Everyone knows it can be hard to have a newborn baby. Even though it’s the most amazing and loving time of your life- we have to admit that it is really freaking hard.

I worried about everything possible, obsessively researching the safest mattress, the best practices for sleep training, feeding, cloth diapers, vaccines and on and on. What if he swallows a toy and chokes, what if he falls, why won’t he sleep; my mind was on a constant loop of “what if, what if… “

Am I doing this right?

The CDC suggests that 1 in 5 moms are affected by Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders, but I believe that it is much higher.  Sure it’s normal to feel exhausted, and yes there are common motherhood growing pains. But when the constant anxiety makes it hard to go to the grocery store, or feel safe in your home with your baby then there is a serious mental health problem here for new moms, and dads.

I should have talked to my doctor about how I was feeling sooner. But my worries and fears seemed so real and normal, that I didn’t feel like a doctor could help me. I never felt like I was overreacting, or irrational… I felt like I was being a good protective mom.

But how much anxiety is too much?  I had 5 postpartum anxiety for 5 years, or anxiety onset from postpartum, or maybe we can call it motherhood anxiety.

The day we were due for dismissal my son was getting checked for his release and the doctor noticed something was wrong. Within minutes doctors started coming in and nurses were asking us all of these questions.  And then within an hour they had my son downstairs for an ultra sound.

I was blindsided and unprepared for this.  None of the books I read had prepared me for the emotions this separation would cause.

We had to make an immediate decision to have surgery, and had a 12 hour window of time to do it.  There we were with a ticking clock to save his male hormones, and the decision was up to us.  Surgery.  Today. Within the next 6 hours. We decided we needed to try and save it.  So away he went, my 18 hour old baby with my husband in an ambulance 100 blocks uptown to Harlem, without me. This was the farthest apart we’d ever been, and every cell in my body was traumatized.

I said yes to this transfer; yes to this surgery.  I had no idea what we were doing, there was no time for pros and cons- and I wasnt even sure of what they were. No time to read up on it. I sat there in my bed uncomfortable beyond belief, sore body, diaper full of blood, and breasts ful of milk in pain wanting to feed a newborn. 

My husband called when they arrived at the other hospital with news that the doctor wouldn’t do the surgery.  He thought the anesthesia was too risky, and I admit I was very relieved.  I thought great just come back!  Anything to have him not in surgery and back in my arms. But the hospital I was at didn’t let my son or husband back- per a policy that broke every moral law I know. So I went to them. The next morning we were released, and felt as if we had been let out of jail after an all night bender… something like a scene from The Hangover.

Finally at home with our flawless newborn, soaking up his scent. I watched him in amazement feeding him till he doze off milk drunk with a huge ear to ear smile. I loved every part of this newborn phase, as hard as it was.  I even loved waking up in the middle of the night with him. 

We saw a specialist and he suggested we operate and said that he would do the surgery if it was his son. After a few weeks of pondering the pros and the cons; worrying about what could go wrong and endlessly reading articles we decided to go through with the surgery.  It was a success, and he came home that night.

Now we could move on, and stop spinning.  A new chapter awaited us. All the darkness was behind us, and things were good.

Until he would cry, and I would worry why.  Or something would look red or irritated and I’d think something was seriously wrong.  If he was fussy and unconsolable ( which were the symptoms they warned us to watch out for ),  I’d think something was wrong.  Wondering if I should run right to the ER, sobbing on the phone to my sister. Doubting my ability to judge if it was an emergency or not, worrying that I would mess up. What if I assumed he was just fussy; when it really was an emergency and I didn’t take him to ER. I couldn’t win here, and felt so much weight.

Uncertain and afraid, I began worrying about everything that could go wrong.

I never thought that this experience could have led to depression, or anxiety. And was told very little about postpartum anxiety related conditions from any of my doctors.  I had only heard of baby blues but I wasnt depressed. I naively assumed that this kind of excessive worry or anxiety that I felt was a normal rite of passage.  Mother stuff, everyone must feel like this.

But as the days went on, worrying about his health became a full fledged never ending loop of worries on repeat in my mind.  Anxiety paved way to paranoia. Paranoia brought panic attacks.

I feared I couldn’t protect him.

On a cold night in February, I had a very bad panic attack that caused me to run out of my house in a bathrobe, around the block to my Grandma’s house with my baby; because I didn’t feel safe.  My sister said, “ I think you have postpartum anxiety”. I didn’t talk to a doctor, try therapy or take any medications.  After everything we had been though, a doctor was the last place I wanted to go. So I coped. And I believe this is what is expected of us new moms, is to cope. 

But what if what we are coping with isn’t what we should be coping with.

Postpartum anxiety became a label I used to understand and validate my fears, my behaviors, and my inability to function some days.  It helped me validate myself, and I hoped it help my husband understand where I was at all these months- and ultimately years.

I did all the things- yoga, meditation, tried every supplement known for anxiety. Things worked a little. But what I needed- was to be ok with it. I needed to accept that this was my experience. I was mad at the hospitals, I was mad that we had to go through this. I replayed all the ways we could have done things differently… I kept trying to make it better. Make it right.

I was stuck. I resisted all the anxiety and avoided situations that would stress me out. The pressure this put on my career and marriage was getting to be too much. So I finally got into therapy.

I can’t say one specific thing healed me, but I know I needed to feel the pain. I needed support and understanding from my husband that so much of this was out of my control. Within a few weeks, I felt the anxiety started to lift. I wasn’t overly anxious in situations that would have previously caused me to panic. I didn’t need to check on him while he was sleeping. I could just be.

Postpartum anxiety took the joy out of the earliest years with my son.  I didn’t seek out help early enough so instead it’s wrath overtook our family. And it’s the main reason we have an only child.

We need to get the word out so that future mothers can have a better transition into motherhood. I hope I can help new moms, inspire an understanding of this growing issue for women, and create a change in our system that allows for more education on mental health issues in postpartum to be given to new parents.

If you think you may have any symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression, please get help as soon as possible.  Or if you know someone who just had a baby, share the information out there, check up on them and see if they are acting strange or distant. They may need help.

Some things that helped me are:

Talking to your friends and family about how you are feeling. See how they can help you find some time to go take a yoga class, or workout.  Anything that gets your mind off of worrying. 

Journal, write and cry. Move the emotions out of your body.

Adaptogens and Supplements. There has been a huge trend in the wellness world on adaptogens as these help your body “adapt” to the stessors in your life and help to support your nervous system.  My current favorites are ashwaganda, reishi and GABA. 

Try therapy and/ or medication.  There are so many treatments out there that can help you find solutions to managing with postpartum anxiety. 

If you have had postpartum anxiety or depression, Id love to hear from you. Did you get help? How long did it last? Have you found any natural supplements that helped?

Here are some additional resources,

http://wmmhday.postpartum.net

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-postpartum-anxiety


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