From the moment you conceive, it seems you are inundated with information about Postpartum Depression. At least that’s how it felt for me.
Maybe I paid more attention to this section in my pregnancy books and baby classes because of personal experience? Having just heard of a college friend who took her own life just one month after her daughter was born, I was fixated on the topic, and tried to educate myself as much as possible, as if this might help me avoid such a troubling ailment.
Why was I worried? Depression was not my problem. But anxiety was, before pregnancy, and much worse during those 9 months. The problem for me was that nobody spoke about anxiety and pregnancy. There wasn’t a section in my pregnancy book for Postpartum Anxiety, just depression – but didn’t everyone know that untreated anxiety can lead to depression?
My usual fix on an anxious day was a sweaty workout, a glass of wine, a night out with friends – none of which were possible in pregnancy (at least not my pregnancy). With all of my band-aids gone, I was left to navigate the serious hormonal overload and bouts of anxiety all on my own – and this was no easy task.
“Take a walk,” I’d often hear. Really? A walk?
A walk and some fresh air has never done anyone any harm, but when you are crippled by your own fears, worries, and feelings, a walk just provides a prettier landscape to continue sweating the small stuff.
My pregnancy was riddled with small-stuff-sweating. I was metaphorically covered in sweat, if you will. So often, I’d be criticized for “constantly worrying” or for “transmitting negative emotions to my baby”. Didn’t anyone realize that I didn’t CHOOSE to feel this way? That maybe I couldn’t help it? That I was panicked by the changes my life was about to face? The life growing inside of me, my marriage, my new home, my job status, my friendships, my lack of friendships, my weight gain… HELLO?!?!?
When an amniotic fluid leak turned the beginning of my third trimester into an all out sweat-fest, the worrying and anxiety got worse. Suddenly leaving my job to lay in bed with only my thoughts to keep me company was the new plan, for the last 11 weeks of my pregnancy. There were new issues now; financial worries, scrambling to get the nursery ready in case of an early delivery – and my biggest fear, what if something happens and I can’t get in touch with my husband? This was the worst.
My husband is not typically easy to reach. He is the type who will place his cell phone down somewhere (on silent) and forget where he’s left it. He’s the type to get to work, leave it in the car, and not realize until noon. Not his fault, he’s just not glued to his phone like the rest of society.
This made things so much worse for me. Being the “glass half full” type, he just didn’t understand. Nobody could.
Luckily, we made it to 39 weeks and our girl was delivered easily and in good health. We had a week of blissful moments and spent each second falling more in love with our creation – there was no other feeling to feel.
The Monday morning that my husband returned to work – it hit me. I was a mom. I was responsible for this little 6 pound nugget laying peacefully in her bassinet. It was all on me. Every decision, every next move, all of it. So naturally, I fell apart.
I cried all morning, until my husband came home at lunch for a quick visit. Then I cried some more. When I had no more tears, anxiety set in again – making it impossible to enjoy the little moments when I was constantly worried about what might come next.
“What if she starts crying and I can’t stop it?,” I’d ask my veteran mama friends. This was a question that usually got nothing more than a laugh.
I was frozen in my worry. I wallowed in it. It consumed me. I was so in love with this little baby yet so terrified of her at the same time. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, I just wanted to do things right, I wanted the answers to all of it.
About 6 weeks in to my life as a mom – it hit me. Postpartum anxiety or not, I knew I had to get it together – and fast. For my daughter, for my husband, for the good of our family, for MYSELF… so I did.
I let myself learn the hard way. I began to slow down and enjoy the little moments. I learned that each time my daughter cried – I had the magical powers of figuring out what I could do to soothe her. I stopped worrying about me, about everything that was out of my control, and focused on her. What made her calm, what made her smile, what made her – her.
And just like that, I invited my uninvited visitor to get the hell out of my house.* And I fell in love with motherhood.
*** Feelings of anxiety and depression following the birth of your child should be taken very seriously. Do not let anyone tell you this is “normal” or that it will pass. If you do not feel right, if you cannot control you emotions, if you have any negative feelings towards your child – speak to a healthcare professional immediately.
- For more information on PPD and anxiety, visit www.postpartumprogress.org