Fair warning- this is a very long post, but an important one. This is also by far the most personal post I have ever written, so please realize how hard this is for me to open up to my readers. I am only posting this to help other moms struggling with Postpartum Anxiety, and because we all need support. I’m ready to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness as something bad, shameful, or embarrassing. It’s not. It’s normal, and it needs to be addressed. There needs to be awareness so we can all be better prepared to fight it; as well as talk about it openly and to heal together.
This is so personal to me that the only people who know I have postpartum anxiety is myself, my husband, and my doctor. I’m sure some of my family and friends will find out through this post. I’m moving forward, and opening up and sitting down to have a one-on-one conversation about anxiety is just too rough for me. Please don’t worry about me, I’m okay, I promise.
Oh, where to begin. I’ve obviously been MIA for quiiiite a few months now. I’ve been doing a few sponsored posts but there has been very little personal posts since during the time Jolynn was born. PS- if you follow me on Instagram, you know that Jolynn has developed the nickname “Joey”. So if you hear me say Joey, that’s her. 😉
And since I haven’t posted about her since she was around 2 months old, she’s doing great. She’s growing too fast, and is a smilin’ little cutie patootie. She has her two bottom teeth, crawling, talking, and into everything. We love her so much and can’t get enough of her!
And then there’s me. I haven’t been doing so great.
I’ve been struggling with Postpartum Anxiety. Some days worse than others. It’s hard to explain, but I’m trying to scrounge up the courage to share this with you guys because if any of you feel like me, I want to help you. And I don’t want anyone to ever go through the feelings I have gone through.
How it started..
I loved, loved, loved being pregnant with Jolynn. I honestly wanted to stay pregnant for another year, which is weird I know. That might have also been a warning sign I missed? Who knows.
I’ve always been a worrier, but for some reason I worried SO much when I was pregnant. About silly stuff; like the future, and especially how I would keep up with three kids and still be a good mother to them all, plus a wife at the same time. I worried about something happening to me or the baby, or the girls, or Sam while he was away working.
Sam hauls pigs full time, and he’s busy. He hauls them all over the place, because hogs don’t stop growing or reproducing. That means there’s a lot of relocating, plus numerous loads to slaughter. Some of the places he hauls to are up to 8 hours away.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, when he had longer loads, I would freak out and think that for some reason I would go into labor early and he wouldn’t get home in time. A few times I would break down and just cry, worry, and be overcome with fear that he wouldn’t be home. Sometimes this would last for a few hours. My brain would just replay the worst scenario in my head, over and over.
He knew my fears and he did all that he could to reassure me he would make it home. He even made some rearrangements, and was able to change his loads for the entire two weeks before I went into labor so he could be close to home. He took the entire week off leading up to her birth as well, to make sure he was at home. He’s the best. 🙂
Jolynn was born!
I haven’t posted Jolynn’s birth story yet, but I will sometime. So I’ll recap it for you. Since Charlie and Erin’s births went quickly, my doctor was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time to have the baby. So.. even though I was a little uneasy about it, I was induced, to make sure the baby wasn’t born in the car. It took forever to start labor, but then I was dilated enough to have my water broke within a few hours. My doctor broke my water, and was going to go drop her kids off at bible study, then come back and check to see how far I was.
Well, twenty minutes later, Jolynn was born, with no doctor in the room! Everything was fine, but she was sunny side up, and came FAST, so it was painful. I didn’t have any time for an epidural or any pain meds because she came so fast. I’m thankful there were no complications, and Sam kept me calm.
As soon as she was born I was able to just hold her on my chest until the doctor got there about ten minutes later. I’m glad for that, because after they cut the cord, she latched right on and started nursing. Everything was great and we went home the next day.
Once we got home, I was so happy and excited. It felt so good to be able to hold my baby, but at the same time I really missed having her in my tummy. (Again, weird I know, but that’s how I felt).
The first thing that was probably a “warning sign” of any postpartum issue was that I got really emotional at nights when we first came home. I think it was because I was almost sad of not being pregnant any more, even though I had this overflowing love for my baby. I would hold her literally all day, and when Sam got home from work, of course he wanted to hold his baby too. But when I had to pass her over to him, it made me emotional. It was almost like I had to hold her at all times to feel okay.
That only lasted for about a week, and then I thought I was fine. I chalked it up as a little bit of “baby blues” and moved on. But the worry was still there.
At times it was paralyzing worry. Especially if anyone wanted to hold Joey. I would have visions go through my head of them dropping her on her head, or that they had some horrible sickness or disease that would spread to her and get her terribly sick. As horrible as it sounds, I would hope for her to cry when other people held her so that I could hold her again and not worry about something happening to her.
It must just be the hormones…
Once again, I thought that my fear of others holding her was because of my hormones, or maybe I was just being an overprotective mom.
I had no idea that my worrying was not normal. I tried so hard to just push through the worry, but it’s a tough fight, and absolutely exhausting. There were nights I would wake up at 2 am, just wide awake, thinking about the next day. I would think about what bad things could possibly happen, and how I would prepare myself for them, or what to do to prevent it.
At times I wondered if maybe something wasn’t normal with me, and if I should talk to my doctor. I googled my symptoms, and it was obvious I had some sort of issue, but I wasn’t ready to admit it. But I knew I wasn’t depressed. I didn’t cry all the time, I never ever wanted to hurt my baby or myself in any way, and I felt like I was still living my normal life. It was almost the opposite of depression. Instead of not having any emotion at all, I was in overdrive. Constant worry. Fight or flight mode.
I think I was scared to open up about it because people look at mental illness as a weakness, or so I assumed. I didn’t want to be labeled with anxiety because I didn’t want to be seen as a weak person.
Anxiety takes over..
Over the summer I tried my best to let the worry go, but it never did. It actually slowly became worse, without me knowing it at the time. I worried about every single thing we or my kids were doing. Eating, sleeping, playing outside, getting hit by a car, getting bit by a snake in the yard, getting in a car wreck, someone kid napping them, drowning while playing in the pool, their fingers getting caught in car doors, falling down the stairs while carrying Joey, the house burning down, them tripping and falling and breaking a bone, people thinking I wasn’t a good mom; the list goes on for days.
The unending horrible things I worried about turned into terrifying intrusive images that would pop into my head whenever I saw a threatening situation (which in my head, was almost every single activity we ever did). It was like the worst possible scenario would flash in my head, and I felt like it was always my responsibility to prepare and keep them safe from everything.
The worst trigger of my anxiety was traffic. The interstate traffic especially. I would feel shaky on the inside, my heart would pound so hard, and I could picture a wreck happening and all of us getting hurt or worse.
I would have Sam drive, and I would repeatedly make sure that the girls were all still buckled. We love to ride with him in the truck while he’s hauling pigs, and one time we rode along on one of his long hauls. I thought it would be good for me to get out of the house and go on a long trip. Until we hit rush hour in Omaha. With a load of butcher hogs. Totaling a weight of 80,000 pounds. If you guys don’t know, it takes semis longer to slow down that other vehicles. Sometimes people forget this.
Anyways, someone cut us off and we had to slam on the brakes. We went from 70 mph to about 15 mph in a few seconds. The brakes locked up and there was a strong smell of the burnt brakes on the truck. It scared me so bad that I was sitting in the sleeper crying, feeling like we were going to get into a wreck and die. I was crying so hard that I was almost hyperventilating. We were okay, but it took me awhile to get calmed down.
Anxiety turns into exhaustion..
When Joey was 5-6 months old, around the end of September, I became exhausted.
I remember one night having a complete break down to Sam. I cried and cried and cried. I cried because I was just so tired. I also cried because I was realizing I wasn’t as happy as I used to be. I have to say, he is the most supportive husband ever. I truly don’t know how I would have made it through this tough season without him and his never ending support and care for me.
He knew I worried. A lot. And he knew that I had wondered if I maybe had anxiety. I’m pretty sure he knew I did too. I explained to him just exactly how bad I worry and the bad things I see happening to our kids and our family. That every time he has to leave for a long haul, I have to hold back tears because I’m so worried about him getting into a wreck.
I think I made myself realize I needed help when I had to explain to him about how sometimes it feels like my heart was beating so hard and fast that it was coming out of my chest. Or that I would get so worried I would begin shaking on the inside of my body. Sometimes I would almost “zone out” and just stare. I later learned that’s your body’s way of naturally coping with an anxiety over load.
Besides being behind on sleep from Joey not sleeping through the night, I was exhausted in all forms from my anxiety. I didn’t realize it at the time, but because I had been in denial about having anxiety, it was slowly beginning to develop into depression as well.
Without being aware of it, anxiety had taken over. I had been in protector mode for so long that the stress of it was starting to affect my body in every way. I wasn’t sleeping, I had no energy, I was moody, my heart rate was high, I would get angry, and I felt like I was going to have this terrifying worrisome feeling for the rest of my life.
I learned to hide my anxiety really well, but as soon as I was alone, I would break down. I was so exhausted that it got to the point of me declining invitations to certain things. I just wanted to be at home with my kids and my husband, and that was it. I didn’t want to see anyone, go anywhere, or do anything.
Sam and I made the tough decision together that I needed to talk to my doctor. I was beyond nervous, and wanted to stay quiet because I was so scared of opening up. I seriously thought I would be looked at as a bad mother, as someone mentally unstable, or even that I would get my kids taken away for thinking the way I did. (That’s what anxiety will do to you. It’s all lies!)
It was rough, but I mustered up the courage and told my doctor. I told her I didn’t think I had postpartum depression because from all the classic symptoms of that, I had none, except for just feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. I cried, we talked, she listened, she reassured me that this is completely normal and I would be surprised to know how many people have postpartum anxiety. It made me feel so much better just getting it off my chest and talking to her.
After that, I went into ‘recovery’. I was in a battle with my anxiety, but now I’m healing. I’m winning now, but the battle still isn’t completely over. I’ve changed a whole bunch of things in my life and added a whole bunch of “therapy” and coping mechanisms to help me. It’s made a tremendous difference and I can think clearly now. I still worry, just not as bad, and I feel like I have control over my life again.
Honestly, I didn’t even really know there was such a thing as postpartum anxiety. I’ve read tons of blogs about postpartum depression, and I knew what that was and what the warning signs. I think that’s why I waited so long to speak up. Because I had no idea what was wrong with me. I also didn’t know there’s such a thing as Prenatal Anxiety (anxiety disorder during pregnancy), which I’m pretty sure I had as well.
I wish so badly that I could go back and talk to myself when I was pregnant. I would tell myself to not ignore warning signs, to not just “try to push through”, and to not be stubborn and deny emotions.
Over the past nine months that I’ve been struggling with this, I felt alone. I felt embarrassed. I felt like if I opened up to anyone, they would think I wanted attention. That’s also why I’ve stayed quiet for so long. Because that’s the last thing I want. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I just want women and especially moms to be aware.
Postpartum anxiety tried to steal my joy from motherhood, and it put up a good fight, but I’m taking back my joy now. That’s another reason why I’m posting this. Because motherhood should be the happiest and most joyous time of our lives, and sometimes, before we even know what’s happening, it’s getting robbed. Anxiety will do that. It’s sneaky, and it moves fast if you aren’t careful.
Anxiety and depression is a sickness in the chemicals of your brain, just like how your lungs can get sick with pneumonia. You have to take care of it, get better, and then stand guard so it doesn’t come back. It’s a serious medical condition. Even though I wished I would have opened up sooner, I’m glad I did, because it could have easily gotten worse.
It can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter how happy you think you are. Those pregnancy and postpartum hormones are so crazy and they change things, especially in your brain sometimes.
I feel like when I was a first time mom, my doctors and nurses and everyone talked a lot about postpartum depression, to give me awareness and check on me to make sure I was doing okay. But after my second child, and especially after my third, it’s almost like it was assumed that since I was an experienced mom I was doing just fine. But in reality though, there’s more pressure and more responsibilities with each new kid, and it gets stressful! I would never regret any of my children and we love them more than words can explain, but I wish I would have known more about Postpartum Anxiety before.
Friends, if you think you might have anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor. There’s no shame in it. Even if you have just one warning sign that makes you question your mental well being, talk to someone. Please. Get help before it multiplies into something worse and serious. It doesn’t make you a bad mom or a bad person, and it’s definitely nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. There’s hope, and you can overcome it! You are not alone!