conversation, my mind fixed on a few verses to offer him solace.  The Hebrews and Matthew 6 passages flew out of my mouth along with this one from Proverbs 3:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

How wonderful that I can offer my son such hope in the Lord.  We are so lucky to have a Savior.

God will provide.  He will protect.  And He will help me endure all there is in my future.  Thanks be to Him.

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  • Thank you, Bethany, this is a beautiful reflection and I love these verses.

  • Juris Mater

    Bethany, with all the close-to-home losses of children in this past year, I am really struggling with the ability to trust my environment again. It’s an awful feeling to think it’s solely up to me to protect my children against nature, God, whatever or whoever taking them away. But I admit that I have felt that way since the winter, and it has led to almost-constant panic and some despair. I’m glad you brought up this topic. The panic/danger feeling is frequently intensified by postpartum hormones, I’m told, but I think it’s something moms must always struggle against and pray for the grace to overcome.

  • I can empathize with these sentiments. When I am struggling to resist Satan’s temptations to motherly fear, I will take the opportunity to pray for you too, B-mama. Thanks for sharing the encouragement from God’s Word.

  • Amy B

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I inherited a worrying gene as well, so it is so helpful to hear how other mothers productively handle the stress of being a mom. Home is a good place to be, like your own little Nazareth for now. One thing that brings me great peace is praying the guardian angel prayer with my kids each morning. I also read this prayer in Faith and Family a while back and try to remember to pray it often:

  • Kellie “Red”

    So sorry to have caused you anxiety! I struggle with it as well, so I have should have known better than to share such a frightening story with postpartum mother!!!!!!

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    No worries, Kel. If it wasn’t this story, it would surely have been one on the news, through another friend, or elsewhere!! That’s the curse and blessing–I can’t escape this stuff yet it’s probably good for me to tackle this struggle head-on! xo

  • Saoirse

    I too struggle with the worrying gene and it runs strong. It is so hard to see misfortune in another family without worrying about your own. I don’t think it is new to our generation of mothers – although I often think the constant flow of info causes more worry.

    When I replaced my Mom’s Rosary when I visited Rome – I joked she wore it out with worry for my siblings and I. She responded that my time would come. Now – I find myself wondering if I will wear out my phone with my own iRosary app. I picked up my Mom’s habit of a decade or two when stressed and worried – but am too scattered to carry physical beads. Never did I think I would find myself putting my worries for my children to prayer in the same way as my Mom and Granny before her. Of course – I had prayed the Rosary before motherhood – just not as often.

  • Kathleen

    I have super active rambunctious children. Rambunctious in a “may I could get to heaven faster if I climbed 50 feet up this tree” kind of way. I have completely given them over to the guardian angels. Once, while I held our infant and had another clinging to my leg, my then two year old son broke free from my hand and ran into the street as a massive truck came speeding down the road. It could only have been a miracle that the truck both saw my son and stopped in time. I cried from fear and relief. His angel knew it wasn’t his time. I share your worry, but encourage you to keep up that constant dialogue with your kids angels. You are not alone with them, you have FIVE heavenly chaperones! Obviously, I don’t give my kids matches and say, God keep them safe, but this concept of the angels assisting me, definitely gives me peace!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Kathy

    Thanks for sharing your worries. It is always comforting to read that others have the same challenges – makes feel not so alone.

    I like all of the Bible passages you mentioned but especially Proverbs 3:5. Whenever it crosses my day (especially unexpectedly like in reading your post, I know that God is reminding me where to place my trust. Thanks for being His messenger.

    Hope that each day gets a little easier.

  • I have been working lately on mortifying my imagination. My husband gave me such a clear instruction recently, when I told him it made me sad to think about an uncontrollable, unknown future scenario, he just said “you have to not think about that.” This is not putting your head in the sand, but doing your spirit, your family, your mental health a favor of not dwelling on upsetting things for no reason.
    I also agree with the need to enlist help for situations that are too much — at this stage, I could never take my brood to the beach by myself, even though I would love to, I know that even if we all got out of it intact my nerves would be totally frayed at the end of the day!

  • Another thing about fear that may sound crazy but totally changed my life. I rode the Staten Island Ferry a month or so after there had been a major (and very rare) ferry accident. While my friends and their children gazed at the beautiful view, I sat in my seat in terror and kept making my children sit down next to me. My friend asked if I was okay, and I shared that I was going over and over what I would do, how I would rescue all four of my non-swimmers if the ferry crashed. “You can’t,” she said. For some reason, instead of making me more afraid, this truth released me. I can do what I can, but I cannot keep my family safe from freak accidents or unexpected horrible things, so there is really no purpose to worrying about them.

  • JMB

    I can completely relate to your anxiety about the swimming incident. We have an in ground pool and we moved into our house when the baby was a year old. People would say to me “Oh you are so lucky to have your own pool and not have to go to the town pool anymore!” and I would respond: “Yes, I guess so if you are a misogynist”. I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat that one of my children, or a neighbor’s child, would drown in our pool, under my watch. It got to the point where I would only take my children into the pool if I was alone with them. It was counter-intuitive, but if a friend was over, I would get distracted. After a while, it was just easier to pack t hem up and bring them to the baby pool at the town pool.
    I think the good news is that this time in your life doesn’t last forever and that you are aware of your own limitations as a mother. And honestly, the worst thing that happened to us as a family was when my daughter snapped her femur in two on a trampoline and had to endure both a body cast and pins and numerous surgeries. I never in my life worried that one of my children would be injured like that and it happened and we dealt with it.

  • Bethany “B-mama”

    So true, so true! Sometimes it’s just a matter of willing the thought away. I will sometimes pray “in the name of Jesus” for a thought to be taken from my mind. This is always very powerful.