I read all of the baby books and downloaded all of the recommended apps, but nothing could have prepared me for postpartum anxiety and all that came along with it. Here’s my experience and what no one tells you about postpartum anxiety, motherhood and mental health.
A lump formed in my throat and pressure built up, threatening to grow with every gulp of air I took. The tiny human in my arms was oblivious to what I was going through, as I came to the realization that I was 100%, completely in charge of his well-being for life.
No one told me this would happen. I had become familiar with the feeling of heartburn throughout my pregnancy – that fullness that rises in your throat to either give you a sample of your last meal or a searing pain that poises to rip through your chest. This wasn’t that, and over-the-counter antacids had nothing on this feeling.
Whenever the topic popped up in the pregnancy apps on my phone, I skipped over the articles, thinking it wasn’t important or didn’t pertain to me.
But equally as important as preparing your home and your family for a new baby, is preparing your mind for the weight of responsibility that comes along with bringing a tiny, innocent baby into your life.
Finding Out I Was Pregnant
The days leading up to that positive pregnancy test are a blur. For two weeks leading up to that day, I worked long hours, taking on additional projects and responsibility. I pushed through the exhaustion, barely slowing down long enough to tell the hubby I felt off – probably an early pregnancy symptom that I was too naive to recognize. Double-checking my period-tracking app confirmed what I suspected. I was late.
I bought a test and got one of those hard plastic ‘crystal’ cups you get as a prize in your old fashioned oatmeal canister, to collect my sample. Sitting together in our living room, we recorded the experience… just in case. I dunked the stick and read the instructions. The digital test delivered the answer before I completed the pamphlet.
Joy, excitement, apprehension, love, anticipation. Over the following nine months, each of those emotions multiplied, until delivery day when we met the little man who would change our lives forever.
The first three weeks were a joyful blur, as I became a sleep-deprived, protective, milk-making machine on a schedule that would reset every three hours.
Then, it was time for my in-laws who had been staying with us, to return to Las Vegas. After they left for the airport, it was just my baby boy and I; hubby was at work, my parents were at work, close friends were also at work, leaving me all alone for the first real stretch.
The number of ‘what if’ questions that bombarded my mind was ridiculous. Anxiety over baby’s wellbeing, over our safety driving around town… everything big and small, seemed to cloud my mind.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, Postpartum Anxiety affects about 10% of women, and is recognized by a group of symptoms, including changes in eating or sleeping habits, thoughts or feelings of constant worry, dizziness, hot flashes or nausea.
I experienced several of these symptoms over the course of my postpartum journey – some on their own, others all at once. Unfortunately I don’t have an amazing story about how I overcame postpartum anxiety and the range of emotions that comes along with it, but I can tell you how I worked through it.
Coping with Postpartum Anxiety
Sometimes the heaviness of postpartum anxiety creeps back in, even months after giving birth, but I fight back.
Self-care is now a priority where I had taken it for granted before. If it means waking up half an hour earlier just to get some me-time, I do it. It means calling for a relative’s help if I feel myself getting burned out. It means handing over the reigns to my husband when he gets home from work so I can get 20 minutes to myself, and they can enjoy some guy time.
It means taking time for prayer and reflection and realizing that while there are many things out of my control, I can work with those that are still within my control.
Motherhood is not a perfect walk in the park. It’s about learning, adapting and understanding the responsibility of caring for the wellbeing of another human being.
We need to talk about the things that make us mothers, the range of emotions we go through during and after pregnancy. All too often, once we pop our babies out, mothers are left to fend and care for themselves, while healing from the inside out.
It’s a lot to cope with, but each day is Mother’s Day – a celebration of everything that makes us mothers, even the dark sides that no one talks about. I wouldn’t trade this emotional roller coaster for anything in the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!