My Story of Stress & Anxiety
“If everyone else can do it, so can I. How hard can it be?”
This was my pep-talk to myself many times during pregnancy. I was partly concerned about motherhood in general, but if I’m being totally honest, I was mostly worried about labor and delivery. I think a bit of me thought that would be the hardest part of becoming a mom.
Boy, was I wrong.
First off, let’s just chat for a quick second about breast feeding. Holy moly! Why is something so natural SO HARD? Stressful, too. I had a time and a half getting breastfeeding to work right. Blisters and wounds, blocked ducts, mastitis. I recall several times when I was in tears in sheer anticipation of having to nurse again. It took 12 full weeks before I didn’t dread nursing…talk about stress hormones.
If only that were the worst of it.
No, labor and deliver, breastfeeding – those definitely weren’t the worst. The worst was much lower.
The worst was just days after my son was born, when I sat in my bathtub shaking and sobbing because of the gripping fear that had overcome me. A haunting anxiety that hit me unexpectedly and out of nowhere. It was uncontrollable and so very unwelcome. How could I possibly have such contradicting feelings? Loving my son more than any other love I had ever known, and because of that love, I was equally filled with a debilitating fear.
I recall texting a dear friend whose child was a year old and asking her if she, too, experienced these fears. She said she had, and then she welcomed me to motherhood. With that, I accepted my misery as a normal adjustment period.
But it didn’t get better, and it was anything but normal.
As much as I have learned over the years about pregnancy, natural delivery, post-partum care, and infant health, I knew surprisingly little about postpartum mental health. We often talk about baby blues, but more serious conditions like postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety (PPA) are more common than many people realize. Experiencing high amounts of stress during pregnancy increases the risk of having PPD and/or PPA.
Yes, stress had struck my health again. And this time was worse than ever.
My worry wasn’t normal, but I pushed through, telling myself it was. I was afraid of everything. I had vision after vision of terrible things happening to my son, and I felt like I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking about scary possibilities that felt all too real. I couldn’t relax, not even for a second. I was overly concerned with doing everything perfectly, to the point where I agonized over every decision, never feeling confident and always distracted from enjoying the little things. I was unable to handle the sleepless nights, but unwilling to stop the busyness to rest during the day.
Don’t stop. Can’t stop. When I stop, I think, and I can’t handle my thoughts.
The stress and the busyness that I tried to use to bury my anxiety were just fueling it more. I was overwhelmed by a mix of emotions, from love and happiness to unexplainable fear, sadness, irritability, and feeling so very alone.
While I had faced some minor periods of anxiety and depression in my life, I was totally unprepared for this. Everything in my past had paled in comparison to what I was going through…and what was still to come.
P.S. PPD and PPA often hides in plain sight. I didn’t share what I was going through with many people, and on the outside, I looked happy and totally fine. Thankfully, I had family I could rely on, but not everyone does.
If you know a new mom, ask her how’s she’s doing…like really doing.
If these emotions describe you, you’re not alone. I’m here to support you (simply hit reply – I'm the only one who will see your email). I’m happy to help connect you with some wonderful women who can help with PPD/PPA.