Have you been described as controlling? Do you have to plan out activities to the final second? When plans are abruptly changed or delayed, do you experience stress? Do you become overwhelmed simply wondering about the “what ifs” in life? If you answered yes to these questions, you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety.
I know we all have heard of postpartum depression (PPD), but postpartum anxiety is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. Let’s talk about more about what postpartum anxiety is and how it presents.
Postpartum Progress is a website and community dedicated to assisting women and improving postpartum health. According to Postpartum Progress, these are some symptoms of postpartum anxiety.
- Your thoughts are constantly racing
- You can’t relax. You HAVE to be doing something at all times: cleaning the house, bottles, etc.
- You’re always worried about everything. This includes potential hazards. People’s opinions of your parenting. How your spouse views you. The world ending. You’re literally worried about everything.
- You obsessively check things such as making sure doors are locked, the baby is breathing, the alarm is on, the stove is off.
- You’re restless, on edge, irritable, unable to sleep.
- You’re afraid to ask for help because in your mind this isn’t normal. I mean who feels like this?! No other mom goes through this!
Ya’ll, this describes me EXACTLY. It’s like they are just watching my life via TV. My mind is constantly going. I’m thinking about bills, to-do lists for the next day, week, month, year. Thinking how to help my 3-year-old achieve a college reading level by the time she is 5. Figuring out ways to make some extra money. I mean CONSTANTLY going.
This of course hinders my ability to rest and sleep. How can you sleep when you can’t calm you mind for 5 minutes? Of course, I blame horrible sleep issues on my children, but truth is, even on nights where they sleep great, I am up all night. And the obsessing over hazards is so real. I’m still terrified for my 3 year old to go up and down the stairs by herself even though she has no problem doing so. I fuss at my husband when he allows her to do so and I force her to wait on one of us in the mornings when we’re getting ready for the day. And why would I ask for help? I got this. I don’t need my in-laws to baby sit while I write this 20 page paper. I can do it all. I HAVE to be do it all otherwise I’m a bad mom, right? Wrong.
I truly wish I had known about postpartum anxiety after having my first child. I knew I was experiencing postpartum depression symptoms. I mean it was awful. Just a sense of dread beginning each day. I didn’t enjoy my child, my husband, my life. I would literally just sit in the dark ALL day. I didn’t want anyone to visit. I truly hated life. It was awful. But through the power of prayer and truly seeking God for help, I recovered from postpartum depression.
After my struggle with postpartum depression I still had these lingering feelings of doubt and fear. Of course you absolutely were not going to keep my child overnight. What if she dies while she’s with you? No, my husband wasn’t allowed to clean or prep bottles. What if he mixes too much water and not enough formula and she has some kind of electrolyte imbalance from it and dies? My mom was not allowed to walk up the stairs with her when she babysat. Everything was arranged perfectly and neatly for her downstairs. Ya’ll, this was horrible postpartum anxiety and I truly had no clue. I’m sure I really divided the relationship with my in-laws because they really weren’t allowed to keep my child. I just couldn’t fathom the thought of not knowing what was going on with her 24/7. It was a horrible way to live.
Fast forward to pregnancy number 2. I knew my risk of experiencing postpartum depression was increased since I went through it the first time, but I was determined not to go through it again. I attempted to eliminate some of my stressors. I bought the Owlet so that I could let her safely sleep in her space, but I’d be made aware if she stopped breathing or something. I decided from the beginning that I would supplement with formula so that I wasn’t the only person capable of caring for the baby and so that I could sleep. By the way, not getting sleep during those newborn weeks will turn you into a crazy person, mamas. I knew I’d give my husband more responsibility and not put the pressure on myself to do everything again. And the biggest change that contributed to me not going through postpartum depression is the fact that I make a serious effort to do things for myself this time around. Whether it’s a bubble bath, a night on the porch having wine, a long drive, or a day in front of the lake typing a blog post, I do things for myself. “Oh, you take your 8 month old to daycare on your days off?” I absolutely do and I’m a better friend, mom and wife because of it. I am contributing to my mental health. Happy mom/wife, happy life is a very true statement. How can we care for these sweet little people if we don’t take care ourselves first? Of course, we can still take care of them, but I promise being a mom is so much more enjoyable this time around. And now that I’m officially done with my Master’s and I don’t have something lingering over me and stressing me out, I am more mentally and emotionally available for my children.
So now we know what postpartum anxiety is and how to recognize it, but what do we do about it? That’s the hard part. As with anything, we first must admit that this is something we are struggling with. And guess what? It is okay to not be okay. If you have a significant other, talk to them and let them know that this is something you are dealing with and tell them how they can help. We have to relinquish control, though. Let your spouse get up and help with night time feedings. Ask them to prepare the bottles for the next day. Trust them to do these tasks. Ladies, we unknowingly hinder our partner’s ability to be great fathers by not allowing them to take part in tasks of parenthood. Let dad enjoy giving that sweet baby a bath. Maybe he doesn’t apply the lotion in the perfect circular motion that our baby likes, but let him do it. Go enjoy a hot shower while he fights to put the baby to sleep. We must allow our tribe to help us. Let your mom watch the baby for a couple of hours and don’t call her every 30 minutes. Go watch a movie. Take a nice walk. Get out of the house and away from that baby for a few minutes. Recharge your spirit. Get involved in a support group or community. There were tons of groups when you were pregnant, right? But where is everyone now that the baby is here? Follow my page and join my group to get judgement-free, postpartum support. And lastly, but most importantly, pray. Take these concerns, fears, doubts, feelings, emotions and problems to God. He loves and understands you more than anyone and He truly will guide you out of this difficult time.
Being a mom isn’t easy. It is the hardest thing I have ever done (and I made it through nursing school). But the amazing thing is that we don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to other mamas. Talk to your spouse. Stop putting the weight of the world on your shoulders, love.