How My Dog Made Me Doubt My Parenting Abilities


Thoughts of a first-time mom

As a first-time mom, there is always anxiety that creeps in. The constant paranoia: am I doing enough? Is this right? Will my kid need therapy later?

Several of these insecurities started during my pregnancy. My thoughts ranged wildly from, should I be eating this? to, am I really cut out for raising a tiny baby into a good human being?

I probably wondered the latter more often than other first-time moms, because expanding our family was the furthest thing from our minds when my husband and I shocked ourselves by getting pregnant. We felt exhausted enough caring for our dog Reggie, who was two at the time. How would we care for a child?

While shocked, my husband was also ecstatic, which helped my worry and uncertainty. And he assured me and told me, “Parenting will be a learning curve, just like with Reggie. We’re pretty good parents to Reggie, right?”

Back when Reggie was a furry little infant.

Yes, I’m a good mother to Reggie…I think. Well, housebreaking him tried my patience, and there was that time when he was sick and when trying to give him medicine in a syringe, I dropped him. I also stepped on his paw a few times. And once when carrying him down our carpeted stairs, I slipped and we both tumbled down. Hmm…and Reggie has never raced to the door for me nor my husband. Maybe we aren’t that great of parents to our dog. What if we couldn’t be good parents to our son?

Reggie’s Worst Day

One morning, my husband and I woke up to find vomit on every single staircase in our four-story townhouse. I ran downstairs and found an abnormally low-energy Reggie who wouldn’t eat – not even treats! I knew something was really wrong.

I rushed him to the vet, and surgery was necessary; he had a blockage in his intestines. My mind started to spiral. I was with Reggie all the time. Literally, all the time. I worked from home full time (pre-COVID), and he was always by me or in front of me. How could I not have seen him eat something he shouldn’t have?

I couldn’t believe my negligence. How could I have failed him? What if he died? This was all my fault! I looked at Reggie as we waited for the consultation with the surgeon, who just looked sullen and sulky, and thought, if I could let this happen to him, a dog who I am literally around all the time, how could I be trusted to take care of a human?

Parenthood worries

I cried in front of the surgeon and the vet techs during the consultation (hello, hormones) and was so nervous something would go wrong during his surgery. Even though I was really doubting my parenting abilities at this point, something else crossed my mind: that this was likely how parenthood would be most of the time. I’d soon be worrying about any and every little thing that could potentially harm my child. From minor, like worrying whether he was getting enough protein, to something major, like if he had some sort of accident while playing and needed to be rushed to the ER.

Reggie Survived – And I’m Still Doing Okay With Motherhood (I Think)

Luckily, all my worry was for nothing and Reggie’s surgery was a success. We took care of him, gave him his meds, rubbed vitamin E oil on his scar, made sure to not pick him up by his stomach, and of course, watched every single move he made as best we could to ensure this didn’t happen again. The cause of the surgery was what looked like a bunch of strings, and the only thing I could think this could be was softball stitches that had come loose after Reggie chewed softballs and tore them up. (We lived by and walked through a baseball diamond and I didn’t notice him swallowing the stitches.) Needless to say, softballs are banned from our home. My husband and I think Reggie forgave us for letting him ingest what caused his blockage, but with his sulky French Bulldog face, it still looks like hates us (especially since he’s no longer an only child – but that’s another blog post).

Doing our best for our babies

I gradually accepted the idea that even a mother can’t stop everything bad from happening. I will need to calm my anxiety as my son gets older and I will be able to control less and less. When my son was learning to crawl, I stood over him and watched as he crawled quickly, chasing after Reggie, then fell face-first onto our hardwood floor, and looked up at me screaming and crying with a bloody lip. It was scary, but I couldn’t have known he’d “trip” and fall. Even though I was hovering over him, it happened so fast that I just wasn’t able to prevent him from face-planting. And after a visit to walk-in hours at his pediatrician’s office, she confirmed that he was fine.

I’m sure there will be more scenarios like that as my son grows up, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom. And like all moms, I’m trying and will continue to try my best – for both my human baby and my fur baby (he was my “furst” baby, after all).