The Truth About Postpartum Anxiety and How to Cope

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to be honest with you right now. My life dramatically changed after having babies. I know, huge shocker, right? But no, really. It did. In more ways than one.

If you’ve read my story about my struggle with postpartum depression, then you know my struggle there; but something I haven’t really talked about yet is postpartum anxiety.

 

 

You may be wondering: what is that? What is postpartum anxiety? How is it different from regular anxiety?

I’m here to share that with you today– because, well, I didn’t fully understand either. I never even knew that postpartum anxiety was a thing that, you know, moms get.

Postpartum anxiety is a real-thing and it actually affects way more moms than I thought. In fact, postpartum anxiety is more common than postpartum depression and not enough women know about it.

What is postpartum anxiety?

 

 

When is it not just worrying?

Being a mother means taking on the burden of responsibility and caring for another life. So, It’s common to worry about things like your sick baby or the dirty laundry you didn’t get to yet– but what makes your worrying cross the line to PPA?

According to parents.com, postpartum anxiety is when you dread everyday situations such as driving (with baby inside your car) or if panic attacks come that disrupt your whole day. It’s when your constant fear of harming your baby play over in your mind.

How does postpartum anxiety happen?

Postpartum anxiety happens thanks to the hormonal shift after giving birth and the various triggers that follow– sleep deprivation, caring for a newborn, and lifestyle changes. Any new mom can experience postpartum anxiety but those with a family history of anxiety or a previous experience with depression are especially vulnerable.

How to get help for PPA.

If postpartum anxiety is affecting your daily life to the point where you find it difficult to care for your child, please reach out and seek help– you are not alone!

Resources:

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Postpartum Progress is an amazing resource for finding a specialist near you.

 

How to cope with PPA.find a trusted person to confide in.

*find a trusted resource and reach out.

*medication/talk therapy.

*meditation/deep breaths.

*write your thoughts in a journal.

*know that you’re not alone!

YOU are not alone.

Maybe you’ve been feeling a little ‘off’ since your baby was born….you know, not quite yourself; your more anxious, worry-some, and panicky. Perhaps you even feel like you’re the only one to ever feel like this and if you told someone you’re thoughts and worries, they may label you as crazy. OR, maybe you just assumed that these feelings are NORMAL for a new mom {or mom in general}.

I was in your shoes. I know the feelings. I’m here to tell you that you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. Postpartum anxiety is normal and treatable. There are resources and there is help out there. It won’t be like this forever.

IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS:

From postpartum.net,

Postpartum Support International is not a crisis hotline and does not handle emergencies. People in crisis should call their physicians, their local emergency number or one of the National Emergency Hotlines listed below.

CRISIS TEXT LINE:

  • Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website

  • 1-800-273-8255
  • www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org Call for yourself or someone you care about; free and confidential; network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide; available 24/7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda’s Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Story

Amanda’s story

{previously featured on Legally Mommy}

 

 

 


 

I never wanted to be a Mother.

I never fantasized about baby names, or nursery décor. I didn’t swoon over infants. In fact, I was terrified of them (and still am).

I had grown up, an only child, in an alcoholic and abusive home. To this day, I remember virtually nothing about my childhood: it’s been completely erased in my mind. I grew up quickly, with an insatiable (and unrealistic) desire to succeed. I was a perfectionist in every sense of the word.

The law school days

When I was accepted into law school in 2011, my boyfriend (now fiancée) and I decided that I would move 3 and a half hours away to another province to attend school while he’d stay here in the house we had bought the year before. I was excited to begin a new adventure. I knew I would miss him, but I (mistakenly) thought I was strong enough to get through the year on my own.

Once I moved and began school, I experienced the crushing loneliness and abandonment I had experienced in childhood all over again. I was alone, and I had no one. I was miserable, and quickly fell into a depression. I had always been prone to anxiety and depression, so this came easy to me – and without much warning. I began to fantasize about what I presumed would be my ‘happily ever after.’ For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a Mother. It was foreign and new, but I adopted the idea with my usual fervour. I wanted someone to need me, and to never leave my side. I thought having a baby was the answer. After my first year of school ended and I moved back home, we started entertaining the idea of starting a family. The timing was horrible, but my desire consumed me. I thought I was ready.

Weeeeeee’re pregnant?!

Fast forward to October 10, 2012, a day I’ll never forget.

As soon as I saw “YES +” glaring back at me on the pregnancy test, my stomach instantly sunk. It was not at all how I expected to feel, but in that moment I had absolutely no control over my emotions.

We had wanted this. In a sense, we had planned this – I just didn’t plan on it happening so quickly.

I instantly began to feel anxious. I dismissed it as normal pregnancy nerves. In hindsight, I should have talked to someone about it right away. We also found out that my maternal serum screening numbers had come back a bit high, and we’d have to have a “level 2” or higher risk ultrasound done. We were lucky to see our baby girl at 10 weeks and again at 12 and 20 weeks. At our 20 week ultrasound, they noticed some spots on her heart: a ‘soft marker’ for Down Syndrome. They said it was likely nothing, but they offered us an amniocentesis just in case. We opted not to. They sent us home, and told us that these ‘bright spots’ were fairly common. My fiancée spent the rest of my pregnancy with “99.6%” written on his arm in permanent marker: the chance our baby would be born without Down Syndrome.

The odds were definitely in our favor, but I was still terrified. Not only because of these markers – but also because I didn’t feel one bit ready for motherhood. No amount of reading, nursery prep or prenatal classes changed that. I never once had that ‘peaceful’ feeling. I was terrified for 100% of my pregnancy. As I mentioned, I had always been an anxious person, but pregnancy (and – as I’d later learn – Motherhood) amplified that anxiety past the point where I could handle it on my own.

Absolute denial

As my due date approached, I was in complete denial. And when I went into labour five days past my due date, I tried to convince myself that the painful contractions I was feeling were just braxton hicks contractions. I was SO not ready.

My labour was fast. When I reluctantly arrived at the hospital, I was promptly admitted when they discovered I was 7 centimeters dilated. There was no time for an epidural. Labour was the easy part, even completely un-medicated. Our daughter was born four hours later, perfectly healthy. I felt numb. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing a million miles a minute.

Life after baby

Things got even worse when we left the hospital. My daughter developed a particularly awful case of acid reflux, and she was nursing around the clock. When she wasn’t nursing, she was crying constantly from the pain. She barely slept. When she did, I tossed and turned in bed beside her – anxiously anticipating her next cry and my next session of breastfeeding torture. I spent more nights than I wanted to hunched over her on the couch, trying to get her to latch until the sun came up. I barely ate that first month. Or slept. I just cried and cried. And that sums up the first month of her life.

The sadness and anxiety just wouldn’t go away. I was terrified to be alone with her. I refused to go out in public because I was constantly fearful that I would be judged for being a terrible mother. I felt zero connection to my beautiful daughter. I became resentful of my partner, and it almost broke us. I made plans to run away. I knew I couldn’t go far, but I just wanted to disappear and start over again. I tried to explain how I was feeling to my best friend – anyone who would listen. But no one could understand what it was I was going through. I searched high and low for support, and googled “Postpartum Depression” more times than I can count, only to be left in the dark. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. It was like a bad dream that never ended. I came across this list and instantly recognized myself in all the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Reaching out for help

Finally, a lifesaving Public Health nurse told me to head to the hospital and see the on-call Psychiatrist. I waited there for hours in the family waiting room, crying as I watched infomercials about sick babies as part of a fundraiser for a local children’s hospital. It was one of the first times I was away from my daughter, and I panicked knowing that she was low on pumped milk and would soon need to be nursed again.

When the Psychiatrist finally emerged, she told me I had three options: to be admitted, to take medication, or to do nothing.  She admitted that she had zero knowledge of how the drugs she was prescribing me were secreted into breastmilk, and told me I would have to discontinue breastfeeding immediately. She prescribed me Zoloft, a sleeping pill and Ativan. I debated and cried and cried some more. I hated breastfeeding with a fiery passion, but it felt like the only thing I was doing right – even though my daughter still cried in pain most of the time. But she was growing and it was because of me. I immediately stopped breastfeeding. I felt numb. Like a failure. Relieved. All at the same time. To this day, I still well up breastfeeding posts and photos. I feel like the world’s biggest failure. I even tried (unsuccessfully) to re-establish my supply when my daughter was six months old, because the guilt was all-consuming and exhausting.

Over time, after taking the Zoloft and talking with a therapist weekly, I was able to function a bit better. I was still paralyzed with anxiety, though, at times. I didn’t like leaving the house. I didn’t like when my daughter cried in public. I constantly felt –  and still do, sometimes – that I was her babysitter, and I was waiting for her real Mom to come pick her up. I sometimes forgot that I was even a Mother. I didn’t feel like one at all. I kept wondering: “when will things feel normal again? When will I get my old life back?” And I couldn’t, for the life of me, accept that this was my new normal. Every piece of my life was unrecognizable. I was a mess, and I hated every minute of it. Still, to this day, I can’t stand it when people ask: “Can’t you just not remember life before her?” Because all I CAN remember is life before her. It’s life AFTER her that’s a blur.

I have a long way to go, but I’m slowly getting there. And my beautiful daughter, who I love more than anyone else in the world, is turning 2 today. She’s the reason I will continue to fight for support for women like me experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety.

 

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Why Raising Toddlers {close in age} Is Really, Really Exhausting AF

Hi. *yawns*. O, I’m sorry. I’m just rubbing my tired eyeballs as I try to chug my second cup of coffee before icicles form on top of my “World’s Best Mom” mug. I’m also trying to prevent one child from grabbing a knife from the kitchen counter while screaming at the other one to not jump off the sofa.

Contrary to what that mug says, I’ve been feeling less than anyone’s ‘best mom’ these days. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself but lately, I feel like my kids are getting the short end of the stick. They’re both going through some rough ‘phases’ right now and it’s hell. Why? Because raising toddlers is really, really exhausting.

No, I’m not just really tired, I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.

The moment when I peed on that stick and those two faint lines appeared, I knew how hard it was going to be having kids just 18 months apart. It was like all of the worse things flashed before my eyes: double dirty-diapers, double melt-downs, double teething, double the fights, double the chaos.

In the beginning– it was hard. Now? It’s harder. You may think that I have my hands full and you are absolutely correct. 

Motherhood was golden when my second son was just an infant– he slept 95% of the time and wasn’t mobile. Sure, I had to factor in the multiple feedings per day and my first son going through the whole ‘big brother transition’, but looking back, THAT was the easy part. Phew. I was so naive back then.

I now have a 2.5 and 1 year old and I’m drowning. I’m not being dramatic, by any means, because I really, really am drowning– let’s just say that the {proverbial shit hit the fan} once my youngest turned 1. Game. Over.

If you’re curious as to why, I listed some of the reasons below. (And if you have two kids really close in age, then you feel me on this sista.)

 


 

They are beginning to fight with each-other.

I thought that I had a few more years before I would be refereeing my boys–my oldest will put my other son in a  headlock and pin him down. I’m breaking up fights more than I get to sit down.  O, and it’s not only physical they fight over ANYTHING… who has the better toy, who has the better sippy cup (they’re BOTH BLUE), who has the better food (YOU BOTH HAVE STRAWBERRIES). I feel like my day is 98% telling them to leave each other alone.

One of them is ALWAYS grumpy AF.

The only time my boys are content at the exact same time is when they’re eating or sleeping.

One of them is ALWAYS awake.

 THEY NEVER SLEEP AT THE SAME TIME. It would NEVER, EVER happen if both of them napped at the exact, same sweet time. Never. That would mean, falling asleep and waking up at the exact, same sweet time. And night-time is a gamble since our oldest sleeps IN our bed and frequently tosses and turns.

There’s always a phase.

One of them is ALWAYS going through some sort of ‘phase’ that makes life hard AF– because, like I said earlier, one of them is always grumpy.

Going out of the house feels like a freaking marathon.

If I could stay in my house 24/7 (without the risk of my boys or MYSELF going completely insane) I would. The whole process of going out is soooo daunting that if I’m planning on being out with my two boys, it better be worth it.

Grocery shopping is Hell.

If I had a to describe what Hell would be like, it would be grocery shopping with two toddlers. I can’t say much more about it except… I loathe it with every fiber in me.

They feed off of each-other.

Ugh. Yes. Whenever one of them has an uber melt-down moment, it’s a guarantee that the other one will! My youngest is notorious for being a ‘sympathy crier’ so if my oldest is in time-out and crying, my youngest immediately reacts. The worse is probably when we’re in the car and THEY BOTH start going off.

 

So there are a few {of the many} reasons why raising toddlers is exhausting! Can you relate? Don’t forget mama, we’re in this crazy and hectic mom-life together. x.

I Am 1 in 5: The Truth Behind Postpartum Depression And Anxiety {Cara’s story}

Cara’s Story

{previously featured on A Purpose Driven Mom}

 

 

I was sitting in my therapist office one day and we were talking about guilt and shame and why I always feel like if something goes wrong, it’s automatically my fault.

“Well, that’s the depression talking”, she said so calmly.

Wow.

We had talked earlier on in our sessions about my anxiety and it was very clear that I was struggling with Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but we had never talked specifically about Postpartum Depression (PPD).

To me PPD felt so much more real, so scary, and it honestly just made me feel so much more broken.

I felt like I could ‘deal’ with having PPA, I mean isn’t everyone just a stressed out mom? But PPD was so foreign to me. I felt fearful that people would think I was a bad mom, that I couldn’t take care of my kids, that there was something wrong with me. I mean I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t under the covers crying and unable to get out of bed (which was my previous experience with my depression when I was in high school) and I felt like I was getting better.

But there it was, clear as day and right out of my therapists mouth. I was a woman who had Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.

Did you know that 1 in 5 women suffer from either PPA or PPD? And so many moms out there just suffer in silence. They are afraid, just like I was and sometimes still am.

“What will people think of me?”

“Am I really crazy?”

“Why can’t I just get it together?”

For me, my anxiety isn’t always panic attacks or heavy breathing like they show so often on  TV but more of a mental tug and what we refer to in my home as my ‘spiral’.

It starts with the smallest trigger, mostly connected to me feeling like I’ve made a mistake or am inadequate in some way and it turns into spiraling thoughts that I struggle to shut down. Something as simple as getting the wrong thing at the grocery store can become catastrophic.

“Ugh, I don’t have time to go back out”

“I always do this”

“I am so forgetful”

“See this is what happens because you never pay attention”

“Why are you so stupid?”

“Ugh, why are you thinking like this again?”

“See, now no one wants to talk to you because you’re crazy and ruined dinner.”

This spiral is followed by some tears on my part, my family looking confused because they don’t know what to say to me, and me feeling even more guilty because I ‘ruined it again’.

It wasn’t until this pattern had happened for a few months in a row, and a LOT more crying on the middle of my kitchen floor that I realized I needed help. I told my husband I had to do something, I was tired of feeling so tired, and life was just exhausting me. As a life coach, I felt like an even bigger fraud because I felt even less together than I ever had been, and I knew that it was going to have bigger repercussions for my family if I didn’t get help.

So one day, I bravely walked into a therapist office and just said it “I think something is wrong with me”… followed by those ever flowing tears.

After a few sessions, she had diagnosed my PPA (and later my PPD) and we had come up with some coping techniques that have helped me get through my days better. I share them openly with my husband, though honestly I sometimes worry that I am TOO vulnerable with him, and they help him help me with my anxiety when it gets really bad.

In the 5 months since I realized that I needed help, I am proud to say that many of the techniques (from counting, to breathing, to reframing, and more) have really helped me when I am in a spiral. And while I would love to say that my spirals are gone, at least I can say that when I am in the moment, I can self identify what’s happening and bring myself out of it much quicker.

So many of us are afraid to speak our truths because we don’t want to be judged. We don’t want to admit that something is wrong with us. We love our kids and want to be seen as a ‘good mom’. But in keeping our struggles silent, we not only harm ourselves but our family and other women who are suffering in silence.

In that vain, I’ve had a few amazing women be willing to speak out on their struggles and share their personal experiences with PPA/PPD. Because the things is, it affects everyone so differently, which is why it’s also hard to identify right away. We might just think we’re stressed or hormonal or just having a bad day. But mama, if you feel off, if you’re struggle lasts a bit, if you know something just doesn’t feel right, can I encourage you to go and talk to someone, be it another mom, your doctor, or a family member? Because you don’t have to feel stuck, you don’t have to feel alone, and you don’t have to feel lost. Because YOU are not alone!

 

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3 Ways You Can Help Your Partner Through Postpartum Depression

In the early days of my battle with postpartum depression, it was a lonely and scary time for me.

It felt like nobody knew what I was going through.

If you have never experienced postpartum depression (basically every male on the planet) or even depression, it’s impossible to understand the daily struggle of it.

I imagine that it’s also very frustrating.

 I know how hard it was for my husband to see me suffer from something so debilitating– he even told me how lost he was on being able to help me.

Truthfully, while I was at my worst, I didn’t need someone to talk to (that was actually the last thing that I wanted)— I didn’t need a therapist for a husband. I just needed my husband. I just needed him there– period. There was no secret thing to say because this was my battle and he could gush out all those lovey-dovey words he could think of and it would still not be enough.

Man, that’s real exhausting, isn’t it?

I can’t tell you how guilty I would feel because I was putting my husband through my depression– silly, isn’t it? Isn’t that such a mom/wife thing? Even when we’re going through a terrible struggle, we’re still worried about other people.

 

Perhaps your partner is struggling with postpartum depression (or there’s a strong chance to believe that she is– read the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression here) and you have no idea what to do for her. And maybe you feel like you really can’t do anything…but I promise you that you can…and even though it may feel like she doesn’t need you right now, she needs you now more than ever.

 

 

 

1. Let her know that she’s not alone.

You don’t have to understand what she’s going through but you do have to let her know that she isn’t alone in this; depression is a very lonely time and our mind can take us to some pretty dark and twisted places.

Let her know that you will weather this storm with her– this storm will pass.

Here are a few ways in which you can let your partner know that she’s not alone in this struggle:

*let her know that you are always available to talk.

*remind her that there are blogs, facebook groups, and an abundance of resources out there for ppd.

*remind her that no mom is ever perfect and it’s okay to not always love motherhood.

*sit up with her in the middle of the night when it’s the loneliest time for her.

*ask her, “how are you feeling today?”

*never make her feel wrong for having ppd.

*connect her with other moms that experienced ppd so she has someone to relate with.

 

I want to add– don’t be discouraged if she’d rather talk to other moms about her struggle than to talk about it with you. Remember: this isn’t about you…her choice to not share these emotions is her decision. Respect that and be grateful that she can share the struggle with someone else.

 

 

2. Offer her your support.

She needs you THE MOST right now so your support is very needed.

Here are a few ways in which you can offer your partner support:

*reassure her that she’s doing a fantastic job with motherhood.

*respect her boundaries of not wanting to share every emotion but always offer an open ear.

*when she does open up, let her vent about it freely.

*never judge her.

*research postpartum depression on your own time to know as much as you can about it.

*if she wants to take medication, support that.

*if she wants to go to talk therapy, support that.

*if she’s not into being intimate, support that.

*urge her to do more things for herself while you watch the kids and support that.

 

3. Pay attention to her cues.

Have you ever felt like your partner is going off the deep-end and you have no idea why?

Why is she always snapping at the smallest things?

Why is she so moody every-night after dinner?

Why is she never happy to see me when I come home from work?

Listen, it’s the postpartum depression that is doing all that ugliness and until you begin to pick up on her cues, it will be much harder on her (and you!). She may be moody and snapping over a dirty kitchen sink and you need to just get over that and really pay attention to what she’s trying to tell you.

You can literally begin to make this time a little more easier for her (and again, you!) by simply paying attention to her cues and needs.

For example:

Why is she always snapping at the smallest things? – She probably reached a limit for the day and ANY tiny thing- from spilled milk to a whiny child- can send her over the edge.

What you can do: tell her to go take a walk, a bath, or you take the kids out to the park or a movie. She needs time alone. Kid-free.

Why is she so moody every-night after dinner? – It’s probably because the kitchen is now loitered with dirty dishes, a dirty stove, and grumpy kids that didn’t eat the 35 minute meal she prepared.

What you can do: offer to clean up the kitchen or to give the kids a bath– if she doesn’t tell you which one to do, make the move and start helping.

Why is she never happy to see me when I come home from work? – It’s not that she’s not happy to see you, it’s just that she’s tired and overwhelmed from a long day. She needs YOU to take over now.

What you can do: instead of jumping on a video game or going to the gym, here are three things you can do to ease her mind.

1. ask her if there’s any-thing that you can do now that you are home, 2. make dinner…if you can’t cook, order take-out, 3. give her some time to herself.

Postpartum depression can be a very lonely and scary struggle– remind her that she’s not alone, offer her support, and pay attention to her cues. You can weather this storm together.

 

Resources:

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