With ultrasound pictures and baby announcements flooding our Facebook and Instagram feeds, witnessing the joy and excitement of parents-to-be seems unavoidable. Bringing a new life into the world is undeniably thrilling, but the prospect of being responsible for keeping another human alive inevitably creates a laundry list of potential concerns.
Though some people know they're not cut out to be parents, even those who feel ready to start a family experience anxiety. From prenatal health to financial stress, there are many terrifying opportunities for parents to mess things up.
To get a better idea of what parents most often worry about, we asked Mic readers on Tumblr and via Google survey to share some of their biggest sources of parenting anxiety. Here are the most common worries that people have — and yes, some people actually expressed concern that their baby would be ugly.
Having kids will change your body, sometimes irreversibly.
Fathers do their fair share of parenting once the baby makes its grand entrance, but the nine months of carrying it around? That's a mom's job, and it is a huge undertaking. Having a baby results in a lot of hormonal changes and physical changes, from stretch marks to weight gain to loosened pelvic floor muscles, and many mothers-to-be are less than happy about the changes their body will undergo.
"I'm worried that I'll get fat and gross and unattractive, and that my vagina will rip to shreds." — Elspeth, 26
"[I fear] the pregnancy. Not just childbirth (although that's terrifying too) but spending 9 months as an incubator. It scares me enough that I genuinely think I will adopt kids so I don't have to go through it." — stainsbygirl
"I'm scared of getting pregnant and having a child because I struggle with depression and anxiety (among other things) and I worry that postpartum depression would kill me." — twofishie
"I'm a small girl and twins run in my family. I am so scared I'm going to have twins, and I'm going to be HUGE." — Laura*, 21
The probability of passing on health problems — both mental and physical — is very high.
Whether we like it or not, oftentimes we end up exactly like our parents. As cute as it might sound to have a mini-me that copies your mannerisms, some people with metal health problems are worried that they'll pass these issues onto their baby. They might be right: A study from earlier this year, which scanned the brains of multiple generations of rhesus monkeys, determined that those who exhibited anxious behavior also had children with anxious behavior, leading researchers to conclude that anxiety disorders are likely hereditary.
"After reading about the genetic probability of inheriting mental illness, I'm just worried that my kids will have depression and anxiety like I do. I'd love to have kids one day and give them the best life possible, but it's a serious concern of mine that they'll end up like me." — David*, 24
"I fear that they'll inherit my depression/anxiety." — Elspeth, 26
"I'm scared to have children because I have a lot of medical problems that are inherited. As does my husband." — twofishie
"My fears about becoming a mother ... root in the fact that I have depression and I need lots of alone time. The idea of sharing my body with a little person for 9 months and not be able to 'take a break' from it is quite scary, and even (or especially) after giving birth a baby would be very heavily dependent on me and I'm afraid if I couldn't get my alone time I would become miserable and not be able to love my child the way they deserve to be loved. Kids pick up on vibes like that and I wouldn't want my child to feel that I am distant and somehow it's their fault that they aren't able to fix." — easternblocvevo
You have to teach your child everything, which leaves a lot of room for error.
Having kids comes with a serious task: Teaching them everything you know, from how to walk and talk to how to do long division. Whether consciously or subconsciously, they're always learning from you, and you're a constant role model and mentor to them.
"There's so much to learn about life, morals, good and bad. I wonder if I can instill all that in them before they become independent and responsible adults. I don't want to "forget" to teach them something important. " — naivename, 23
"I'm genuinely worried about my kids' language. I have such a potty mouth, either their first word is going to be "f*ck" or I'm going to get many calls home about their choice of expression..." — Anonymous female, 21
"I fear that I won't teach them enough of what they need to know." — qb-colquitt
You can't control what happens to your child, and you can't always protect them.
No matter how much you nurture and love a child, there are external factors that can seriously affect his or her wellbeing. Though it's easy to control every aspect of a toddler's life, things get muddled as he or she grows up, and many parents' biggest fear is knowing they can't always fix every problem that a child goes through, whether that's their first heartbreak or failing a test or being subject to racist harassment. Ultimately, people aren't concerned that they won't be good parents — rather, they're concerned the world just won't be good enough for their kids.
"What do I do if they're bullied? What if they're apart of the LBGT*QA+ spectrum and and people try to harm them because of that? What if they die at a young age to senseless/police gun violence?" — lala-longride
"Will my kids be made fun of later on in life over their race[?]" — saranthegems
"I'm scared to have children because I was bullied as a child, and it damaged me badly when no one believed me." — twofishie
"When my daughter was born, a (now ex) friend said that my husband's #1 job just became keeping her off the pole. Both my girls will have to tread a sea of sexism." — exoskeleton-whore
"What if my child gets made fun of for being different. Even if it isn't like a mental difference but what if they're not straight or what if they're gender fluid or non binary? Will I have to beat some poor kid's parents up for being assholes?" — twerkcy-jackson
Some people are just worried that their kids will be assholes.
Hey, it's a thing.
"How in hell am I going to get small kids to be considerate and care about other people's feelings? What if they're just assholes and I can't do anything about it?" — bookphangirl
"I am legitimately afraid that my child will grow up to be a serial killer and that they'll start with me or their siblings or the family pets." — thelacklusterlady
*Some names have been changed to allow sources to speak freely on private matters