Alright, bring on a touchy subject…. Anxiety. I didn’t even know “Postpartum Anxiety” was a thing before I had my son. I knew what Postpartum Depression was and I really paid attention to myself to make sure I asked for help if I felt like I might be experiencing it. Truth be told, I didn’t feel the signs of depression at all, not even what I would call “baby blues,” but I did feel worried… A LOT. I’m not sure worry is even the right word to describe how I felt after I had my baby. It was a combination of paranoia, worry, nervousness, and doubt. The crazier thing was that is came in waves. In the very beginning I felt like I was on cloud 9 with euphoria, no issues at all. Then a couple of weeks would pass and I would feel this anxiety creep in. It would get intense, then taper off, then return again. I chalked it up to hormonal fluctuations and just kept it all to myself. Then, around the 4-5 month mark, it came back even stronger than before. This caught me off guard because my baby was almost 5 months old! Could Postpartum Anxiety flare up this late in the game and was that even what I was experiencing? I had always thought that these types of conditions came immediately after the birth and here I was feeling like it was really just starting. Maybe it wasn’t postpartum anxiety after all, maybe it was just anxiety that developed after having a child… they kind of ring the same bell in my mind, but hey, I am not a doctor. Let me admit that I did not actually see my doctor for this either. I felt comfortable dealing with it on my own with my husband and the support of my closest friends. If you feel similarly but can NOT get a handle on it, do NOT feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, or even hesitate to talk to someone. Feelings like these are so common and I highly encourage everyone to talk to their doctor about their concerns.
Now, let me share a little example of the feelings that I personally was experiencing at this time. I remember sitting in our dining room with a cup of tea, perfectly happy, and then all of a sudden having a mini vision of a horrible scenario if I ran to grocery store as planned. Then, I would think, maybe that was a sign that I shouldn’t go today. This would happen ALL THE TIME. To the point where I wouldn’t leave the house all week long. I also had my baby at the end of summer and start of flu season, which not only intensified the anxiety I was already feeling, but it made me feel obsessive compulsive about germs. I hated this too because, in reasonable doses, germ exposure is important to build our immune systems. Yet, hand sanitizer went everywhere with us, disinfectant wipes were used on every possible surface that my son could touch, and a blanket covered his car seat at all times when we left the house… and that is IF we left the house. Every time I turned on the TV, I felt like there was a new fatality count as a result of this horrible flu virus. Schools were closed in our area because of outbreaks, people were encouraged to stay home, etc. It was horrible where we live.
Then, I decided to ask my husband if he ever felt extra worried when it came to our son. Once I heard that he also had his own worries and that he could understand where I was coming from, it was a huge weight lifted. Before, I had convinced myself that I was being a crazy. This is the true power of communication and sharing your feelings. When you bottle things up, whether they are big or small, you can’t see the big picture anymore.
Today, I still worry and I don’t think there is a parent out there that does not worry about their child and their safety. I still carry hand sanitizer and try my best to wipe off surfaces before my son touches them. The main differences now, are that I don’t feel crazy about taking these precautions anymore, if I forget, I know it’ll all be okay, and I don’t feel guilty that I might be having a problem. Isn’t that sad? Where does that even come from, “guilt about having a problem.” As with many things, I blame social media and society’s standards that have brainwashed us all. No person, parent or not, is perfect. If you are having a problem with anything, you should be able to express it and get help without feeling guilty that you are having it. Anyway, I digress…
The best way that I have found to work through my worries that pop up, is to take my time with everything and not let myself get flustered or stressed. This is a huge help for me. I am the person that gets flustered when leaving the house no matter how much preparation ahead of time I might have done. There’s always something last-minute or something I forget. My mind is constantly scrolling on high-speed through an endless list of “did I bring this… do I have that.” But, if I am feeling anxious, I take a few deep breaths, pause the getting ready to leave preparations, look at my son, and smile. He usually smiles back or better, laughs. At that point, it’s easier to take a huge breath and slow down. I am not being timed when I run my errands and there is no difference in being gone for two hours or three. My son’s nap or next feeding might get delayed and that is absolutely okay. Rushing leads to frustration, which leads to stress, which leads to worry, which leads to all kinds of anxiety. Slowing down when approaching situations that can trigger this snowball effect really does wonders for me and I hope it can help someone else reading this.