Over half of all new mums – when asked – say that they have scary thoughts. That means that the real percentage is most likely even higher.
What if I drop my baby?
I think my baby would be better off without me?
What if something falls on him whilst he’s sleeping.
What if …….. add your own what if here?
It might help you to know that you are not alone if you have thoughts like this. Scary thoughts are also known as intrisuve thoughts. They are common for most new mums and dads.
These thoughts are anxiety driven. Anxiety can be a helpful emotion – it’s what keeps you and you baby safe because it is a normal response to a potential threat. It is normal for you to react and respond to perceived danger with anxiety. This is what we call the fight or flight response. Historically, we needed to grab our babies and run away from danger. We don’t need to do this to the same extent now but the thoughts remain because our human instincts haven’t changed that much.
When these thoughts become more frequent, anxiety levels increase and you feel more and more uncomfortable inside your own head. They can be a symptom or postnatal depression or anxiety and you should always talk to someone about them. Start with your health visitor or GP. If they aren’t listening to you properly, contact an organisation who definitiely will such as Acacia Family Support or PANDAS.
Scary thoughts are negative and unwanted and pop up uninvited and unexpected. They can come at any stage of motherhood. They can be in thought form or visual. They can be passive – something will happen to my baby if – or active – I might do something to harm my baby. They do not mean that you are going mad.
You might never have experienced thoughts like this before. They might be part of ongoing mental health issues that you have sought help for in the past. If so, ask for that support again.
Scary thoughts do not make you a bad mother. They will make you think you are. You are not. It is upsetting to have them because this is not how you imaged you, as a mother, to be. You are not mad, bad or dangerous. You are a mum, doing her best and experiencing a common manifestation of anxiety. Having a baby is a worrying time. We all worry.
You must not feel guilty either. Having these thoughts does not make you a terrible mother. They are only thoughts. They are not reality. The fact that you are aware of them means that you care deeply about your baby. They also mean that you do need to talk to someone about them.
If these thoughts are completely out of character for you or you know that they are irrational then this is a sign of acute anxiety. This could relate back to something that happened during your pregnancy or birth experience. It could be that you feel completely overwhelmed and don’t have the right support around you. Can you talk to your family and friends about this and ask for more support?
These other things might help:
- remember that the thoughts are not who you are, they are a symptom of something else.
- they are only thoughts, not reality.
- distract yourself by saying that these thoughts are ok, nothing bad is happening and you won’t feel this way forever.
- keep your brain busy with other things; play music, go for a walk, cook, call a friend.
- acknowledge that things are hard at the moment but that they can and will change.
- know that you are not alone.
- this is how you are now, not who you will always be.
- remember how loved you are and what a good mum you are. Positive affirmations every day help to re-train your brain.
Although it feels hard to talk about scary thoughts, this helps. No-one is going to judge you and no-one is going to take your baby away. I didn’t speak up when I felt like this because I was so very frightened. This made my journey to recovery much more difficult. I know now that there are people who would have listened and understood.
Please reach out to someone and get the help you need as you deserve to feel better.