You may have seen my recent interview with NTV news about Postpartum Depression. Many women have either experienced Postpartum Depression first hand or know someone who has. However, postpartum mental health disorders don’t always present as sadness or depression. Local mom and blogger, Jessie, of thejessiek.com hops on the blog to share about her struggles with Postpartum Anxiety.
Hi everyone! A quick intro: my name is Jessie, and I’m from the southwest corner in Nebraska. We live in the middle of no where, surrounded by pastures and cornfields, but we love it! My husband Sam runs a trucking company and hauls livestock and grain, while I stay at home with our 3 girls, ages 6, 4, and 1. I am a blogger at www.thejessiek.com and I also work from home with my essential oils business.
My Postpartum Anxiety Story:
I’ve always been a worrier, but I’ve never realized what productive worrying was, and what irrational worrying was. Pregnancy is different for everyone, and it’s a beautiful, truly amazing experience. With Jolynn, our third, I seriously loved every single minute of being pregnant. I didn’t want it to stop.
Through out the pregnancy, there were times that I would feel a sudden dread. It would happen when I was tired or stressed, and it would hit me hard. I thought I was just extra hormonal with this pregnancy, but this was past hormones. This was little panic attacks, that I had no idea was even a thing during pregnancy.
One of the reasons I worried so much was because with our second daughter, her labor went so fast we almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time to have her there. We live 40 miles from our hospital, and since my labor went so quickly with her, my doctor was afraid it would be even quicker with this one. She wanted to schedule an induction date, to ensure that I would be at the hospital to deliver. I was a little uneasy with this at first, but then I became okay with it because I was scared my husband would be delivering a baby in the car if we didn’t.
A little back story: my husband hauls hogs. Some of the loads are across the state, sometimes even a few states away. He puts in long hours, but is home every night, and we are thankful for that. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had a fear that I would go into labor while he was hauling far away. It would be so bad that there would be times I would have that fear so strong in my head, I would vision it happening, and I could just cry.. for hours. Not just normal crying; this was sobbing, uncontrollable crying. He was able to reschedule some of his loads to haul closer to home for the entire two weeks leading up until my delivery, thank God.
Fast forward to delivery, and everything went great. It’s a good thing we were at the hospital and I was induced there, because once my labor started, it went super fast. It was so fast that the nurses delivered Jolynn, and my doctor wasn’t able to get to my room in time. I wasn’t able to get any pain medication, and she was sunny side up, so it HURT. But everything was okay, and I was so happy to be holding my baby.
We got released from the hospital exactly 24 hours later, and I was so relieved and happy to be home. Everything was great, I was happy, we were a complete family.
Over the next few days, I had a few moments of sadness, but I thought it was just what they call the “baby blues”. The first major warning sign I missed, was I felt like I had to hold her literally every minute, because I was afraid something would happen to her. I thought this was a motherly instinct and tried to brush it off. But then when my husband went back to work, and he came home at nights, he would want to hold her just like any Dad would. This was great, but at first it was hard for me. I held her literally all day, and then to have to give her up made me emotional. There were a few nights I would have to leave the room because I would start crying.
When people came to visit, I would tremble inside when they would want to hold her because in my mind I could see them dropping her on her head. This was heartbreaking to me, and because of this we hardly went anywhere to visit because I knew they would want to hold her.
When I was pregnant/postpartum with our first two daughters I didn’t really have any issues. Every thing went smoothly, and the transition from one child to two was fairly easy for me. That wasn’t the same with our third. I think it was a tough time for me because we had her, then it was a busy summer, and then our oldest started Kindergarten. Starting Kindergarten is tough on any mom, but it was extra hard on me for some reason.
Since we live in such a rural area, she had to be getting on the bus in the mornings at 6:10. On top of this, Jolynn still wasn’t sleeping through the night and nursing multiple times. So sleep for me became almost non existent, and I didn’t even realize it. I was completely mentally and physically exhausted.
My anxiety got worse, and I started becoming more aware of it. I couldn’t even walk into the kitchen without having a bad thought or fear of something happening to one of my kids. My entire day was consumed with fear of horrible things happening. But each time I would try to come up with excuses in my head that would tell myself otherwise. I think I knew I had anxiety, but I couldn’t let myself have a label, so I tried to ignore it and hoped it would go away. I was fearful of what people would think of me, and in my head I was denying it.
Then, it really hit me. My anxiety had turned to depression, and I still wasn’t aware of what was even going on inside my own head. My worries had turned into heartbreaking, horrible intrusive thoughts and images. I was running on fumes, in a fog, and sometimes I couldn’t even think of simple things like what day it was or things that needed done. I would get angry and snap at little things, and I had zero patience. I was behind on housework, I stopped blogging, and I isolated myself. I had isolated myself so much to the point that in the first six months of my daughters life, we had never had a babysitter or been away from her. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, or see anyone. I just wanted to be at home with my husband and daughters.
My anxiety had turned into physical symptoms, like headaches and migraines, nausea, shakiness and trembling, rapid pounding heartbeat, and mental fog- like forgetting simple things, unable to hold a conversation, and even at times being like a zombie.
With my husbands help, I finally worked up the courage to talk to my doctor. It was tough, I cried, and she listened. I was put on an anti anxiety medication for a few months, but thankfully after that I was able to make some major lifestyle changes and stop taking it. I have a self care routine that I follow religiously now, to make sure my mental state is healthy and continues to be healthy. I have found many different coping mechanisms and natural ways to overcome the anxiety symptoms. You can read an in depth blog post about my self care routine here.
Once of the reasons I was so quiet and private about my postpartum struggles was because I honestly had no idea what was wrong with me. You hear so much about postpartum depression- the symptoms, the signs, the therapy; which is great! But I’ve never heard about postpartum anxiety. With postpartum depression they say the symptoms are feelings of unable to bond with your baby, or crying all the time, ect. And that was not me at all. I felt like I loved my baby so much that I had to protect her every second. So when I was feeling the way I did, I felt alone and embarrassed.
Friends, please do some research on postpartum anxiety. I wish it was talked about normally just as much as postpartum depression is, because they are both incredibly tough to go through, and they both impact a life. It takes serious strength to get through these things. So if you are going through any postpartum issue, especially postpartum anxiety, please don’t stay quiet. Get the help you need. I promise you will feel so much better, even just talking to your husband about it. Also, don’t stay quiet in fear of other people’s opinions. Because if you keep your voice to yourself, you are potentially holding back the light to someone else’s postpartum anxiety journey. Your voice could be their encouragement to get help, their inspiration, and could even save a life.
If you’re currently struggling, please remember this: one thing at a time. Focus on what good is happening in your life right now, at this moment. Once you let one bad thought into your mind, it will breed, so stop it and process it. Is that bad thing really happening right now? What are the chances of it really happening?
I promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel, and you will be able to live your life without crippling fear again. Postpartum anxiety can try to steal your joy of motherhood from you, but you have to be ready to put up a good fight and win your freedom back.