If you’re like me, you’ve heard so much about postpartum depression and NOTHING about postpartum anxiety. It blows my mind that I had (pre-pregnancy) and still have anxiety, have taken anxiety medication for years (shout out to Citalopram!), hold a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and soon to be doctorate degree in psychology, read multiple pregnancy books, and I had NEVER heard or seen the words “postpartum anxiety”. Until I googled it during my first week home with Milo. How is this possible? After doing some reading, I realized that postpartum anxiety is extremely common. Many people reading this are probably like “well sh*t, that would have been nice to know.” I know! That’s why I’m writing this.
“nobody wants to be the Mom that isn’t in pure #blessed mode all day every day after giving birth”
The worst part about postpartum depression and/or anxiety (because you can have both) is that it happens POSTPARTUM. First of all, you just birthed a human and your body is healing PHYSICALLY from that trauma. Yes, of course, oh my god, it’s such a beautiful moment, roses and sunsets… come on… imagine someone getting in an accident where they had bodily harm equivalent to that of giving birth. I dunno, a small bowling ball fell out of them or something. Do you think they’d be sent home within 24 hours to feed and care for a newborn? I highly doubt it. Especially if that person were a man (seriously though). I’m convinced that if men had babies, the pre-natal and post-natal care would be out of this world. I’m talking government funded pelvic floor physio throughout pregnancy and postpartum (why isn’t this a thing?), and continuous postpartum care (not just a 6-week check up to make sure your insides aren’t falling out). I remember going to Milo’s first doctors appointment a few days after he was born and I couldn’t physically sit down on the hard chair in the waiting room. I can’t believe they expect women to just get up and go a couple days after giving birth. It’s brutal. Given that I just went on a mini rant, I will say my point here is that you are going through so many physical issues at this time, that it’s a real slap in the face to then also struggle with anxiety and/or depression. Second, nobody wants to be the Mom that isn’t in pure #blessed mode all day every day after giving birth. I think Moms feel this pressure to always be showing how unbelievably happy and in love with their baby they are. Everything is so great and she couldn’t be happier. So, so, so in love. Meanwhile, her nipples are swollen and bleeding, it physically hurts to sit down, it takes her 15 minutes to go pee (god forbid she has to go #2… it’s terrifying!), she hasn’t slept well in days, her body doesn’t feel like her own, she is stressed about breastfeeding, the babes latch, and can’t figure out the god damn pump, oh, and she’s basically in uncomfortable diapers during all this. As if this is in’t enough sh*t to deal with… let’s top it off with some anxiety. And what’s worse than having anxiety? Having anxiety but pretending you’re fine and not talking about it because if you do then people are going to think you can’t handle being a Mom, or your child must not be getting the proper care and love… because their Mom is anxious and having a hard time. Right?
My postpartum anxiety was short lived. And, maybe so because I wasn’t afraid or ashamed to talk about it and I was familiar with what anxiety feels like for me. Keep in mind I was taking Citalopram through all this. Maybe my anxiety would have been much worse without it. My postpartum anxiety was a sneaky little b*tch. All day I would be busy chatting with family, breastfeeding, and tending to my wounds (haha). It was sunny outside and Milo would sleep most of the day beside me, or in his bassinet while I dilly dallied around the house or watched Netflix (#blessed). But then, every evening, right around 7:00pm, after we’d eaten dinner, family had left, Milo was asleep, the house was quiet and it was starting to get dark outside, anxiety would set in. It felt like the world was about to end, but I was the only one who knew about it. My husband and I would be laying on the couch watching our usual shows, and I would just cry for about an hour. I had no idea why.
It is hard to describe what anxiety physically feels like to someone who hasn’t experienced it. This is how I explain it: you know when you’re driving and the person in front of you slams on their brakes and then you slam on your brakes. Think about those couple seconds your body is anticipating a car accident. Really think about this brief moment, and the physical reaction your body would have during those couple seconds. A heaviness flushes throughout your body but at the same time you feel weightless and uneasy. Now imagine that feeling just lingering in your body. It doesn’t dissipate as it would in the driving scenario once you realize you’re not going to hit the car in front of you. Having this feeling is annoying when you’re about to speak in public, or get some embarrassing exam done at the doctors… but… you expect it then. You know why you’re feeling that way, and there is an end in sight to that feeling. This feeling is even more annoying when you’re literally chilling on the couch with your husband watching Wheel of Fortune. I mean, no offence Pat and Vanna, but your show isn’t THAT thrilling.
It was like clockwork. Every evening the anxiety showed up. After a few days I started googling “postpartum anxiety”. I research everything. It’s what I do. Just seeing that postpartum anxiety was an actual thing, and that there were articles written about it, I felt better. Fast forward to our next doctors appointment. Of course there was a medical student working with my doctor at this visit, because this was the one visit where I didn’t have my sh*t together. In fact my sh*t was very undone. “Hi Renee, how is Milo? How has everything been going?” Cue ugly sobbing and tears. Just explaining how I was feeling every evening made me feel better. My doctor had young children of her own and shared that when they were newborn, she too felt anxiety in the evenings when the sun would start going down. “It’s just something about it being night time and dark” she said. They assured me that these feelings were completely normal and would likely dissipate within a week or two, but if they did not to make another appointment.
“It felt like the world was about to end, but I was the only one who knew about it.”
I remember thinking “this is common and normal??” I bet it’s even more common than doctors think because I’m sure there are many women who keep it to themselves. That is heartbreaking. I know for me, when I feel anxious, just saying it out loud to someone makes me feel better. Acknowledging how you feel and thinking about why you may feel that way is so beneficial. Like, “yep, I am anxious AF right now… f*ck you mind and corresponding physical reactions.”
How are you feeling right now? Go tell someone. Maybe they’re feeling the same way. #blessedandanxious