When we learned about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety at the Mom Expo last summer, I thought to myself, not me! I convinced myself that I was immune to this scary side effect of giving birth.
About 50 to 75% of women experience the baby blues for the first six weeks after birth, 15% of those women experience a more severe depression that lasts longer than these six weeks and this is called, postpartum depression. Most people have heard of PPD, but no one really talks about postpartum anxiety. These two oftentimes coincide and make a new mom feel lost, alone, anxious, and paranoid among other emotions.
After I gave birth to my baby, I felt okay. I was exhausted and a bit overwhelmed, but I wasn’t crying uncontrollably or worried about me and my baby. My mom was around to help me for two weeks and there were definitely tough days feeling trapped in the house in a unending cycle of breastfeeding, diapering, and napping. I kept telling myself though that I was fine and I wasn’t particularly sad, so I definitely wouldn’t have PPD.
Well, skip ahead a month and I found myself bursting into tears randomly, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer thought of being unable to take care of myself, and generally just failing as a mother. This only got worse and worse.
At the holidays, a generally happy time, my whole family was visiting and I just felt irritable and sad. I was snippy with everyone and tough to be around. I hated myself, but couldn’t see a way out of this funk. I felt horrible that everyone was out visiting for this joyous time of year and time in our lives with a new baby, and I just felt miserable and depressed. I kept telling myself I was fine and I definitely didn’t have PPD, but that denial just made it worse.
My only saving grace through all of this was three new moms I met in my pregnancy group that I had a group text with so we could vent and check on each other. Having these women plus a few other friends who just had babies to talk to about our experiences helped me feel not so lonely. We started getting together once a week and I looked forward to these meetups each week, because these ladies just got me.
Finally after the holidays, I sought out professional help. Seeing a postpartum therapist and getting an assessment opened my eyes to my own suffering. Answering the questions, and realizing the amount of times I said yes to the statement, made me accept that I had postpartum depression and anxiety.
I have good days and bad days and a lot of times they depend on the amount of sleep I get the night before. If I sleep well, because my son sleeps well, I feel so much better. The second I lose a night of sleep, I’m a mess. I cry at the drop of a hat, I am clumsy, forgetful, and anxious about everything. Not to mention, I feel extremely insecure. I feel like friends no longer like me if they don’t respond to my texts right away, I question everything I do as a mom and feel like I’m totally failing at my role, and I feel hideous. It’s terrible for my psyche.
Unfortunately, sleep is dependent on my baby, but I have realized that my anxiety will keep me awake while he is sleeping and that’s even worse. The first time he slept five hours straight, I stood over him watching him breathe to make sure he was alive. I also wake every hour anxious that he’s going to need me soon. The night before his first day with a babysitter, I was awake all night worrying that he wouldn’t feel comfortable at a strangers house and he would cry the whole time. I ended up canceling the next day and calling out of work sick.
When I have good days, I feel like I can totally handle this motherhood thing. On a bad day, I feel like a total failure. I have very negative thoughts about myself. I am a horrible mother. He’d be better off without me. I’m a burden to my husband. I should’ve never been a mom. These are the vicious thoughts that cross my mind. I compare myself to other moms way too often and never feel like I match up. I’m not doing sleep training right. I keep my son out too long. I don’t pick him up fast enough when he’s crying. Endless negative thoughts.
I hope I can just overcome these emotions with time. I am working on being positive, loving myself, and forgiving myself for mistakes. I’m not doing well at it yet. I have started back at work, which has only made my anxiety worse. Last year, I was feeling so confident in my work. I was building more partnerships by the week and I surpassed all the goals they set for me. Now I’m struggling to meet any goals. I feel lost and like I’m failing. I pray I don’t get fired.
Does it get easier? Will I feel this way forever? Will my son be anxious like me? I could type an endless list of thoughts. Motherhood is tough and add lack of sleep to this new challenging role and you’re a basket case. I suffer most days, but no one can tell because I’m great at hiding it. That’s why you should always ask new moms how they are really doing and if you can help because there’s a big chance, they are silently suffering.
All I can say is if you’re going through this, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to seek out help. Find a mom group to join. Having a support group of women going through the same thing is so helpful plus fun to get drinks sometimes without the babies. Say positive affirmations in the mirror everyday like you’re a good mom! Take “me” time! Go for a walk everyday. Indulge in a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine. And know that you’re doing a good job mama and we tend to be our own worst critics. As my mom always says, this too shall pass!