This week's theme on "Labor of Love" is related to the stress of parenthood. And I wanted to share a bit of news from the world of neuroscience that I thought was relevant to all parents.
Biologically speaking, our stress hormones were designed to set off alarm bells during intermittent but dangerous episodes in our lives. You all know the term, Fight or Flight. Stressful episodes for most of human existence have been separated by days or weeks. But that's not so anymore.
In a ironic twist of fate, human existence has become safer and more predictable, and yet our stress hormones are triggered more often now than at any time in our species' history. Chronic stress disorders are a post-modern invention. When we experience stress nearly every waking hour, our stress hormones begin a pattern of consistent firing. This strange state of existence is called Chronic Stress Disorder. Most commonly, it leads to Burn-Out.
I had always considered Burn-Out to be a disease of corporate executives, Olympic athletes, gamblers or used-car salesmen. Parenting didn't seem like a risk factor for CSD. That is, until I became one.
For the first nine months of my daughter's life, I was stressed out. I was filled with fear about whether she was too hot or too cold, too tired or over-sleeping, whether she would fall out of bed or stay in bed in die of SIDS. I worried about whether I was a good mother. Whether I was the right mother for her. I worried whether my breast-milk was nutritious and tasty enough (I tasted it but had no basis for comparison). If all that worry wasn't enough, I'd then stay up nights trying to figure out a solution to any or all of my worries.
Just after returning from our family vacation in December, I woke up one morning feeling good. I mean, I felt really good. Like my old self. I kept wondering what was different, and finally I realized that for the first time in almost a year, I didn't wake up afraid. I had made peace with the fact that my child was going to be fine...or not. Either way, it wasn't for me to decide. It was excruciating to give up the illusion that I'm in total control of my child's fate, but I did.
When did you shake your Chronic Parent Stress Disorder? What was the trigger for feeling like yourself again? I think we need to share on this topic. Because our bodies, and our minds, are simply not equipped to live in constant fear for our child's lives.