Leaving the house. An action that was once just a simple matter of popping on your shoes and heading out of the door, becomes a tad more complicated with a baby in tow.
There’s the faffing around with coats and little booties to keep their toes warm. Then the baby is highly likely to produce an enormous poo just as you’re about to open the front door – resulting in a minimum 10-minute delay as you wrestle them out and then back in to their clothing.
Finally you have to get all of the “stuff” that accompanies you and your baby everywhere you go in order. Things like nappies, wipes, a changing mat, spare clothes, and Valium.
But practicalities aside, there’s something more that can strike when you’re leaving the house.
After having my first baby the house was my safe place. Inside it nobody could judge me, stare at me, give me “the look” because my hair was a mess and I could attempt to figure out what on earth my baby wanted without an audience.
When I walked out of the door in the first few months with my first child, it was never long before the anxiety started to set in.
Had I remembered everything? Should I be keeping her at home where she can nap in her bed instead of the buggy? Was I disrupting her routine too much? Was she hungry? How was I going to feed her outside, it’s bloody freezing!
If we were off to a baby group, I would steel myself for the crying. I tried to remind myself that it’s normal, you’re going to a baby group for Pete’s sake! Everyone expects there to be crying.
But still, I feared the crying, because when it happened I felt powerless as I fumbled around with my baby, trying to figure out what on earth she wanted from me.
I would worry throughout the entire class, feeling glad I was there and happy when it was going well, but always with a niggle in the back of my mind that my child could start to cry out at any moment.
Then when it finished I would dash out of the room, conscious that it was nearly time for the afternoon nap. Having spent an hour being stimulated by music and play, I didn’t want my baby to drop off in the car on the way back.
This would cause two problems. One, I would have to attempt to transfer her to her cot, something which always had mixed results.
Two, if she didn’t transfer then I would miss out on my two-hour break in the afternoon. A break that I treasured more than a glass of crisp white wine on a Friday evening.
And so the entire event, although it made me feel good for getting out, mainly just caused a huge amount of stress to build up in me.
Looking back on things now, I can see that stress was unnecessary. I should have just been able to go with the flow. To enjoy the time I spent with her while she was tiny, and to not stress if I didn’t get that two-hour nap in the afternoon.
The trouble is when you’re in this loop of a routine day after day, you worry that anything that could knock it off kilter could lead to dire circumstances for you.
What if changing her routine stops her sleeping through? What if she doesn’t eat enough and becomes dehydrated, or loses weight?
As a new mum I spent so much time worrying about so many little details of the day, it was almost as exhausting as physically looking after the baby.
For this reason, I often shied away from going out. I would make those brave little trips to the one baby group, but I avoided signing up for any others.
I would take a short walk to the supermarket once a day, then quickly retreat to the safety of the house once again. The place where I could happily hide away, wearing my PJs as I sat on the sofa with my baby and watched the clock getting ready for the next thing she would need, be it sleep or milk.
It’s funny how something that used to be such a luxury to you, can become something you hate when it becomes part of every day life. The staying at home in my PJs. I had loved it so much.
But soon it became boring. A chore. I wanted to be out, but I didn’t know how to get over the overwhelming anxiety that came with getting my baby out of the house and worrying about the consequences of disturbing her routine.
I wish I could say this got better within a few months, but in fact it lasted for the full first year and beyond. It didn’t get better until my second child was born and I realised I had zero control over the situation at all, and I just needed to embrace that fact.
While going out still causes me some anxiety even now, as I panic about everyone being fed and happy in public, I try to remind myself to remain calm.
Because I don’t want anxiety to control me and how much I am able to enjoy my time with my children. I want to simply enjoy them as much as I can while they are young.
If you are in a similar position, with a young baby, and are keeping yourself hostage in your own home, living through your very own groundhog day, I would not suggest you force yourself out for the sake of it.
Rather, try to find a way to help you be more comfortable about being out of the house with your baby.
Are there certain times that are easier? Are there places where you feel more comfortable? Certain cafes, centres or shops that are just more inviting? Would taking a back-up bottle of breastmilk or formula make you feel happier about going out?
One of the most important things you can do is explain your anxiety to your other half. Of course it sounds silly, being afraid to leave the house, but if you have a supportive person in your life they will understand. More than that they will want to help you.
Talk about what can be done to make things less overwhelming for you. Going out for short bursts can be best of all.
Try to take a deep breath and relax. This feeling will get easier with time.
Have you suffered from anxiety after having a baby? How have you coped with it? I would love to hear from you.