Weaving through the produce section, shopping list in hand, I’m hastily looking over vegetables as I throw them into bags and carefully place them in the small spaces unoccupied by my daughter’s car seat. I’m moving quickly, dodging shopping carts and two small children who appear to be lacking parents. My toddler wildly swings his legs in front of me and repeats the same inaudible phrase while pointing to the shoppers around us, becoming louder as his frustration with my lack of response builds. I begin to become aware of a familiar twinge of soreness in my hands as I tightly grip the shopping cart handle and I immediately realize my mistake in braving the grocery store on a Sunday morning. Somehow I manage to collect the items I’ve come in search of and make it through the forced pleasantries of the check out line and back to my car where I spend the 10 minute drive home kicking myself for thinking I could go out without reinforcements.
Later, in trying to describe to my husband and sister-in-law the nightmare of my Sunday outing, I’m met with looks of amusement and confusion. I’m aware that my reality is as baffling and unknown to them as functioning anxiety-free is to me. Since becoming a mother, anxiety has become my norm and has only compounded following the birth of my second child.
I find myself paralyzed with fear in considering the worst case scenarios of even the simplest of tasks. Taking my babies for a long walk around our neighborhood might result in a hungry, screaming child and not enough hands to comfort her and push the stroller.
A morning trip to story time at the local library could potentially turn into displaying to the public my inability to juggle a needy newborn and a defiant toddler.
Family outings mean I’ll have no choice but to nurse my daughter outside the privacy and comfort of my home. The thought of fumbling with a burp cloth and breast pad and nursing cover all while avoiding the judgmental looks of strangers is enough to send me into a full fledged panic attack.
The truth is that I struggle every day with my shortcomings as a mother that is living with anxiety. I envy the mothers with schedules overflowing with play dates and trips to the zoo and outings to the beach. I fantasize about how liberating it would be to shake loose this unwelcome passenger I carry around. And I pray that I will soon find the courage to face my fears before they rob my babies of the childhood they deserve.