My Experience with PostPartum Anxiety

I waited five long years.  Through miscarriage and stillbirth, I finally gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  I crossed the finish line.

Or so I had thought.

When I reached that finish line, I looked up and saw I had several more laps to go.  And, guys, I was exhausted.  Emotionally.  Physically.  Mentally.  Not even considering the following weeks of sleep deprivation and hormonal letdown.  Anxiety was still present.

But I chalked it up to the baby blues.  I waited until the hormones leveled out more or less.  Michael took the night shift so I could get more sleep.  Even after that, I still had those nights when those thoughts wouldn’t leave me.  The thought that wouldn’t let me sleep.

“Your baby is going to die tonight.”

It was terrifying.  I would be up every hour checking on the baby, even if I woke him up.  And we knew that this wasn’t sustainable.  Even during the daytime naps, I was constantly checking to see if he was breathing.  In those moments, it was as if he knew because he always seemed to kick or sigh in his sleep when I looked over at him.

There were other issues as well.  I didn’t trust my intuition.  I was convinced that I was going to hurt him in some way.  Was I feeding him enough?  If his head fell forward or fell backward unexpectedly, was I forever damaging him?  I felt like he was safer in other people’s arms than in my own.  And I wasn’t bonding with him at all.

So, I talked to my therapist.  She told me that all of these things were quite common in a lot of pregnancies.  Bonding with the baby wasn’t going to be instantaneous, just like falling in love with someone happens slowly over time.  However, my PTSD from losing my girls was definitely playing a part, and after I talked to my OB, I got some medication to help.

And it has helped.  It doesn’t make everything perfect, but it quiets the thoughts and gives me a chance to learn to trust my gut.  And I’m bonding with the little guy more and more each day.

There is this pressure to enjoy motherhood.  To soak up every second of every day because it goes by so fast.  And because I have waited so long for these moments, the pressure feels even greater to appreciate every second.  I love my son.  And I look forward to the snuggles every day.  I even think some of his cries are adorable (and when he sticks out that lip, I just want to snuggle him).

But I have to take care of myself.  I need to make sure I’m as healthy as I can be so that I can take care of him.  Post-partum anxiety is real and nothing to be ashamed of.  And it’s not forever, so for now, I will just take each day as it comes, giving myself grace, and be grateful for the support and love that surrounds me.

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Continuing the Conversation

I want to continue sharing other people’s stories or articles from around the internet like I did last week, so here are three new voices to share.

How Infertility Feels – The Struggle To Conceive – A beautiful blog about a woman on her IVF journey.  It’s uplifting and positive, but also honest.

‘To my baby that never made it earthside’– An article by a mommy blogger about her 6-week pregnancy loss.  Again, it’s beautiful and open.

Joanna Gaines Helped a Friend Through Infertility Struggles and Got a Sweet Tribute in Return – I love this story about Joanna’s friend and the rose bush.  It’s all about prayer and encouraging others going through struggles.  She had an article in her magazine last year about a friend who experienced pregnancy loss that was so wonderful that I ended up buying a copy at the grocery store (which I never do).  I love how supportive she has been to the pregnancy loss community in her own way.

If you have never experienced pregnancy loss or infertility, I can guarantee there is someone in your life who has.  While the above stories may not be the same experiences for everyone, they can definitely open that window to more understanding and empathy for what everyone goes through.  And for those of you who are in the midst of these unknowns or losses, you are not alone.  May these words uplift and encourage you today.

Do you have any posts or articles that have touched you or compelled you to share?

Continuing the Conversation

One of the things that I am most passionate about is the conversation about pregnancy loss and infertility.  It’s why I share my own experiences.

But I want to go beyond my own experiences.  So, I am going to share links to posts and articles that I have found that are keeping this conversation going.  I encourage you to read these articles, but I will also give brief thoughts or synopsis to each of the links.

How to talk to a friend who is experiencing infertility – An interview with Andrea Syrtash, who launched an infertility online magazine called Pregnantish.  The points in the article are accurate for both pregnancy loss and infertility.  Heavy emphasis on listening and transparency.  Also, I briefly perused the magazine.  It has some basic articles but also highlights families and their journeys through infertility.

Loss of sex drive women: I cried through sex with husband – This is a beautiful, raw, touching piece written by a woman who is struggling with infertility.  It has some language in it and it is adult in nature, but it is very open and vulnerable.  An excellent window into the struggle for a lot of women.

The Importance of Acknowledging Pregnancy Loss – This is a broad article the covers most of the basics about pregnancy loss.  I was surprised to see that abortions made the list for this writer, but I don’t doubt that there are some women who grieve those losses as well.  I just know that it can be a touchy subject and that the pregnancy loss world and the pro-choice world have collided at times.  Still, it is a pretty good article to share with those that have never experienced or know anyone (which they probably do and don’t know it) that has had a pregnancy loss.

Those are a couple of articles to get started.  I share these to get the conversation started, but also to show that this is a common conversation.  That if you have experienced or are experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss that you aren’t alone.

Do you have any posts or articles that have touched you or compelled you to share?

What to Say To Someone Going Through Pregnancy Loss (Stranger Edition)

what to say

I would love to change the conversation surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility.  So many of the women in my life have been affected by one or the other, and there are so many assumptions made about pregnancy loss that manifest in strange comments or bad advice.  My theory is that as a society (whether in sex ed classes or in youth group) we stress so much that if you have sex, you will get pregnant.  While that is definitely an outcome, it’s not the only one.  And since the other outcomes are never addressed, when we get married and are ready to have kids, and then can’t or struggle to, it’s easy to feel ostracized and no one else is really prepared for it either.  Assumptions are made, and hence, comments and advice are doled out.

But the good news is that it’s becoming more of a conversation.  More celebrities are speaking out about their experiences, as are more women in general.  There are so many articles about pregnancy loss, that it’s easy to educate oneself.  And just about everyone I know knows someone who has been through one or the other or both.

I was in a forum recently, and someone asked me what do you tell someone who is going through pregnancy loss, specifically someone you don’t know well.  Maybe someone at work or church.  And honestly, it’s better to go simple than to try to find those perfect words that will make them feel better (which DO NOT exist).

I am sorry for your loss.

I know it sounds cliche, but this simple statement does two things.  First, it acknowledges that there was a loss.  I have read about and known women who have people in their lives that refuse to acknowledge their pregnancy loss as anything more than a setback.  But to many of these women this is a loss of a child, and just having that validation can mean so much.  Second, by not saying anything else, this gives the woman the space to grieve and process how they need to grieve and process.  Maybe they end the conversation right there.  That is absolutely fine.  Maybe they will go into the details.  But it is up to them.

Sometimes people might add, “I’ve been there” or “My (family member/friend) has   experienced pregnancy loss.”  Adding this can be helpful as it can help this person feel less alone, but I wouldn’t recommend going into any of the details.  You don’t know what may trigger the woman in front of you, or even if they are prepared to have that conversation.

And finally, don’t take it personally if they don’t react in a way you expected.  They might lash out or brush you off.  Remember, they are grieving.  Even if it’s been a while since the loss, you never know what milestone or anniversary might be coming up for them.  It could be a due date or the day they found out they were pregnant.  Grace and space are such key terms when approaching this topic, especially with someone you don’t know.

It makes me so happy and encouraged that there are so many people who are willing to ask questions like these.  And, of course, this conversation might be different with someone you know better, someone that you have a closer relationship with.  I’m hopeful that the conversation and the stigma around pregnancy loss will change.  And I’m so grateful to have you all as my community because I know you all want to be a part of that positive change.

Upcoming Anniversary Reflections

Upon reflection of the upcoming anniversaries in my life, I have realized how differently I have viewed each of my pregnancies, based on a number of factors.

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For instance, when my first daughter died, I was in shock for quite a long time.  I didn’t feel the same way other women seemed to feel.  It took me three months at least to name her.  And it took me well over a year to really realize that I was already a mother.  And even longer to finally buy her urn.  I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that I never learned how to live in this limbo, how to process this limbo.

It was about a month after I had accepted my own motherhood that I became pregnant again.  And this time, I got to spend a little more time with this daughter.  Because of my first daughter’s death, I was now a high-risk pregnancy, which came with more ultrasounds, including a DVD of a 3-D ultrasound at 20 weeks.  I felt her move more.  I danced with her to the songs on the radio, while waiting in traffic.  When I found out she died, she had a name before her stillbirth.  Her urn was bought immediately.

And I guess that’s why last year’s holidays were so hard.  Everything I lost became so real.  I wasn’t in shock anymore.  I was supposed to be celebrating Christmas with my two girls, and I wasn’t.  No matter how many traditions I participated in, no matter how many cheesy movies watched or presents purchased, the holiday felt empty without them.  It hurt so bad to see everyone else celebrating with their kids, making memories when all I had left of my daughters were memories.

But this year, it’s different.  Now, I’m carrying a new life, a new hope of future Christmases and traditions. Some people celebrate the child’s birth, but the fact that I have this little, precious heartbeat within me during this holiday season for the first time in five years of waiting…this is my true gift this year.  And I thank God every day I get to spend with this little one.

Life is so precious.  Every breath, every heartbeat, every moment.  I’ve never really understood that until now.  So, in the midst of the sadness of remembering and the heartache of those I miss terribly, I find strength in joy and hope.  It will probably always be bittersweet, and this child will always know the sisters that came before.  We will take time each year around this season to remember them.  But in remembering them, we will make strides to embrace every moment as a wonderful gift.  And to always be thankful.

A Brief Comment on This Month

A Brief Comment

Amidst the excitement that my family has currently been experiencing, November is also a time of sad anniversaries as well.  At the end of this month, I will be remembering my first daughter on the 3 year anniversary of her stillbirth.  But at the same time, celebrating the holiday season pregnant.

Which makes this month really weird.

Grief, in fact, can be weird and unpredictable.  I remember the year after my first daughter’s stillbirth that the weeks leading up to that date were a lot harder than the day itself.  And last year, I was mourning not only her death but the death of my second daughter as well.  My second daughter’s due date was just days before the stillbirth date of my first.  Which put me into a depression that covered the entire holiday season.

This year, not only will I be remembering my two precious little girls, I will also be experiencing the joy of the beginning of the second trimester – the renewed energy, the complete lack of nausea, the increased appetite, feeling somewhat normal again.  It’s this happy but sad but happy but sad feeling that leaves everything unpredictable.

But that’s okay.  If I’ve learned anything on this pregnancy journey, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not completely know what’s going to happen next.  To trust that God has a clear vision of the road ahead.  That He’s not going to leave me, but instead, he will guide me safely down this path.

Hope Moms Balloon Release

This weekend, Michael and I attended our second Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Balloon Release.  Last year, it was connected with a walk, but this year they just did the balloon release, which was still pretty special.

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It was extremely windy, so I had Michael in charge of the balloons.  We had two pink balloons for each of our daughters.  They had pink, blue, and yellow available.  Yellow balloons were generally for the babies who passed before the gender was known.

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Of course, as they were flying away, I was just overwhelmed.  So many little, loved ones were being celebrated in that park.  It means so much to me to know that I have a community of families who have been there.  I’m also thankful for my own community, all of you, who have been through this journey with us.