Two and a half years ago, I held my newborn son in my arms and I remember that immediate feeling of pure love and joy. After nine months and 13 hours of labor, my son was finally in my arms. For as long as I could remember I wanted to be a mother. As much as I was looking forward to that moment, a sense of panic also arose as we were released from the hospital. It was normal to fear the unknown and what the upcoming months would bring. However, “normal” can mean a wide range of things and I started hearing it more and more often. It wasn’t until after my daughter was born, 2 years later, that I began questioning what was “normal”.
Postpartum Doctor Visit
I remember answering the standard questions for postpartum depression at my 6-week checkup, but postpartum anxiety was never mentioned. To be honest, I only heard about it briefly from another mom who had anxiety prior to pregnancy. I naively thought that it wouldn’t happen to me. When my OB/GYN asked how things were going, it was the standard response – “Sleep is rough, we are working on breastfeeding still, but I love being a mom.” There was nothing out of the ordinary to report. I assumed I was having a relatively similar experience to every other new mom. I realize now that it wasn’t what was happening, but how I was internally dealing with it.
Noticing the Red Flags of Postpartum Anxiety
While struggling to survive each day on little sleep, I didn’t think anything more than, “this is motherhood”. Every new parent has their struggles and from what I could tell most moms were also drinking several cups of coffee to make it through the day. It seemed like the passage of motherhood. It seemed normal. Months into not sleeping more than 3 consecutive hours, the worry grew.
Was he eating enough? Why wasn’t he sleeping? What else should I be doing? Am I doing something wrong?
The newborn phase is full of uncertainty but when it causes you to constantly doubt yourself, that is a red flag. As I started questioning myself as a new mom, accompanied by severe sleep deprivation, I became the most anxious I ever had been in my life.
Everyone’s postpartum experience is different. Traumatic births, issues with feeding, and lack of sleep; all impact us and can cause anxiety. It was easier figuring out I had postpartum anxiety the second time. Knowing what little sleep for a prolonged period of time did to my mental health, I was determined to seek out help.
Researching sleep help may not be necessary for everyone, but it has helped me feel more energized and less anxious about how much sleep we are getting. In addition to sleep tips; exercise, utilizing extra help, daily gratitude, talking to a therapist, and medication all have helped me deal with my postpartum anxiety. If you are questioning if what you are feeling is “normal”, please talk to your doctor. There is help available.