Before the birth of my partners’ and my child in early February this year, I had exactly zero experience with taking care of a baby. Because of fear of how fragile babies are combined with a few anxiety disorders, I had never even held a baby.

I was very apprehensive about things that have turned out to be the easiest things about taking care of a baby. And the things I do worry about are things I never expected to worry about.

I was initially afraid to hold the baby, because of an irrational fear of dropping her. I have since held her so often that while I sometimes have intrusive thoughts about it, I am very confident about my ability to hold her.

Early on, I was nervous about diaper changes, since I’d never changed a diaper before she was born. I wasn’t nervous about any particular aspect of diaper changing. I think my nervousness might have been a generalized “you will definitely do it wrong” anxiety. Now that I’ve changed a few hundred diapers, I can say that it’s extremely easy. The only challenging thing is when the baby starts peeing or pooping in the middle of a diaper change, but even then, all you have to do is get out a new diaper and do some extra cleanup. (Fun fact: It’s widely said that babies with penises will pee during diaper changes if you’re not fast enough, and there are a bunch of products you can buy for such an event, but in reality, all babies do this regardless of what genitals they have. If you frequently change a baby’s diapers, it’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll be peed on.)

One thing I wasn’t expecting is that I now occasionally have nightmares about bad things happening to the baby. Other parents we know with a new baby (who also have older children) have informed us that it’s normal to have those kinds of nightmares. I can’t actually recall any particular nightmares of bad things happening to the baby offhand, which I think is good evidence that the fear in them doesn’t stay with me in waking life.

Talia C. Johnson

Sensitivity Editor, Educator, Coach, Facilitator, Spiritual Leader, and Activist

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