I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was in middle school, long before I got pregnant. When I did get pregnant, my OB talked to me a lot about postpartum depression because he knew about my past. We adjusted my antidepressants, I went to therapy regularly, and I mentally prepared to have PPD. I went online and read all kinds of stories about it, and talked to other moms who went through it. Since you are much more likely to get postpartum depression if you have depression before you got pregnant, I was as ready as I could be. I was more than ready, I was expecting to have PPD.
To much of my surprise, when I had Paisley and the months following, I had zero postpartum depression. I didn't even have any baby blues (which is different from PPD and I'll explain that in my post about postpartum depression). What I did have, however, was anxiety. And it wasn't just normal new mom anxiety, it was extreme and crippling. Everyone talks about postpartum depression but no one warned me about postpartum anxiety. Thats probably because PPD will effect 20% of women while PPA only effects about 7%.
My mind was constantly racing. I would replay horrible scenarios in my head over and over about Paisley. Her getting hurt, her dying, her getting kidnapped. I wouldn't even shower if I was home alone with Paisley because I was so scared something bad would happen to her, even if she was sleeping. Whenever anyone held her, my whole body would tense. I would watch their every move. Were they holding her head right? Was she comfortable? Did they wash their hands before?
Paisley was a pretty good sleeper in the beginning, but I never slept. I would stay up all night and watch her breath. And not in like a normal new mom way. In an intense and terrified way. If my anxiety told me something was wrong, even if rationally I knew that she was okay, I would literally wake her up to make sure she was still alive.
If you read my labor and delivery story, you can understand why I might be feeling some anxiety after bringing my baby home. I mean, Paisley almost died. Tyler and I had to visit her in the NICU and hold her while she was attached to every tube and wire you could think of. And then we had to take her home with no monitors, no nurses, no doctors. Anyone would be anxious, right? But my feelings were so intense, I would have physical reactions. I would literally throw up and break out in hives. My anxiety completely controlled my life. It got to the point that without Tyler, I wouldn’t leave the house with P.
I was really ashamed about the way I was feeling, because I didn't think that it was normal. It wasn't until recent years that they even acknowledged postpartum anxiety to be a real disorder. I kept it all inside and let it eat me alive. I wasn't able to enjoy any part of my new life with my new baby because I was so overwhelmed by my fears. When I finally got some help, everything changed. I confronted my anxieties. It wasn't easy and it didn't happen over night. It took a lot of practice. I had to actively tell myself not to worry, not to panic. If someone wanted to hold her, I had to take a deep breathe and tell myself that it was okay, Paisley was going to be fine. There were a couple of times in the beginning of my healing where I would have to physically remove myself from the room so that I wouldn't steal P from whoever had her.
I had to learn to trust. The idea of trusting other people with my baby's safety was far too much for me to accomplish, so I put all my trust in God. I gave all of my anxieties, fears, and anxieties to God. I trusted that God would keep my baby safe, and that anything that happens is apart of his plan. If religion and God isn't your thing, that's okay. But I would encourage any mom who is struggling with postpartum anxiety (or any anxiety really) to find an outlet to give it all away. Maybe journaling is your thing, maybe it's meditation or yoga. Maybe it's reading a book or listening to some music. Going to therapy or just talking it out with other moms who have gone through the same thing can be more helpful than you can imagine. Or maybe you're like me, and you turn to prayer.
Trust me, I know, that when you're a new mom and baby is sleeping, you want to sleep or catch up on chores or even take a shower. The last thing on your mind is taking care of yourself, but it shouldn't be! You can't take care of your baby unless you take care of yourself too. Once I confronted my PPA, and worked on putting it where it belonged, my entire relationship with my daughter changed. I was able to enjoy my time with her without fearing that something bad was going to happen at all times. I became happier than I had even been before.
If you're struggling with postpartum anxiety, take a deep breath, and give it away. Like I said before, it isn't going to happen over night. You're going to need to practice. But with that practice you can build a healthy relationship with your anxiety. Just remember that there is no shame in what you are feeling, and it is so important to handle these feelings, or they will consume your whole life. But I promise you, it is doable. And if you're reading this right now and battling PPA, please know that you are not alone mama, and you're going to get through this.
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