You never expect to have postpartum anxiety. In fact, before I was pregnant for the first time, I had never even heard of it. So many people talk about baby blues and postpartum depression, but rarely do you hear anything about postpartum anxiety. That is what I had.
Guess what, I survived it.
Before my own experience with postpartum anxiety, I had only heard about it through a podcast I have listened to before but honestly had not thought about it for a long time. I didn’t even have the risk factors for it.
Some of the main risk factors of postpartum anxiety are:
• Not having a strong support system.
• Not feeling prepared for pregnancy or birth.
• Not feeling prepared to be a mother or take care of a baby.
• Not feeling happy about your labor or delivery experience.
• Being on certain kinds of medications.
• A prior history of mental health issues.
I did not have any of those, except the last one. I guess that is what caught me. I had a great support system. I felt great about my pregnancy, labor, and delivery process. I was ready to be a mom and take care of a baby. The only thing that caught me was the form of anxiety I have that had been slowly manifesting throughout my life, but never truly surfaced. That is, until I had my daughter.
My Postpartum Anxiety Story
I had a beautiful labor and birthing experience. She was healthy, I was healthy, and we were ready to be moved into the recovery rooms. I was exhausted and desperately wanted to sleep. My fiancé put Lily in her hospital bassinet so I could sleep. She was sleeping so peacefully but somehow, I felt guilty for needing to fall asleep so I tried to fight it. I was incredibly exhausted, though, and I eventually fell asleep.
Five minutes after I began to drift off, I hear my daughter screaming and crying hysterically. I was panicked, asking my fiancé what was wrong with her. I rushed to my sweet babe and to my surprise, she was still sound asleep. My fiancé kept reassuring me nothing had happened. I finally calmed down enough to fall back asleep. It happens again. I jump up again. Repeat this process for three hours straight. When the nurse came to check on me, we mentioned that I was hearing my baby cry in my sleep and I couldn’t sleep for more than five minutes at a time. The nurse said I should “try to rest” and that “your daughter is going to be fine.” I don’t think she quite understood the severity of my situation at that point.
I eventually fell asleep. My body was just so exhausted it quit playing games with me and let me sleep for an hour. From that point, I did not sleep for several months. My daughter was exclusively formula-fed so my fiancé could have helped a lot during the night, but I didn’t let him. He offered, but I did it all for months. I woke up all night long to check on her. I would place my finger under her nose to make sure I could still feel her breathing. Then I did everything during the day too. I was running on fumes, but I needed to do it all. I needed to be with her at all times.
I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack if anyone held her except me. I only barely trusted my fiancé to hold her. That was the only person and even that was hard. If anyone except me or my fiancé wanted to hold her my heart raced, I felt like I couldn’t breathe because I couldn’t stop holding my breath, I was shaky and wanted to cry. Sometimes I physically had to make myself look away just so I would not have a full-on panic attack. I thought feeling this way was normal. I thought that it was just a part of motherhood and baby blues.
She needed to always be in my line of vision at all times. I felt like no one could care for her the way I could.
I could not be in a separate room from her. She needed to always be in my line of vision at all times. I felt like no one could care for her the way I could. She needed me and these people kept taking her away from me. I was angry. I distanced myself from everyone. Family would try to have conversations with me and I wouldn’t respond because I was too busy making sure my baby was okay. I was too angry at everyone else because I didn’t want anyone else to hold my baby.
I was putting on a brave face every day and never letting anyone in. I never got the help I needed.
Over the course of seven months, I was always thinking of the worst-case scenarios and ways I needed to keep my baby safe. I kept all of this worry and panic locked up inside. There were a few times I reached out to my fiancé, but I downplayed it a ton. I was putting on a brave face every day and never letting anyone in. I never got the help I needed.
I Loved my Daughter Through it All
I was having all of these crazy feelings, but I loved my daughter through it all. She would cry in the middle of the night and it didn’t bother me. I wanted to be helping her. When I was holding her was the only time I did not feel completely panicked. I loved her more than the air I breathed and she was the only thing that made me happy and calm.
If you have postpartum anxiety, I highly encourage you to speak up at your six-week postpartum checkup. My doctor asked about how I was feeling emotionally and I downplayed it again. I told her that I had a little bit of anxiety. I didn’t want to seem like a bad mom so I spoke about it like it was a thing of the past. She explained that it was probably baby blues, and we moved on. Don’t be ashamed! I was embarrassed and confused. I was a first-time mom and couldn’t sort what feelings were normal versus what were not normal.
Getting Through it
My daughter was a good sleeper and began sleeping through the night at a young age. When she started sleeping through the night, I didn’t have to wake up as much so I wasn’t waking up as much to check on her. When I started to sleep through the night, my symptoms started to very slowly subside. They were still there, but I could tell they were getting better with each month that passed.
Don’t be scared to have another baby in the future.
You can and will beat this! It will get better. You are a great mom and postpartum anxiety does not change that. Reach out, journal, get sleep, eat healthily, surround yourself with people who love you. Find someone: a best friend, your partner, a therapist, that you can talk to. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t be scared to have another baby in the future. Yes, you are at a higher risk of forming postpartum anxiety again, but it is not a guarantee. I had my second baby and had no postpartum anxiety and feeling how I feel now and knowing how I felt just a few years ago is really eye-opening.
I did not have to live that way. You don’t have to live this way!
Written by: Jessica Mihalchick