I want to share my story with postpartum anxiety because I feel like I haven't opened up about it much. I wish someone had told me more about what to expect during those first couple of weeks and the emotions I might be feeling. Honestly, when I was pregnant I did not think I would go through this since I really have never struggled with anxiety in the past. I think we need more mamas speaking out about this to let other moms know they are not alone in this and it's pretty normal to feel after you have a baby.
If you know me, you know how much I loved my third trimester and I was kind of sad to think that pretty soon I would no longer be pregnant. I would no longer carry my baby inside of me and feel his little kicks and movement all day. I loved the bond I had with this babe and even though I was so excited to meet him for the first time, I also didn't want things to change.
Think about it. You are pregnant for 9 months (feels like even longer doesn't it?) and then in a second you are not pregnant anymore. Your hormones that were so high during pregnancy come crashing down fairly quickly.
The first few days till about a week being home, I started to feel really anxious and would start crying. It was always around 6-8pm when the sun started going down. I've heard that is fairly common, I am not sure why. Maybe because that was Jacksons fussy time, lots of cluster feeding and I knew I was in for another sleepless night.
For me, the anxiety actually stemmed from a feeling of loss. It's hard to explain but I really struggled with the "loss of pregnancy." I knew I had just given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy, so I was confused as to why I was feeling this way. I felt empty. It felt wrong that I no longer had my baby inside of me and it was hard to connect that Jack was the same baby that was inside of me for those 9 months. It felt almost like I lost a baby, even though I birthed one. I was NOT expecting it.
The first week or so home, I also felt lonely. Austin had to go back to work and so he slept in the guest room a couple nights so that he could get some sleep and I wouldn't wake him up when I had to get up to nurse Jack. Before this, Austin and I never slept apart. Actually, in 5 years of marriage we had only slept apart 2 times. So I think this contributed to my anxiety as well because I missed him and I didn't like sleeping alone. (this didn't last long and he came back to sleeping in our room :) )
Our evenings for a while consisted of us soothing Jackson and trying to get him to go to sleep/stay asleep for sometimes HOURS. By the time he would be asleep, it was time for us to go to bed and we didn't get any quality time together. That was also really hard.
I was so in love with baby Jackson and this newfound love was also very overwhelming in a sense. I remember crying because I didn't want him to grow up and these days to go by too fast. (He was barely a week old LOL) I also remember crying because the newborn stage was TOUGH and everyone told me it would get better around 12 weeks...well, we were only at 2. Yikes.
Luckily I had a great support system and I think because of that it really helped me come out of this quicker.
During those early weeks I broke down and asked my mom to come spend the night because I needed help. I had told her when I was pregnant that since I was going to breastfeed, he would only really need me, so I probably didn't need her to stay. Boy, was I wrong!!
Just having someone here to let me go take a shower, get out of the house for an hour, or wake up in the night and soothe Jackson so I could sleep just a liiiittle longer made all the difference in how I felt.
My mother in law was also a saving grace and they both took turns coming out and helping. I remember the first time I got a 6 hour stretch of sleep and I woke up kind of panicked thinking something was wrong. I got up and walked into the nursery where my MIL was rocking Jackson because she wanted to give me some extra time to sleep. I felt like a new woman!!
After those first couple weeks I noticed my anxiety and sadness in the evenings start to get much better. I'm sure it helped that my hormones were starting to level back out and I was getting help with Jack and some time here and there to myself. Jack was NOT an easy newborn so the first 3-4 months still involved a lot of crying (him AND me) but I didn't get that anxious feeling every evening.
Here are 3 things that helped tremendously:
1. Asking for help
Like I said it was a lifesaver to have my mom and mother in law come help and even stay the night in the early days. I was able to take a shower, go get a foot massage, workout, or just go take a nap. If you don't have family nearby to help in this way, I would seriously think about budgeting for some help so you can get some time for yourself. It is a game-changer!
2. Getting outside for fresh air
I remember those early weeks I would make breakfast and go outside and eat on the patio to get some sunshine and fresh air while Jack was taking his morning nap. We also would go out for walks a lot and that helped! It can be really hard mentally to be cooped up inside with a newborn for days, so making it a priority to get outside each day really is a mood booster. And until I was able to workout again, walking made me feel like a million bucks!
3. Following a schedule
This was the GAME CHANGER. AKA...Mom's on Call! If you haven't heard of it, go look it up! Before Jack was even born, Austin and I watched an online newborn sleep course by "Taking Cara Babies" and thought we were so prepared and knew just what to do. Well....LOL. Jack wasn't the typical newborn and he was so alert and fought sleep all the time that it just wasn't working like we thought it would. I remember sitting on the couch one night when he was 4 weeks old. I downloaded the MOC book and started reading it. I implemented what they call "soothing rounds" that evening and IT WORKED. That night I moved him to sleep in his crib/room at overnight and that was also SO helpful! We all slept better. Following a schedule helped us both know what to expect throughout the day and Jack thrived on it! It helped me know if he was crying because he was just tired or hungry and took a lot of stress off of me. It also gave Austin and I some quality time back in the evenings since he would go to bed between 7-8pm. It was so nice! We were also able to get him sleeping through the night around 13 weeks old and to this day he is a GREAT SLEEPER!! So I highly recommend following some sort of schedule/routine!
Lastly, I highly recommend finding a friend to talk to. Another mama who has been through this before and can relate and offer you good advice and encouragement. Sometimes you just need a friend come over and vent to or someone to go on walks with you and be a listening ear.
Please don't hesitate to reach out if you are going through this. I'd love to support and encourage you!
Stay Strong Ladies! <3 -anna