While I was pregnant with my firstborn, I would often think about the kind of mother I would be. And let me tell you, the picture in my head was much more idealistic than what came to be.
Of course we never know what the journey is going to be like until we are on it, but one thing I never considered was that I would be anxious after his birth. I am not talking about a little bit of worry and nervous jitters here and there; I am talking about a feeling of being constantly underwater. A feeling of total panic, yet knowing there is nothing tangible to actually panic about. I am talking about being anxious all the damn time, with no reason or rhyme or explanation. I am talking about losing sleep while my heart pounded in my chest while my baby slept next to me, perfectly healthy, while terrible thoughts encompassed my thoughts. I am talking about a constant need to see if he was still breathing.
At first, I assumed it was the huge life change and lack of sleep. But as the weeks turned into months and my dark, irrational thoughts kept consuming me, I began to wonder what was truly going on with me.
People talk about “baby blues” and postpartum depression all the time. While I felt a little melancholy, it was the anxiety that would chew me up and spit me out — something was off. I was experiencing thoughts and emotions I never had before, and they were making me a panicky, obsessive shell of a person.
So one afternoon while my son was napping, instead of taking some much-needed downtime for myself, I was pacing around his room in between triple-checking to make sure his windows were locked for fear someone was going to try to sneak in and take him. And I’d had enough. I couldn’t keep going like that. I realized there was a bigger problem brewing.
It turns out, I was experiencing postpartum anxiety, a condition that affects 1 in 10 new moms according to a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine. I talked to my midwife, and we were able to work out a care plan that thankfully worked for me. It took some time, but I started coming back around. I finally felt like I could breathe again.
So when I felt that anxiety monster creeping in again after my third child was born, I knew what to do and was able to catch it earlier; knowledge is power.
One in ten — that’s a lot of moms out there who are suffering, some of them in silence, because postpartum anxiety is not talked about enough. Many women are ashamed to speak up, and others (like me) often feel like this must be their new normal because they have a baby to take care of.
Being a new mom is physically and emotionally taxing to be sure, but if you are having feelings of constant worry, like something bad is always going to happen and you are crippled by a fear that’s taking over your life, it’s time to talk to a trusted medial professional. You don’t have to live like that, and you can be free of those thoughts.
Other symptoms of postpartum anxiety include racing thoughts, loss of sleep and appetite, and not being able to sit still or relax. You may even experience physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
Any new mom can battle anxiety, but it has been known to affect women who have a family history of depression, anxiety, or severe PMS symptoms.
It’s important to remember postpartum symptoms come in different forms and may not feel the same for everyone; only you know when you are being swallowed whole by something you feel like you can’t control. It is an extremely difficult thing to face, but there is help including support groups, counseling, and medication.
Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for what you need. Your mental health is too important, and we all need you to be okay.