The New Overwhelming Anxiety of Being a Mother

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

Depression

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inability to sleep, severe mood swings, hopelessness, recurring thoughts of death, intense feelings of inadequacy, and withdrawn behavior.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.

Anxiety

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.

OCD

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.

Just know you're not alone, really.

Postpartum

You're an Educated, Informed, and Thoughtful Working Mom--Why do you need a Doula?

You decided to get an education and your career up and running.

Maybe you waited to get married because you wanted to take your time finding the right partner. You wanted to make the best choice, not the fastest.

Or maybe you married young and wanted to travel for a few years and enjoy life before kids.

Maybe you chose NOT to get married because all you need is your bad ass self.

Maybe you tried for three years to conceive and only now are carrying a rainbow baby.

Maybe you finally brought home a beautiful baby you carried in your heart but not your body.

Either way, here you are (maybe) pregnant and giddy to meet your child. There's so much you want to show him or her, so many snuggles to relish, baby head smells to inhale. You are ready to spend time with your newborn and haven't really thought about what the postpartum time might look like outside of newborn care. Where do those new minutes really go?

Or maybe you feel overwhelmed as a first time mom. You don't know how someone becomes a mom and returns to work like a huge transformation didn't just take place.

How can a doula can help you?

Even though you might not realize it yet

Before baby you were living a delicate balance between working and living for yourself, maybe a dog or cat and spouse. Now you have a new human to live for and with. It's a full time job to feed, diaper, rock a baby AND still take care of yourself! That's where we come in. We can give you piece of mind and balance.

A doula can

  • Help you with chores so you don't feel like your house is falling a part all around you.

  • help you learn how to use that pump so you're knowledgeable and prepared for your return to work.

  • Help you come up with a new schedule now that your whole life has changed.

  • Give you valuable time to sleep

  • Prepare you a few meals and fold your laundry

How is Rae different?

I know better than to assume all working moms want the same thing. I don't come into your home, checklist in hand, without first working with you on what you want our time together to look like. The postpartum care I provide is customized to your needs and desires. That means if you just want me to show you how to wear baby to the grocery store, I'm on it. If you just want me to facilitate a family visit with folks you don't want to touch the baby, I'm on it.

Most importantly, you don't get just any surprise doula sent to you from an agency. You get Rae Jager. every. single. time.

And then you know what? You return to work stronger, ready, and so grateful for the time you got to spend with baby and not getting bogged down in all the chores you hate!