Postpartum Anxiety Made Me Feel Like My World Was Falling Apart.
Postpartum Anxiety hurts many moms. This is my journey.
The first few weeks postpartum:
In the first few weeks that followed my son’s birth, I felt really good. I dropped about half of my pregnancy weight. I wasn’t overwhelmed (yet) by the feedings every 2 hours, my husband was a champion helper and for the most part, things seemed to be going well. People told me I looked really great and I love sharing my birth story. I was really proud of myself that I had accomplished what I set out to try, which was having an all natural birth. I had no idea my world was about to change.
It was 5 weeks after my son was born that my world began to crumble.
Sleep deprivation had started to take its toll on me. Breastfeeding had not worked out and I felt like a failure. I was up every 2 hours at night pumping, then I would spend another half hour feeding my son and then by the time I feel asleep I managed maybe a half hour before it was time to pump and feed again. I would sit in the dark of my living room, feeling absolute terror come over me.
I felt so incredibly alone and that is when the anger started.
I would feel rage inside when anyone would tell me to just “go rest” or “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I would fight the urge to scream at the top of my lungs at random moments throughout the day. I would lay awake at night and my mind would race. I would have absolutely horrendous thoughts of my husband dying, me dying or something happening to my son. I would hear him crying when he wasn’t crying.
By the night before my son’s dedication, I was going on 9 hours of sleep in 72 hours. That’s an average of 3 hours of sleep per 24 hours. All our friends and family would be at the dedication the next day and then we were to have a big family lunch/dinner afterwards. I was up all night, in the throes of the worst panic attack I’d ever had. My son was also not taking breast milk or formula at this point, to make matters worse. With the help of my husband, we made it to the dedication the next morning, but barely. I pasted a smile on my face and pretended to hear what people were saying to me. I could barely stand when we made it onto the church platform. All I saw before me was a blur of faces.
I was screaming inside.
That afternoon, I sat on my couch with tears streaming down my face. My husband sat across from me, worried and tense. I told him in words how I was feeling. How I didn’t want to wake up to face another day, or how I thought about banging my head against the wall so I would knock myself out. He learned about my feelings of detachment and resentment. My husband looked at me and said, “You need to get help. Whatever that looks like, do it.” He was right.
My journey to recovery:
The first step I took was to do some research on postpartum anxiety and depression. While I greatly identified with the description of “postnatal anxiety” I did not feel as though I had depression. But the only way to really nail things down would be to talk to my doctor. When I went in for my appointment, the staff had me take a questionnaire that would give my doctor an idea of where I was at with my anxiety. (A family member who’d also been through similar experiences encouraged me to be completely honest about how I was feeling and I’m glad I was!) I was diagnosed with “extreme anxiety .” I had no idea it was as bad as it was until I spoke with my doctor. After some discussion, we decided together that I would try a small dose anti-depressant and meet back with my doctor in a month.
I was terrified to try medication.
I grew up believing that this type of medication was unnecessary. I know it’s a common thought and belief among Christians and it’s one I identified with my entire life until now. I was SO wrong and I want to say this, it’s an incorrect belief and a dangerous one at that. I’m not going to debate theology, faith and medication on here. But until you’ve been through the trenches with something like depression, anxiety etc. you really have no business having an opinion. It’s a highly personal decision. It’s not one I took lightly.
Medication didn’t end up working for me the way that I thought it would. Perhaps I should’ve stuck it out longer but I found that it made my insomnia worse. I’m glad I tried it though and I know for some, it’s a game changer. I was able to try some all natural supplements like skullcap and a sleepy time tea that helped. Reading my bible, praying and having a relaxing bedtime routine also helped. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, with my son. And when we started sleep training him, things improved drastically for me, with my anxiety. Things didn’t improve over night. That is unrealistic. It was a day by day process. It still is! Some days I had to take things hour by hour and I still practice this when things feel overwhelming. I’ve found that talking about it helps and that so many moms have struggled with this.
Learning my triggers helped me recover.
Lack of sleep is a huge trigger for me as well as social situations that I feel forced into or that I find overwhelming. I still cancel plans or appointments at the last-minute if it’s been a rough day or night with my son or if I just feel like I need to. My son is 7 months old and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to church since he was born. Sometimes I don’t answer text messages from anyone but my husband because I need a break from technology and social media. I’ve learned to safeguard myself by knowing what triggers my anxiety. I practice not feeling guilt about these decisions because self-care is the only way I can take care of my son.
I’ll be honest-until I had a child I didn’t understand the moms who never left home or weren’t a part of social gatherings or who talked about how hard motherhood was. I was so judgmental and naive. I would think to myself, “Why can’t she just get it together? What’s the big deal?” I would say things like, “Well my kid is going to be flexible and I’m going to have a life.” I ate all those words and I was very wrong to think that way. Again, until you go through something like this, you can’t really have an accurate opinion. You can have an opinion but it won’t be relatable or accurate. It doesn’t help anyone, especially the mom going through it.
I am pregnant again.
I’m sharing this as I’m about 12 weeks along. While this isn’t exactly the way I envisioned things going, I’m believing that God knows so much better than I do! I’m learning to find the joy in it and appreciate the community of support that I have. I have my husband, family (in the US and Canada) and my friends who have helped be my village in this journey. God knew I needed these people and brought them along at all the right times! I am still struggling through the anxiety, honestly. I’ve felt a big setback being pregnant again and going through really bad morning sickness. But I realize all the more why self-care is important and if I need to call my doctor again and figure out something new, I know that I can. I also know that I have a great support system to draw from if I need them.
Are you experiencing postpartum anxiety?
If you are a mom experiencing something like this, don’t wait to get the help you need. You aren’t a failure for seeking help. You aren’t any less than the next mom. If anything, you are so BRAVE to take care of yourself. It’s not wrong to practice self-care. For me-it was crucial. I don’t want to think about where I would be if I had never sought help. Gather a village of support and do whatever you need to do, to make it through. There will be better days. Things will get better and you will see the sun again, I promise.
About the author: Sarah Remus
Sarah Remus is a follower of Jesus, wife of 4 years, and mama to her sweet 7 month old baby boy, with another one on the way! Sarah has been writing off and on for years but picked up writing again when she became a new mom. She finds that writing has been a life giving tool during her journey as a new mama. Originally from San Diego, California, Sarah now lives in Ontario, Canada with her family. To learn more about Sarah, check out her blog at www.themessyhousewifelifestyle.blog