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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Postpartum Anxiety: A Personal Account

So many people talk about postpartum depression these days, and yet the awareness we all hope for is not even remotely close to existing. So how can I begin to imagine that same awareness for those of us who experience postpartum anxiety? Or can I?

Towards the end of my pregnancy I found myself awake at night, thinking and thinking. And thinking some more.

What is going to happen with this baby? Will s/he be okay? Will *I* be okay? Will childbirth go okay? What if my water breaks and my husband isn't home? (It did, but he was home soon after.) Is it going to be like in the movies? (It wasn't.) I think I have to pee again. Do I really have to pee again? So soon? Ugh. I wonder if something is wrong that is making me have to pee or think I have to pee like 900x a night. Is it normal? Is it possible something is the matter with the baby?

Damn, how is he asleep? How can he just lay there and sleep that way? So easily? Damn him. Closed his eyes and rolled over and that's that. It's his baby, too. He's going to have to take care of it. It. Everyone thinks he's a he. But I don't know. Should I know? Shouldn't I know by now, instinctual-ly or something like that? Don't most expectant mothers have dreams that tell them what their babies are going to be and aren't they almost always right? Why haven't I had that dream yet? Well, I guess I should know - I mean I'm NOT asleep. How can I be dreaming up the gender of the baby if I can't even close my eyes and fall ... I think I really do have to pee now. Sigh.

And so it went. Night after night until I suddenly realized I couldn't take much more of it. I wasn't sleeping. And if I did fall asleep and eventually woke up to go to the bathroom I could not fall back to sleep. It would take hours of my mind racing before I was finally able to shut it down. If only for a little while. I was exhausted.

I was a stay-at-home not yet mom, and I was so tired I could barely function. And I was having a healthy pregnancy. A really healthy pregnancy, with no issues at all. What was my problem? I didn't know - but I knew enough to decide that it was time to find out. I called my doctor.

Now, mind you, this was a few months before baby arrived. I was able to monitor my anxiety and manage things with a small dose of prescription medication. It was the right thing at that time for me. After baby was born I was on alert. Would I be exceptionally moody? Uptight? Angry? Overly-hormonal? A friend of mine who had suffered from pretty intense PPD after her second child called regularly. 'You're doing alright?' she would ask.

And my answer was always a resounding 'Yes,' as I felt I was doing alright. In comparison to what I experienced talking to her nightly into the wee hours of the morning during her postpartum experience, I was doing amazingly well. And I loved my baby. I never wanted to put her down. I rarely wanted to step away from her, but did enjoy the R&R provided by having family in town, as I knew that would soon end.

And then family left and headed home. My husband went back to work regularly. And my baby and I? We were home. Alone. Together. With our pets. And that was pretty much it. Holy crap! What now?

My anxiety didn't skyrocket as one would expect. It wasn't a level of heightened anxiousness automatically for me. But man, as soon as she hit that 3 month-mark of colic, reflux or whatever else that was combined, I hit that wall. And as she grew and started rolling and moving some on her own, I started climbing it. The wall - that is. Get her crawling and I was all about upping my meds. The anxieties increased. The nights of not falling asleep multiplied, as I was already a new mom. I was breastfeeding. And I was awake nearly ALL. The. TIME.

I used to joke about my experience being PPD-lite. Meaning I didn't have the mood swings and such that many a PPD mom will reflect on. I even coined the term PPA in my mommies' PPD support group, thinking I was the first to think of it. Ha. What did I know? I was a new mom, ya know?

Obviously I made it through those early days. I found a way to hang in there, to survive. There was so much going on, but having people to talk to - to count on - to listen, that's what made it pass so smoothly. And to remind myself of how strong I was, that helped make it all okay. But the interesting thing to me about postpartum anxiety is that it never really, truly seems to go away. Because - after all - you are ALWAYS postpartum after your child is born. At least that is my perspective, four years+ into motherhood. And so the story continues ... stay tuned.

Post submitted by Andrea from TriangleMommies.comOriginally posted on her Blog, Good Girl Gone Redneck on July 23, 2011


  1. this is so very true. i have an 18 month old that started walking in may and it seems like now she is getting in to more stuff and trying to be as independant as she can be. She does what she wants and tones me out when I say pretty much anything to her. I can feel my heart rate go sky high and I get so upset. since I am the one home with her all the time i get to experiance the most of her tantrums and mischief... very very anxiety causing

  2. I have always had a fair bit of anxiety in my life but I could function reasonably well and felt pretty happy. When I fell pregnany with my second child the anxiety kicked in big time! I worried about the birth and then being left home alone with her. I went back to work full time so I didn't have to be home alone with her. I felt so alone. Now I feel guilty for being like that and worry that I didn't give her the best start. I breast fed but only for 3-4 weeks as it made me feel so terribly anxious. I love her so much and try to connect with her all the time, sometimes too much and I worry that I am being over bearing - when does it stop!! She will be 4 in two weeks time and this struggle is something that is still with me. Good luck to you and thank you for sharing your story :)


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