- I’m a new mom who became incredibly superstitious after giving birth.
- When my daughter’s sleep regression resolved, I didn’t want to tell anyone for fear of jinxing it.
- I was isolating myself from my friends and family and sought help from a postpartum therapist.
I’ve been a new mom for 10 months, and so much about me has changed during that time. Aside from the more common postpartum changes like weight gain, hair loss, and fluctuating breast size from breastfeeding, I’ve experienced a lot of mental-health changes. For example, I’ve become incredibly superstitious.
My superstitions started when my daughter’s sleep regression resolved
It started in the past few months. My partner and I had been dealing with some tough sleep regressions with our baby. When she finally started sleeping through the night again, I was terrified she’d start regressing again. Out of superstition, I refused to admit out loud that the issue had resolved itself.
When friends or family members asked us about her sleep, I’d change the subject. If my husband tried to tell them she’d slept 12 hours, I’d nudge him and awkwardly ask him to stop responding. If he even dared to casually tell me how happy he was that we were snoozing through the night, I’d cut him off and get hysterical. I found myself having this deep underlying feeling that if we talked about how well we were sleeping, we’d jinx the whole thing and go back to waking up seven times a night.
When my husband realized I was cutting him off during these conversations, he would pause and later ask me if I was OK. I told him I was going through a challenging time and didn’t want to have sleep conversations with anyone. When friends and family caught on to my awkwardness, I bluntly told them about my superstition. But for the most part, people around me would laugh at this superstitious behavior; they didn’t realize how much it was affecting me.
Soon I was superstitious about talking about her at all
At first it popped up just in conversations about sleep, but soon whenever someone asked how she was doing, I’d say she was doing well and put an end to follow-up questions. My superstitious mindset was bleeding into every aspect of my life. I didn’t want to talk about her health, mood, or feeding schedule because I was convinced that doing so would lead to some sort of disaster.
I began to feel intense pressure that if one little thing was shared with someone about my baby, our entire world would negatively change. I was starting to isolate myself from friends and family, which wasn’t a good way to live life as a new mom who desperately needed community and people around me. I decided to seek help and met with Kayla Estenson Williams, a licensed therapist who specializes in postpartum support, to learn more about what was happening and some steps I could take to help me overcome my superstitious behavior.
I talked with a therapist and learned some tools to cope with my superstitions
I feel sad when I’m having these intense superstitious moments because I don’t feel like my old self, who would’ve been able to laugh off these intrusive thoughts and move on. Williams said it’s important to remember that after birth a person experiences a drastic change in their hormones.
“These hormone changes are designed to make us feel more connected to our baby, keep them safe, and be overly cautious,” she said. “Because our brains and nervous system were designed to live in a world that’s different from our world today, where we don’t have the same type of dangers. Yet our hormones are telling us to be on high alert.”
I told Williams I’d experienced anxiety and depression in the past but found myself able to handle those conditions a lot better than I was dealing with things now. She explained that even if someone’s familiar with a mental-health issue and has found ways in the past to deal with it, it might show up differently postpartum.
“You’re going through a major transition, and when you add in the hormone shifts, everything might feel more intense than it did in the past,” she said. “Old coping skills might not work like they used to, and that’s a good sign you might need new ways to help you get through what you’re experiencing.”
I learned that being superstitious may be a sign of postpartum OCD
I shared my superstition struggles and asked her why I was feeling so scared to have conversations about my baby with other people or say positive things out loud. She told me that being superstitious could be a part of postpartum OCD.
“You’re having these obsessive and intrusive thoughts and pairing them with compulsive behaviors,” she said. “You’re telling yourself that speaking about the baby will impact the baby in a negative way, and that’s leading you to avoid conversation with people around these topics.”
When I asked her if my intense superstitious mindset was normal, she said that even though it might be common for people experiencing postpartum OCD, it still shouldn’t be ignored.
“Even if other parents around you are admitting to feeling the same type of things, if you’re having intrusive thoughts, experiencing mental-health changes, or not feeling like yourself, you should get the support that you need,” she said.
Now I open up to people about what’s going on at home
She recommended that when I feel myself giving into that superstition I step back and try something new.
“Ask yourself if this truly makes sense and what it is that you’re really feeling,” she said. “Think about if your actions are appropriate or even helpful for what you’re needing at that moment.”
Her advice helped me revamp how I approach these types of conversations that make me uneasy. Instead of shutting people down when they ask me a question about my baby’s sleep, I share the truth. I’ve started opening up about what we’re going through at home.
While this was hard to do at first, and I was still nervous that what I’d say would jinx my sleep, I noticed the conversations I was having didn’t directly affect my life at home, and it became easier over time.
Being transparent with people instead of changing the subject has helped more people understand the anxiety I have around this topic. It’s also helped me approach these conversations more directly and calmly.
I’m also working on shifting how I respond to my intrusive thoughts
We also worked on figuring out ways to respond to myself when I have these intrusive thoughts. She recommended that instead of quickly shutting down I ground myself.
“Affirm to yourself that sleep for babies is tough and there will be ups and downs,” she said. “A lot of that is out of your control.”
She told me that finding affirmations, or gentle reminders, can provide space to navigate challenges as they pop up.
I created a list of affirmations for myself to counteract my superstitions. For example, I tell myself that I know my baby’s sleep patterns are based on a lot of factors and that I’m doing what I can to help the situation. I practiced saying these a few times a day, and it did make me feel less anxious, especially when I started giving more-truthful updates to friends and family.
When I’m starting to doubt myself, I remind myself of the facts
When I was trying out a few of these things, I felt like I’d jinxed the situation. Once I was telling a neighbor about how great my baby had been sleeping; that night she woke up five times. I told Williams I couldn’t help wanting to run back to my superstitious ways.
She reminded me that some of our fears are going to happen and that it can feel like we’re being proved right.
“I recommend reading and writing down some facts about baby sleep,” she said. “That way, if you find yourself having a tough night, you can realize that it could have been because of many factors — teething, feeding, etc. — and not because of your superstitions.”
The work Williams and I did together was definitely a step in the right direction. I feel less anxious when talking about my daughter, and I don’t mind as much when my husband answers questions about our routine. I still want to keep improving, because I don’t want to feel lonely in this postpartum journey — I want to let more people into it.