I finally feel like I am in a place to share something I have been wanting to talk about. I’ve chosen to share this vulnerable part of my life because for years I have felt isolated in my struggle. And I suspect there are far more mothers dealing with this than known. And would like to call for greater awareness, screenings, and postpartum care to combat it.
I am now after six babies, eight pregnancies, 13 years of child bearing with regular healthcare and therapy, learning that I have been struggling with postpartum anxiety. It had inhibited my ability to function as a mother, professional, wife, and human. I have lived with it for years without resources or awareness, and I think that is a problem.
I cannot count the times that I have thought I was losing my marbles. Intuition I once trusted seemed skewed. And it’s maddening, the constant thoughts and obsessing over situations that happened months ago, yesterday, or haven’t even happened yet. And for all these years, I have told myself “Just deal with it.”
I remember in past years walking into the living room with toys and screams and all the normal sounds of childhood and this irritation came over me I had never felt before. I remember telling my husband, “It’s like alarms are going off in my head. I have to go in the other room. I can’t be here.”
Walking into the other room my brain then would go in this circle of thoughts, “Where did my patience go?” “It must be the lack of sleep.” “Maybe I need a break?” “I usually love being around my kids.” “This isn’t me.” “What is wrong with me?” And I’ve done this for years, I would go into another room.
Shortly after having first baby, I remember walking by a rail on our third story apartment building and feeling fear come over every part of me that I something would happen to my baby. No matter how much I held him I worried he could slip and fall. So, from then on, I walked closer to the wall.
When you have a baby they give you a survey at the postpartum visit. This survey screens for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is very serious and I am so glad they do screenings. But through all my pregnancies I have never scored more than a few points. I have not had thoughts of self harm or to harm my children. I still very much want to participate in my regular activities. And as a whole I have felt happy. Postpartum anxiety was not mentioned by my doctors.
And now I think about, I never really talked about these thoughts before this year. I either thought this is what most mothers went through and we were expected to just deal with it. Or in the opposite, I was afraid. I was scared that others would think I was insane. I feared I would be labeled unfit to be a “good” mother, that my anxiety would be correct, and I would be alone. The ironic part is I realize now that my anxiety built fear of vulnerability which created my own isolation and lack of support.
How did I learn about postpartum anxiety?
Since having my last baby four months ago I have been slowly returning back to normal life. I do have a lot of kids now and life is really busy so some adjustments and normal stress I think is expected. But red flags have been going up like when I have looked at my to-do list and shut down. There have been nights that I have cried to my husband over social situations. The fear of something happening to my baby has returned. And I’ve had trouble sleeping or worrying about things that haven’t even happened.
It was through therapy and working through my intrusive thoughts I realized my reactions did not match actions. Or that hard social situations have been debilitating. I realized my paranoid thoughts and constant worry was beyond my normal mindset.
What am I doing to help my anxiety?
Firstly, I’m changing my narrative. I am not longer just dealing with it and ignoring this. I am learning how to manage my anxiety so it does not rule over me. No longer do I feel alone and isolated. I no longer will deal with it but my goal is to thrive with it.
Second, my husband and I have worked on our communication in a way that I feel comfortable being vulnerable and open to talking to him about my feelings. Because of this my husband is a huge support for me. The other day I felt triggered, my thoughts began to spiral and I was able to call him to talk me through it and help me get grounded.
I am also working in therapy on this. I highly recommend counseling for marriage or individuals. And advise to expect to try different therapists. This is our third therapist and she has been my favorite.
Since realizing that I needed more help I’ve created a ￼Community-fitness program￼ to help motivate me to move my body. When ever I have struggled with anxiety in the past fitness has always been a good outlet for me. ￼
I have also found resources online such as an anxiety support Facebook group and three apps that are great for check ins and grounding. The apps are called Relax Meditation, Breathe, and Shine. I have also been learning grounding exercises and to work though the intrusive thoughts.
Shine: Calm Anxiety & Stress – ShineStop, Breathe & Think – Stop, Breathe & Think Relax Meditation: Guided Mind – Ipnos Software Inc.
What can you do to help spread awareness?
I think the first thing is sprite this message in whatever way you feel comfortable. I just heard the word postpartum anxiety for the first time THIS YEAR! And my doctor has never mentioned it before let alone given me resources.
If I had read an article like this years ago or had a friend talk to me, I feel like it would have resonated with me so deeply. I may have looked for help years ago. We need to talk about post partum anxiety in our mom circles, especially with those who just had a baby.
Take care of you new mama friends. Even if they aren’t struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression take care of them. I could write a whole other blog post about what a woman’s body does through pregnancy, birth, and afterward. Spoiler, it’s a lot and life changing. Your friend may be struggling but not comfortable with sharing. Or they may not be struggling. Doesn’t matter, take care if the them still. I sure will.
I hope in the future there will be more research done for postpartum anxiety and postpartum care. We go to an average of 13 prenatal appointments and only one postpartum doctor visit. Just one and they send you off! Good luck! In my opinion there should be screenings for postpartum anxiety as well as resources given to every new mother along with resources for postpartum depression. Postpartum care needs to change.
Thank you for hearing me. I’ve just begun and have a lot to learn so I will be sharing my journey along the way. If you have struggled with postpartum anxiety and would feel comfortable sharing your story, I would love to hear it. Thanks for your support.
As always, sending happy strong vibes your way.