I’m No Longer Fearless

I used to be fearless.

I was the girl who, at sixteen, traveled to a remote village in the middle of a jungle in a country I had never been to.  I went there to live with a family who didn’t speak a word of English.  I went there without my parents, without my friends and I experienced first hand what it was like in a third world country.  I experienced sugar cane slave camps on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It should have been scary but it wasn’t.

At nineteen, I decided to fly to England by myself for two weeks to stay with a girl that I had met while working at a local ice cream store.  I hadn’t traveled overseas in that direction before but I was fearless.  Able to jump on that plane and fly to another country to live with a family that I didn’t know that well and who had just had a little baby.  Every day while there I would wake up early, head to the train station and take the train into London.  I would explore the city and the nearby villages alone but I loved every minute of it.

Between twenty and twenty-five, I traveled all over the world to speak at conferences and meet clients and I did all of this alone.  I visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Charlotte, Bahamas, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Antonio… to name a few.  I would road trip it to Toronto and Montreal at a moment’s notice to deliver a presentation or meet up with someone I had met on the Internet.

Around twenty-six, my sister and I booked return tickets in and out of Paris, three weeks apart.  We flew into Paris without a clue as to where we would go after arriving.  We booked our next day’s adventure that night… while sitting in the hotel room we booked the night before.  We traveled all over… backpacking our way through Europe.  We went to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Prague, Venice, Rome, Milan, Bern… and so many other places that I can’t even remember.  It was scary at times – especially being chased down the street after dark by two strange men – but it was exhilarating and magical and adventurous.

Now I’m a mom.  It changed everything.

These days, I can’t step out onto my suburban street without thinking that between my front door and my mailbox, I’m bound to be stabbed to death.  Every noise in the house must surely be someone breaking in and I have mapped out every escape plan and escape route from every room and every chair in my house.

I have life insurance now.  And RRSPs.  And RESPs.  And a savings account.  I worry about our financial future and Willow’s financial future.  I’m no longer spending all of my money with the notion that it will all just flow in when and how it needs to… now I am uber-planning.  I have a crazy detailed budget spreadsheet that I highlight with greens and reds and yellows.

I hate going out at night.  I hate being by myself and often, I run from whatever building I’m in to my car and I lock my doors instantly.  I hate winter driving and any other precarious weather condition driving.  I fear that I’m going to somehow get into an accident and leave my daughter behind too early.

I feel paranoid.

I feel scared.

I don’t want to leave Willow and miss out on anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong… this is not an every moment of every day sort of thing.

If it were, I’d never leave a 4×4 room and Willow wouldn’t be allowed to either.  I just notice the difference in myself and I notice my fear level is much higher now.  For me, there are two main worries: (1) that she will be hurt or injured or leave me prematurely or (2) that I will leave her prematurely.  Either scenario sucks.

So tell me… am I completely weird or are there others out there who get where I’m coming from?  What do you do to combat the fearful feelings?

Comments

  1. says

    Nope. Not weird. Join the club. Before kids, I use to travel internationally by myself all the time. No sweat. Not anymore.

    My first solo trip to San Diego after having kids almost broke me. I was okay being away from the boys, but the actual travel freaked me out. It didn’t help that I had a Mom sitting behind on the phone talking about how god-willing-she-would-make-it-home-to-kiss-her-kids. With each trip I go on, I become a little less frazzled. I’m now one of those people who clutch the armrests on takeoff and landing. I doubt that will change but I’m okay with that. I’m just more aware of all the special people in my life.

    • says

      Krista, thank YOU for your comment! I am so glad I am not alone. Your sentence, “I’m just more aware of all the special people in my life.” is EXACTLY what I am feeling. Before I had Willow, the thought of putting myself in harms way and having something happen never crossed my mind because it wasn’t even on my radar… now, I think about what it would mean to not be there for those special people and it makes me so much more cautious! Thanks for sharing your experience too xo

  2. Amanda says

    I completely understand the feelings you are experiencing Erin; as I am also having similar feelings at this stage in my life. I don’t think we are crazy, but are still adapting to our lives with our first child. Call it instinct or irrational – I find it instinctual to not want anything harmful to happen to our little ones. With all of the horrific things going on all over the world and even in our cities, it isn’t paranoia to want to protect you and your family. It only becomes unhealthy when you decide that you are fearful of going outside at all, which doesn’t sound like you have anything to worry about : ).

    • says

      Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for the comment. I agree – I think it is completely normal to have these feelings as it IS such a scary world. I have not reached a space in my life where I’m terrified to go outside or anything, I just am more aware of my fear whereas before, it never crossed my mind. Thanks for sharing your experience too! xo

  3. Rhonda says

    Wow, this post makes me feel so much better! I was never fearless before, but I definitely think about things I never did before. I think the media plays a role. I probably wouldn’t have paid as close attention to the child abduction stories on the news or the accidents, but now I pay attention to each and every one and it is so scary! I am not sure if it just happens more often these days or if I didn’t pay attention before. I have nightmares about getting in a car accident and having to decide which of my 2 children to try to get out first or there being a natural disaster and I have to try to save them both at the same time and I can’t get to them both and need to decide which one to save. I dread large public events with the kids. I still go places with them, but I am so paranoid of losing them I can never fully relax and enjoy myself. I am sure it will get better as they get older. I just hope that my paranoia doesn’t rub off on them because I don’t want them to be too fearful to enjoy life to the fullest! Thanks for the post. You are not alone!!!

    • says

      Hi Rhonda! Thanks so much for sharing your story :) I’m glad to know that I am not alone and I get the feeling, based on the number of stories I’ve heard since posting this, that it’s common. We just want to protect our wee babies and it is completely instinctual.

  4. Julie says

    I’m sorry, and I don’t mean this unkindly, but I don’t think this is normal. RESPs and financial planning are good and sensible. And I understand maybe not wanting to deliberately put yourself in harms way, and I think that is likely sort of normal, but going to the mailbox or just being alone doesn’t really fall into that category. If you are feeling scared and paranoid in situations that don’t really warrant that kind of feeling you may have a physical problem. Please understand I don’t mean this in any way as a criticism or meanly. I think that pregnancy and childbirth can sometimes trigger /set off these things, not becasue we have a child, but becasue of actual hormonal or chemical changes. I have a friend that began experiencing panic attacks and agoraphobia after having her second child. Perhaps you might want to consider seeing someone and talking about what seem to be rather extreme fears to what should be only marginally or not at all frightening situations.

    • says

      Hi Julie! Thanks for weighing in. I don’t like to apply the label ‘normal’ to feelings as there are so many degrees of normal. My feeling more fearful is, what I think, completely normal. I was being a bit tongue in cheek about the walking to my mailbox thing… using it more to set the tone that sometimes, I am thinking things during regular situations that I may not have before. I still leave my house and I don’t get panic attacks, so I don’t think that my being a bit more fearfulness is affecting my actual psyche — I just think that I’m more aware of it. I recently wrote about seeing a psychotherapist and feeling very self-aware so when / if I do ever feel that my state of mind warrants external support, I will most definitely seek it. Thanks for offering this advice though! For many people, they may need support and never actually get it.

      • Julie says

        Yeah, I had thought of putting normal in quotes but was just being a lazy typist and didn’t feel like using them, lol! Sorry, you had said you felt scared and paranoid and that you often run from buildings into your car as well, though perhaps that was meant tongue in cheek as well, but these things seemed to be describing an unusually heightened degree of fear to me, sorry if I misunderstood. You are right, we do all have different degrees of “normal” that we can live with and I understand that our children’s well being, including us not leaving them precipitiously by accident, may cause us to have different feelings about life and activities than we did before. As Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” I do hope you will get your fearlessness back one day, your adventures sound wonderful and like good things to share with your outgoing daughter.