When you’re pregnant it seems like as soon as you see those 2 lines, everyone starts with the warnings. “You better sleep now, you won’t be able to when that baby comes!”, “Enjoy time with your husband, you won’t have him to yourself for 18 years”, “Your body will never be the same!”. We hear the obvious, we smile and nod and think we’ll be the exception. Why can’t we get that baby that sleeps through the night since day 1? Why can’t I bounce back into size 2 jeans right after birth? It really can’t be that bad.
For me, the problem didn’t lie with my sleep deprivation or with my new mommy pouch at the bottom of my belly. The problem lied with a resting heart rate of 135 and the constant feeling of an elephant sitting on my chest. You read all about it, emotions can hit hard after a baby. It’s more than just the baby blues…you’re not crying because you’re happy, sad, tired and completely confused. You’re crying because you can’t shut your brain off. Your baby can be sleeping peacefully and you’re staring at her thinking, “maybe her breathing is abnormal”. Maybe her head isn’t supposed to be shaped like that. Maybe someone is going to break in tonight and steal her. Because I mean really…she IS that cute.
After I had my daughter I was on high alert for PPD. My mother had suffered and so had my sister. I was scared out of my mind that I was going to go absolutely crazy and lock myself in the bathroom for 18 hours. Every time I felt even a fraction of sadness I immediately redirected myself. Fortunately I didn’t go off the deep end. I didn’t feel empty or lost. I didn’t want to hurt myself or my baby. When I had my 6 week checkup, I breezed through the depression questions. No, I don’t feel a loss of purpose or interest in life. No, I’m not going to sit in my car and bawl my eyes out. However I am going to sit at a stop sign for 8 straight minutes and make sure there will not be any cars coming remotely near me while I attempt to turn. I am going to want to vomit every time I strap her into the car. Am I sad? No. Am I scared out of my mind, yes! Postpartum anxiety is as real as it comes and although it takes a back seat to big sister depression, it is crippling in its own. It is unreasonable, unpredictable and it can be a huge game changer.
When I told my OB that I was having some anxiety, she said… “We’ll keep an eye on it, some worry is normal”. Well, okay! I’m good then. It’s normal to worry after a baby so of course I’m going to think about every possible situation that could go wrong. Of course I’m going to feel an immense protectiveness to the point where I don’t want anyone else to hold her. Or look at her. Or breathe in her direction. In fact, just don’t even say her name. It infuriates me. It makes me worry. Just leave us alone!
Anyone who has a baby and a big family understands that feeling this way is not exactly ideal. People bang down your door bringing food and gifts and eagerly waiting for a chance to hold the newest member of the family. This was something I struggled with greatly. It was overwhelming for me to see anyone other than my husband. Everyone wanted to help, which was nice. But I couldn’t handle it. I would feel like hyperventilating every time my phone went off because I knew it was someone else who wanted to come over. At the time I didn’t understand that this was going to lead to bigger issues with my anxiety and my mental state. It also was going to affect my relationships with family members. This is something that I needed to work through, and still to this day struggle on occasion. During the moments that your anxiety is taking over it is hard to understand that you’re being unreasonable. And even more so, being told you are is infuriating. It’s important to keep in mind that these family members do love and care for you and your baby. Keep honest and open communication and ask for understanding. Set strong boundaries that make you comfortable but still allow others to take part in this miracle.
In this day and age, it’s hard to survive on one salary. And being a working mom is a whole other beast. While I truly believe that EVERY mom is a superhero, working moms need to have a certain type of grit to make it through the day. I was eager to go back to work. This was my career, what I went to college for. I wanted to be a strong role model for my daughter and show her that you can totally have it all. So after 9 weeks home, I threw my scrubs on and went back in to work. I got there, walked over to my desk and cried. Why was I here? Why wasn’t I home with my baby? I can’t do both…really, I can’t. That’s when I started with the anger. I hated leaving my child but I hated the idea of giving up my career. I would lay awake at night conflicted and hurt. I felt as though I was judged for not being able to be a stay at home mom. I also felt I would be judged for giving up the career I worked for. I started to resent my coworkers, simply because they were there. I didn’t know how to communicate with them what I was feeling because it didn’t even make sense to me. I couldn’t rationalize the way I was feeling, which I later learned was the anxiety. So I started doing what I felt was the best of both worlds and called off of work or left early every chance I got. I am so lucky and grateful that my boss had an idea that I was struggling and decided to keep me around while I figured out my emotions. This was an on going problem for about two or three months before I woke up.
When I finally did wake up and realize the way I was living, I decided to call my doctor. My husband was nothing but supportive of me during this whole process, but I know it was hard. I lashed out at him for no reason almost on the daily. I couldn’t tell him I was overwhelmed and drowning because I couldn’t pinpoint those words as how I felt. When I got to my family doctor and told him what was going on, he put me on an anti anxiety medication. I remember feeling defeated and weak. But I strongly encourage anyone who is in a similar situation to feel the opposite. Feel empowered that you took control of your situation. Feel strong as hell for creating a human and still being able to check into your own needs. Feel confident in yourself that you can overcome this. Because you can! Postpartum anxiety is definitely no small thing. Practice self care, self love and allow yourself to tap into your mental health and take charge. Your new baby needs you to be the best you possible, and there is no shame in asking for help. They tell you it’s going to be hard but they don’t tell you HOW hard. Please be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.