Of all the things that movies over-exagerate about pregnancy, like your cravings waking you in the night or your big elaborate moment your water breaks: they tend to mislead new Moms with another lie, and that’s the lack of Postpartum Anxiety.
When I brought my Son home from the hospital I was hesitant. The car ride felt as thought it was hours long, the temperature in the house was never “right”, and god forbid anyone ask if they could come over and hold my baby. I spent every night hunched over His bassinet watching Him breathe, cried that I wasn’t good enough for Him far too often, stopped Breast Feeding because I was convinced I was starving Him, and even took him to the ER at 4 weeks because of His poop.
My 6 week check-up came, and lone behold what I’m experiencing is completely normal, although exhausting. Say hello to your new player: Postpartum Anxiety.
I don’t know what had me confused more–The idea that I didn’t have my mental health under control as well as I assumed, or the fact that almost every new-Mom goes through this.
You mean to tell me not all Moms check their baby’s breathing every 5 minutes until 3 am? What?
For most of my teenage years I suffered from severe Anxiety. The kind that makes you sweat too much, and think everyone hates you. But when my Son was born, my anxiety wasn’t like that anymore, which made me think I didnt actually have PPA. To me, all moms gently worried about their little ones all night and day, and I’d just get used to my new life and title one day at a time. It took me finding myself broken down sobbing while clutching my Son because He wouldn’t stop crying, telling Him how sorry I was that I failed Him to realize that I needed to seek out help.
When I hit my second trimester, I made the conscious decision to go back on antidepressants. The idea that we were living paycheck to paycheck while having a baby on the way gave me a gut-wrenching amount of doubt, and I admittedly knew I couldn’t handle it alone. So when I gave birth, I had this mindless assumption that PPA couldn’t be that bad considering I already was on medication to help ease my worries.
With that assumption, and the knowledge that I was diagnosed with PPA and my meds not actually working for me anymore due to my body adjusting to them: I told my Husband by 3 months in that I didn’t know if I could handle having another child due to the severe anxiety and sadness I was facing. How am I supposed to expect myself to care for two children, if I can barely feel confident in my ability to take care of this one?
Coincidentally, that next month I found out I was pregnant.
I’m now 7 months Postpartum, and my mental health is a lot better, even with the fluctuating hormones from being Pregnant again. I think part of that is due to being on my medication before conceiving, but also the dramatic increase in confidence I’ve had in my ability to raise my child in these past 4 months.
Becoming a Mom is the hardest, most emotionally draining job I’ve ever taken on. I fail daily, some days even more than others. But what I’ve learned has helped me the most is finding a “tribe” of other young Moms who feel exactly how I do.
Seriously, nothing is more freeing than the realization that you’re not the only one blindly caring for an infant, who has a thousand questions and worries.
Another thing that has helped me cope is realizing that it’s perfectly healthy and normal to still crave and need “me time.” Whether that be spending a moment or two outside in the fresh air, or doing my makeup up, I’ve found that having that small bit of time to focus on myself while my Son gets quality time with His Dad is critical to my mental health.
I will be the first to admit that as much as I love that little Boy with my whole heart, it’s nice to have five minutes without Him every few hours. Don’t feel ashamed or guilty if you feel the same way, especially in those early months! It has helped foster independence in Him from the beginning, and He is now phenomenal at entertaining Himself. Heck, I even jokingly told my Husband that our Son would have made a perfect only child, because He seriously does that well independently.
If you’re finding yourself struggling with any form of PPA/PPD I encourage you to talk about it. A lot of Women think they don’t have PPA/PPD, or couldn’t possibly suffer from it, and it forces them to suffer in alone in silence. Even if you have a hint of concern, which I have a feeling you might if your reading this article, I encourage you to talk about it.
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but honestly just open the window and tell it to the birds if you have to: just openly speak it into the air to someone. For me, even admitting how I was feeling was 50% of my recovery. Join a group on Facebook dedicated to your local area, or just coping with PPA/PPD. Talk to your partner about it and explain how you’re feeling, and what your thoughts are versus your emotions. Talk to your Mom, ask her if she felt the same way after having you, as they’re finding it to be more genetic. The odds of you finding someone who completely understands what you’re feeling is way higher than you think it is!
Don’t feel as though you’re going through this alone. I’ve created a Facebook group for my readers to come together and connect, called “Lotsa Love and Littles” where the air is open to speak about anything you feel the need to, and get (and give!) each other helpful, uplifting words. Use it to share your stories, words of encouragement, or just ask silly “Mom-questions.” I’ll be Proctoring it daily, so there will always be someone there to answer your questions (to the best of my ability, anyways!)
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. If you are feeling helpless, or have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby get help right away. Needing professional help is not frowned upon: just do what’s best for you.
Oh, and don’t forget: you’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough.
Until next time, Alex