Mother taboo does it still exist? In this series, we address the latest indisputable issues related to motherhood. This week: Are the dreadful thoughts you might have as a new dad normal?
What if she dropped her head in the water now or let her fall on the ladder? What happens if you push the pushcart and let it roll on the road? “The most terrible thoughts went through my head in the first weeks after Lydia was born,” says Maaike (the editors’ last name). “I was horrified about it. What mother would come up with something like this?”
“As we started doing more business with our daughter, the thoughts only increased. I saw potential danger everywhere and the most terrible scenarios loomed. I was ashamed of my thoughts and did not dare to speak.”
Kitchen knives, accidents and the risk of drowning
Dropping your child out of the window, pushing the stroller into a busy road, “accidentally” winding up with a kitchen knife in the playpen or running away in the shower – having these kinds of bad or annoying thoughts is common to many moms and dads. . There is even one word: intrusions.
“I remember staring at my two kids’ sensitive hands and thinking, I could just cut them off.”
An American study (Abramowitz, 2016) showed that 91% of mothers and 88% of fathers have frightening thoughts and images about their newborn. One respondent said, “I remember staring at my two children’s tender hands and thinking: I could just cut them off with a bush trimmer.” Another parent shared that he fantasized about putting a pencil in his child’s fontanelle.
Thoughts may be accompanied by guilt or shame
“Intrusions are very common among young parents. Just think about the idea of dropping your child when you go down the stairs. Almost every parent has these thoughts at some point. This thought is actually a form of intrusion. Although it is more common among parents who have Young children, that breakouts can also happen when kids are older,” says Dorian Yassa, mental health psychologist and owner of the online psychology practice Mom & Mind.
Yes, she understands the shame Mike describes. “Intrusion can be accompanied by a feeling of guilt or indeed a feeling of shame. Many women do not dare to talk about it for fear of being labeled as a bad mother. Because who would think such things about their child? It is important to realize that having these thoughts It doesn’t mean you are a bad mother, it just means that you are a mother who wants to protect your child as best you can.”
“It just means that you are a mother who wants to protect her child as best you can.”
Doreen Yassa, healthcare psychologist
What causes intrusion? Research (Abramowitz, 2016) shows that the great responsibility you feel as a parent to keep your newborn baby alive can trigger these disturbing thoughts. “When a mother is concerned about a stroller tipping over in traffic, she will grip the handle more tightly,” the researchers say. “Intrusions are often adaptive.”
Get out of your mind
According to Yes, talking about interventions is important in preventing these thoughts from getting worse. What can help against intrusion?
“There are some mindfulness exercises that can help you notice the thoughts you have from a distance and then let them go. Sometimes it can also help to talk about the idea you have out loud or do an exercise that makes you more aware. It creates distance from your thoughts. We call this Distortion—literally getting out of your mind. You can learn with this that what’s going on in your head isn’t really the truth. It’s just an idea.”
In some cases, it is necessary as a mother to seek professional help. Psychologist says, intrusions can be holding you back a lot in your daily life because they prevent you from functioning properly and cannot take care of the baby or have a negative effect on your sleep.
“Referral to a mental health psychologist is often possible via a GP. EMDR therapy, among other things, can sometimes help reduce the burden of the image a mother has in her head.”