Postpartum Anxiety Update

It’s been a couple months since I talked about being diagnosed with Post Partum Anxiety, so I thought I would give a little update and reflection on how I’m doing now.

In two words, much better.  But it was definitely a journey to get to this point.  I was already in therapy at the time, but that continues on a regular basis.  I was also put on medication, which I continue to take.  And I incorporated meditation and regular exercise (either walking or yoga or both some days) into my routine.

While I think the conversation around mental health is getting better, there is also a stigma still surrounding the topic.  But mental health is just as important as our physical health.  I find it interesting that if I was diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, taking medication, adjusting lifestyle, and going to doctors on a regular basis doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.  But if I’m dealing with depression or anxiety, it’s a different story.

In fact, something I still feel weird talking about is the fact I was diagnosed with PTSD while I was pregnant with my son.  I always thought PTSD was reserved for “real trauma” – war veterans, physical or sexual abuse, things like that.  But I did go through real trauma with my daughters.

Anne Bogel, a blogger on modernmrsdarcy.com, shared a post she wrote last year about her experiences on 9/11 and the panic attacks she had following those events.  And how she didn’t get help right away because she felt like her situation wasn’t as bad as others.  In the infertility and pregnancy loss world, a comparison can be just as detrimental.

Even now, when I’m asked if Sam is my first, I say that I had two stillborn daughters before him.  If I say I had miscarriages or pregnancy loss, they ask how far along was I in the pregnancy.  As if to say that if it wasn’t far enough along, then I’m not entitled to my grief or to even talk about them. In fact, I still struggle to talk about my first miscarriage, before my two daughters, because it wasn’t “as bad.”

I know that it’s hard to talk about what’s going on inside our heads and our hearts.  Sometimes even we aren’t able to process everything fully and with clarity.  And it’s easy to compare our situation with others and write it off as nothing.  But it’s not.  If you found a lump in your breast, even if it wasn’t as big as someone else’s lump, you would still go to the doctor to get it checked out, right?  In the same way, going to a professional therapist to talk about the things you are experiencing is just as normal.

No matter where you are in life, and what you are feeling, you are not alone.  To be honest, I think everyone should include mental checkups in their annual routines.  So if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, or even just think a mental checkup would do you good, I highly encourage you to seek out a good therapist or talk to your doctor.

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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.