Motherhood certainly didn’t come naturally - initially- to me. From walking with your arms swinging by your side, to suddenly always having your arms full, albeit a changing bag, a baby, a pram, sometimes a baby and pushing a pram if you have a particularly fussy baby that day. It felt like an obstacle stopping me from being able to walk how I was used to.
My anxiety means I hate any attention being drawn to myself, and I fear public embarrassment. At the time of being a new mum I felt like all eyes were on me and they were all better, more experienced, better, older, better, more confident and did I say better? Mums than me.
Do you know one of the things I found absolutely troublesome? Doors.
Not just any doors. The non-automatic kind. They were absolutely overwhelmingly complicated for me. A literal, barrier that I would avoid at all costs if I was alone.
It’s not because I have entamaphobia (fear of doors, yes I googled it). It’s because the thought process of having a pram and a non-automatic door, with just me to manoeuvre myself, the pram and the door seemed impossible.
How do parents do it? So you open the door, but you have to go back for the pram so you have to open the door fully and hope it'll stay open whilst you reach back for the pram, but what if it doesn't? Then you're left doing an awkward shuffle to shimmy the pram in the doorway with one hand whilst with the other hand trying to push open the bast*rd heavy door. Why are they so heavy? Some fire reason probably.
I would find the thought of the awkward door shimmy too much to bear and I would not go into a shop or cafe if I was alone and I knew it did not have an automatic door.
This is a great avoidant tactic, apart from the fact I limited myself to probably just bloody Tesco and Morrison’s.
If you're wondering this was about 5 years ago, I now -you'll be pleased to know- can successfully walk through many doors with prams. Still with the awkward door shimmy but I get through the door with the pram in one piece.
I tried a few techniques to conquer my fear and manage this part of my anxiety. As mentioned it wasn't so much the door, it was probably what the door represented and that was overall public embarrassment.
I tried voicing my fears to my husband. He didn't understand my struggles but he did his best to help me as I am ultimately alone a lot with a pram. He took me to our local cafe, (a cafe I had walked past many times and would love to have gone in) and he went in first with the pram so I could see how it was done.
Once we were in the cafe I then discovered that this is a whole new anxiety I hadn't even had a chance to create and panic about yet. How the Fu** do you manoeuvre yourself and the pram through the obstacle of tightly woven people, their sticky out chairs and the tiny non accessible gap they leave you.
My husband’s tactic with me was then just to give me the pram and he walked first through the maze of chairs, making a path through the virtually no gaps and people everywhere, allowing me to follow behind. By the time we found our seat, parked the pram (in probably a fire exit at this point I was so flustered) got our tiny baby out, took her cardigan off, got the baby bag out ready, took my own cardigan off, sat down, I was crimson and just about ready to cry in exhaustion.
It didn't feel like an achievement, I just wanted to go home. But the thought of weaving the pram back through that hell hole to get out the door seemed equally as awful. So we stayed and my husband tried to probably make small talk with me, but I was so painfully aware of everyone looking at me (no-one was looking at me) that I could hardly speak, and probably to him seemed a moody cow.
To me though, I have just been a bull in a china shop, brought so much attention to myself because I'm a sh!t mum who can't successfully walk through a cafe floor without help.
The technique I found worked best was when I was eventually referred by my GP to have cognitive behavioural therapy. It wasn't just the door issue I had which led to this referral as you have probably guessed but nevertheless having CBT really opened my eyes and helped clear the fog.
I remember in one session I was asked "what's the worst that will happen?" When I voiced another fear of mine at the time, and it was then it clicked that what I was feeling was irrational and not logical and actually it was something I could overcome.
When my husband had his paternity leave for our second baby I knew I didn't want to go backwards and become that fearful mum again. So we made a point of going to Starbucks - with the heaviest door known to existence- and took our eldest and our pram, with my husband there but I told him to not help me get in. This really helped me as I knew he was there if I needed help manoeuvring but I also knew with a toddler in tow I'll be going to a lot more places so it was important for me to do this quickly before I thought about it too much.
I do still feel astonished when I see new mums in a cafe (I mean not lately what with Covid and that) because they look so at ease, so comfortable in their new role, opening the door one handed like its paper, gliding their new prams so effortlessly zig zagging their way to their seat.
But that was just one of my personal struggles with anxiety. For all I know another struggling mum may have looked at me during that time and felt what I feel now - I mean it’s doubtful- but we all have our struggles.