Having A Baby Changes Everything — But Not The Way You Think It Will

Doctor of Psychology By Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.
Doctor of Psychology
Danielle Dowling, Psy.D. is a doctor of psychology and life coach, helping ambitious, driven women achieve the financial, spiritual, and lifestyle abundance they desire and deserve. She holds a bachelor's in business from American University, and her master's and doctor of psychology degree from Ryokan College.

Photo by Bo Bo

The day I found out I was pregnant I had a panic attack.

I was not ready for motherhood.

Now, don't get me wrong—I thought I was. My husband and I had been trying for months.

But when it actually happened, I froze. It wasn’t like you see in the movies or in adorable Instagram stories—there were no tears of joy, no jumping up and down, no devising cute ways to tell my husband he was finally going to be a daddy.

Nope. It was immediate panic. I broke out in a heat rash. I had to lie down.

My mind didn’t stop racing from that moment on:

How am I going to do this?

How will I manage my career, work out, travel, sleep in?!

How will I continue to just be me?

I realize I seemed self-absorbed, perhaps obsessed with my work and my sleep.

(To be fair, I am pretty obsessed with both.)

And trust me, I tried to ignore it too: Shouldn’t it all be meaningless compared to my love for my child? I thought. Shouldn’t this be easier, happier, better?

It just wasn’t for me.

I knew (because I had heard over and over again) that the love you have for your child is greater than any other type of love. But because my baby wasn’t here yet, that wasn’t my reality. I couldn’t own that love because I didn’t yet have a hands-on, literal experience of it—and I struggled to bridge that psychological gap.

I knew how I should feel; I just didn’t feel that way.

Instead, I felt and imagined everything I was going to have to give up to make space for my child. I couldn’t feel the joy this little soul would add to my life; I could only feel the loss.

I used to believe that I could have it all—and all at the same time! I thought I was limitless. I even actively coached my clients with this mindset, but now I wondered. I doubted. I found myself constantly questioning whether I really could have it all.

I finally had the baby I so desperately wanted but my independence? Gone.

Career aspirations? Gone.

Me time? Gone.

I couldn’t be happy—and wondered if I’d ever be happy again.

Then my sweet Aiden was born on February 12, 2017.

And I am so completely, deliciously in love with him, of course.

But I wasn’t at first.

I still cried every day, at least once a day, for the first five weeks of his life. (Motherhood is no joke, loves!) But in an unguarded moment the other day, on my way home from the gym—because yes, you will work out again!—I caught myself thinking, I am so lucky. I have it all.

My life isn’t perfect. It wasn’t before Aiden, and it certainly isn’t now—it’s messy and uncertain and filled with challenges, just like everybody else’s life. But in that moment, I so clearly realized that I hadn’t given anything up.

There was no loss in my life, just a lot more love.

My life is more—better—in the best possible way.

I actually returned to work—and to one of my most prosperous, joy-filled months ever.

I’ve gone to the gym on more than one occasion.

I’ve hugged my husband and co-parent—a lot.

And I've even fit in a few martinis with my girlfriends.

I have ALL I had before—and more. I have my Aiden.

He has taught me—in an entirely new way—what I have been trying to practice and teach my clients for years: how to EXPAND my capacity to love.

Isn’t that the only reason we’re here, after all—to learn, truly and deeply, how to give and receive more love? In my eyes, it’s our one and only mission on this earth.

You, of course, don't need to have a baby to experience expansive love. Rich, abundant, meaningful, and loving lives are 100 percent possible without children. This has just been part of MY journey to love.

And if you are looking for ways to expand your capacity to love—with or without a child—I have a few tips:

  • Practice yoga and meditation daily, breathing deep into your heart and holding your arms open widely and expansively.
  • Write down a personal affirmation or say it aloud in the mirror every day: "I am open to giving and receiving all the love there is."
  • Spend time every evening writing down two to three ways you felt love that day; notice how love continues to express itself in your life.

As for me? I've been cracked open in a new, interesting, and curious way. I've realized that more love only ever equals more love. There is nothing to lose.

So, as you put your head on your pillow tonight—and every night—I pray you lean into being a brave babe and ask yourself these two questions:

"What did I do today to expand my capacity to love?" and "Where did I allow myself to give or receive more love today?"

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