I am so glad I decided to open up about struggling with postpartum anxiety when I did. I have connected with so many amazing moms who have shared their story & struggles. Postpartum anxiety is NOT postpartum depression, and it is a lot more common than we think.
But there is very little care, treatment, or help available. We need to be better as a society and we need to offer moms the postpartum care they deserve. Through awareness and community, we can come together & conquer these trying times together.
I stopped claiming anxiety as mine 3 years ago. It helped me tremendously heal & learn tools to conquer panic attacks and avoid future attacks. I am more than the anxiety I experience. I remember the last two panic attacks I had prior to postpartum. I was 6 weeks pregnant and we just got home from Italy. We heard our twins beating heart for the first time the day before & I spent all night replaying the video of our boutique ultrasound over and over and over. I got up early that morning to go to work & prepare for my doctor’s appointment later that day. I was doing research on what I can do to have a sustainable pregnancy & not let MTHFR or Factor V Leiden ruin this for me again.
I’m not sure why I did it- but I decided to search the hashtag #factorvleiden It literally brought on the worst panic attack I’ve ever had in my life. I couldn’t breathe and laid on my kitchen floor hysterically crying. The hashtag brought up countless women in the hospital, posting about their stillbirths, their miscarriages, and their near death experiences. It felt like it was too much to handle and the fear I felt that day was indescribable. Even though I had two weeks off of work, I was two hours late because I couldn’t get myself together long enough to get ready.
The whole morning passed in a blur until I finally had my doctors appointment. My doctor confirmed we were having twins (my HCG was 154,837) & I was going to need to start Lovenox injections immediately. I went home overwhelmed with everything I learned in a short amount of time. Twins. Lovenox injections. No epidural. C-section is off the table. Weekly appointments. Hematologist. It was all so much but so hopeful. We had five pregnancies prior and none of them were this optimistic. So I was able to calm down that night and actually looked forward to taking my 1st Lovenox injection the next morning.
I brought my alcohol wipes, Band-Aids, and prefilled syringes to work the next morning so my mom could give me my 1st injection. Cue panic attack #2. When the time came, I just couldn’t do it. Why me? Why this? I iced my belly & put on headphones to distract myself. But every time she pinched my belly to give me the shot I literally backed away as quick as I could and couldn’t stop hysterically crying. After a half hour & lots of tough love, I took my first Lovenox injection. Oh boy, did that fucker burn. But I did it. I did it for my baby. It was the first step to motherhood. Sacrificing myself for my baby. I could do this.
And that’s when I decided I was not going to let anxiety control me. I am a mom now. I am strong. I control my destiny. I will birth healthy babies. I am strong. I will do this. I can do this.
When we lost Addy’s twin brother I didn’t have time to mourn. We still had one healthy baby. I will deliver this baby. I am a mom now.
And when I got a blood clot in my eye a month or so later I allowed myself to cry for 5 minutes in the car before I left and then not once again. I AM A STRONG AND I WILL NOT LET THIS GET ME DOWN. I took my now two times a day Lovenox injections like a champ. I am a mom now.
This theme continued throughout my entire pregnancy. We had the hardest journey but I stayed strong and never let myself breakdown no matter how many times we went to the hospital or were faced with the fear of premature labor. I am strong. I am a mom now.
So I was shocked how I reacted postpartum. I thought my days of struggling with anxiety were over. I just spent 7 long months conquering my mind & harnessing strength. So where did this come from?
POSTPARTUM ANXIETY IS NOT POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
During pregnancy all the baby books warn you about postpartum depression. Your doctors ask you at your 6 week check up if you want to harm yourself or your baby & it seems that’s all anyone talks about on social media.
But what about those of us suffering with postpartum anxiety? Why did no one warn us about it? Why do we get brushed under the rug as “first time moms” and actually laughed at when we voice our fears and feelings?
I can’t tell you how many times I tried talking to my daughter’s pediatrician about the fears I was having, how I couldn’t sleep when she slept because I had to watch her breathe even when she was wearing her Owlet, and how some days I had panic attacks that I left her on her changing table even though I know I put her down in her crib. EVERY SINGLE TIME I was told it was normal for first time moms and by the 2nd one I will let them eat dirt & raise themselves. And I had to talk to her pediatrician because my OBGYN only thought I needed one 6 week check up where I filled out some bullshit questionnaire catered just for depression. I don’t want to harm me or the baby? Then I’m totally fine. And who even came up with that questionnaire? Why do they think all postpartum depression is focused on hurting themselves or the baby? Why do they have to put everyone into that small group denying help to moms struggling with different forms of depression? But that’s another topic.
I actually never heard of postpartum anxiety until after I spent 9 hours in the ER running every test because I had trouble breathing for a week and was convinced I had a blood clot. That’s when they finally told me I was experiencing postpartum anxiety & to follow up with my general doctor.
So when I followed up with her she told me it’s pretty normal & I can ride it out or take Zoloft.
But it wasn’t normal. It’s not normal. What we are feeling is not normal. I shouldn’t be popping awake every few hours in a sheer panic to make sure she is still in her crib sleeping at 8 months postpartum. Or spend the whole day in a daze from panic because she toppled over gently on her soft mat when she was sitting up. I’ve gotten better, but I still stand or sit next to anyone holding her with a plan on how to get to her quickly if they accidentally drop her. And last night my husband gave her the paci that she earlier stuck in my mouth and I woke her up to switch her pacis and make sure she was okay. That is not normal nor is it funny.
I’ve been over cautious and a little dramatic my whole life but this is a whole other level that I have no idea how to deal with.
Why is dealing with it with no tools to cope or medicating myself the only two options?! I’ve taken Zoloft in the past and it was the worst experience of my life, so knowing that, why would that be the only help available?!
WE HAVE TO BE BETTER
Postpartum care has to improve. We have to be better as a society. And although we may not be able to do much with changing how doctors run their practice, we can change the way WE are. We can stop mom-shaming. We can stop pushing our opinions on others. I struggle with sharing baby things sometimes because my way works for US but it may not be a right fit for you. And that’s okay. We are all going to parent differently. But what we don’t realize is we actually have SO much in common. We have strength in numbers and we need to unite together. Allow open conversation. Offer a safe place for a fellow mom to discuss her fears and worries even if they are different than yours.
I hope you have the courage to share your story. Own the success, failures, and fears because you never know who you could impact & HELP by admitting you’re not perfect and sometimes you cry because you’re so afraid of what might happen. You are not crazy. This is not normal. You deserve to be heard and helped. And most importantly…YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
“My PPA journey was a long and lonely one. From the first day me and my son came home from the hospital, I was anxious about everything. I was the only one who fed him, changed his diapers, clothes and cared for him 24/7. I even held him while he slept day and night for the first 6 months. When he was six weeks old just him & I went to go to my postpartum doctors appointment and while driving there I had a panic attack. I had to pull over and wait for my husband to come get us. I was so paralyzed with fear that something would happen and I wouldn’t be able to get to him. This continued for four months so we just stayed home. I went to my OBGYN, two primary care doctors, and two therapist over seven months to be told I was just tired, I needed to rest more, and that I had Postpartum Depression and needed to be medicated. My favorite thing I was told was that I was just being a helicopter mom & I needed to cut the umbilical cord. I finally found a doctor who listened to me and what I was feeling. Who didn’t judge me when I said that my skin would crawl if anyone else would hold him and I was aching to get him back in my arms. I told the doctor I didn’t have depression and I didn’t want to be medicated, I wanted to be able to manage my anxiety and be able to leave the house and let our family be around him. Just after a few sessions the therapist taught me how to recognize my biggest triggers and how to work through them. At nine months postpartum I was able to leave the house and drive to target where we walked around for an hour, it was one of the best days. Some other things I learned was if you don’t feel like something is right with what your doctor is saying or they are not listening to you–go get another opinion. You know your baby, your body, and your mind better then anyone. Especially better than any “Postpartum Depression Test”. Postpartum Anxiety is something no one talks about. At least for me during the whole pregnancy no one said I could feel anxious, and have panic attacks, and be very fearful of everything. Thankfully I was able to find the people I needed to help me. I wonder how life would have been if Postpartum Anxiety was talked about just as much as Postpartum Depression & I could have gotten help sooner.”
I am not shaming those with postpartum depression AT ALL!!! All that I am saying is that anxiety & depression are two very different areas of postpartum that need to be treated differently and BOTH need to be taken seriously!!!
Also, if you decide to medicate THAT’S OKAY!!!! You need to put yourself first and do what will work for you, your body, and your baby. There is no shame whatsoever.
And if you are ever feeling alone, crazy, or overwhelmed- I’m here for you.
We got this mama.