Postpartum Fear of Flying

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It’s like the unholy love child of Brooke Shields and Erica Jong: postpartum fear of flying. It turns out that while nobody talks about postpartum fear of flying, and while postpartum fear of flying does not even seem to be a recognized “diagnosis”, lots of people – mothers in particular, but also fathers, experience a new and sudden fear of flying once they become parents. It starts post partum, but it lasts for years.

If you suffer or have suffered from postpartum fear of flying, read on, and share your story!

For myself, I used to be a very frequent flyer. In fact, I was flying on my own from a very young age, and never had a problem with flying – at all.

That all changed when I had my first child, at age 20 (planned, thank you very much!) Suddenly I was gripped by an icy cold fear around my heart at the very thought of getting on an airplane. In fact, the thought of flying filled me not just with dread, but with outright terror.

Interestingly, at around the time that my daughter hit her mid teens, my fear of flying eased up, and I even willingly boarded planes again.

It was then that I started to connect the dots, and theorized that perhaps the sudden onset of my fear of flying was related to the overwhelming responsibility of being responsible for the safety and well-being of my child. And that, as she reached an age where, sure, she might miss me if I perished, she would be ok without me.

I really didn’t think a whole lot more about it until I had my son, several years later. Instantly that fear of flying returned. I would do – and have done – anything to avoid getting on an airplane. Fortunately I adore travelling by train, and so many trips between California and Colorado have been enjoyed on Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

But now, as my son hits his mid-teens, and I have some travelling to do this year, I find myself actually contemplating flying again, and without being seized with terror. In fact, I’m contemplating not just a flight for a conference from state-to-state, but a 15-hour flight to another country.

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “that’s interesting. This is the identical experience I had with my daughter.”

I mentioned this to a friend of mine – a very hands-on single father, and it turns out that he too has had the same experience. No problem flying at all, until he became a parent, and then – boom – fear of flying.

I’ve had other friends mention that they have experienced this as well.

So, to all of you people out there who have experienced postpartum fear of flying – you are not alone. And it does get better.

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