Anxiety for me personally began as a whisper after Ivy was born. While she slept, I wondered “Is she breathing?” and “If she is on her back and spits up, will she choke? Will I wake up to hear her?”
I spent feverish hours online scouring message boards and WebMD. I texted friends and took videos in case I needed to show the doctor.
Then one night turned into two, three, a week, a month, many months of worries accumulating. Worries about sleeping, nutrition, cognitive development. I read books, but all of the books said things that didn't match. In fact, it seemed that expert advice varied so much that people could just find any doctor to rationalize their own choices.
It occured to me that this was a mood disorder. I had anxiety.
As a postpartum doula, I know the importance of identifying these mood disorders early and often, but not everyone hires a doula, so I want to empower you to know the signs.
Three different postpartum mood disorders
Excessive crying, overwhelming fatigue but inability to sleep, severe mood swings, hopelessness, recurring thoughts of death, intense feelings of inadequacy, and withdrawn behavior. You don't have to display all of these to be depressed.
Inability to relax or sleep, nausea and dizziness, feelings of dress that something bad will happen to the baby. Again, you don't have to display all of these to have anxiety.
Intrusive and repetitive thoughts or images of something happening to the baby--it’s almost like anxiety but on repeat. That is the important difference between anxiety and OCD, because the two can seem similar, the feelings of horror becoming obsessive.
Many woman (and men too!!) have experienced mood disorders, but fewer report them, so giving you a statistic wouldn't be accurate or helpful. Even fewer dads report mood disorders.
So let me specify that this is different than Baby Blues that happen pretty soon after birth. Hormones take a little while to level out and while that happens, moms experience bouts of crying for no reason, joy, sorrow-- all of the feels rapidly changing. When these feelings take root is when they become a disorder.
Overall, it is harder becoming a mother than anyone is able to tell you and sometimes the anxiety doesn't go away.
There's no way to prepare a person for the emotional transition of motherhood. The most common unsolicited advice a pregnant mother will get, is to enjoy her sleep while she can. And while that's partially true-- there's more helpful advice we can circulate.
Some things that will absolutely help after baby is born is sleep, nutrition, and support. SNS!!!
But more importantly, that fear we have for our children doesn't go away just because we take a little Zoloft and/or exercise more.
As parents we may always live with the low functioning worry that potential harm could come to our kids. For some this stays until we grow old. Why? I'm no expert, but as soon as a baby is born, death is also born.
Coming to terms with this is a very difficult thing to do, but we are all experiencing this together.
In the meantime, here’s how to manage the low level anxiety of being a mom:
Don't go down the rabbit hole of internet searches.
This has never ever made anyone feel better. Ever.
Don't act on fear. Talk through it.
With a doctor, your spouse, your parents. Whoever.
Have a good support system.
Go join my Facebook Mom group! (Search What about Mom?!?) Or join any other Facebook group that welcomes you in with judgement free support.