So my blogging break is going well, isn’t it? Ha! This is actually a post I’ve had sitting in my drafts for quite some time, and I finally finished it up.
With Adeline about to turn two, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the past two years, and how far I’ve come as a first time mom. There have been highs, and there have been lows, and it’s been the strangest two years of my life, really. I’ve felt emotions and a deep, deep love I’ve never felt before, and I’ve learned how to deal with fears, and feelings of anxiousness I’ve previously not experienced. I know I’ve mentioned a few struggles from the newborn days here on the blog, but I thought I’d dive in and share my whole story in hopes that maybe someone else will benefit. The struggles, I think, are often stereotyped to end within the first few weeks, but that just wasn’t the case for me. These “honest” posts seem to be the most popular, so I figured I’d share another!
Before Adeline was born, I thought, “how hard could it be?” I have like, an army of nieces and nephews, have never had any sort of anxiety or depression, and have totally done my research and have this mom job on lockdown. Bring it on.
And then she was born. And holy hormones, did life change!
The first two days of her life were equally as blissful as they were tough. When you’re in the hospital, you’re constantly doted on, taken care, assisted, and eased into your new reality of being responsible for this new life. If you try hard enough, you can almost forget that you will have to do it on your own in just a few short days. Our delivery was pretty tiresome, and really took a toll on me (I mean, what delivery doesn’t??) but I pushed for almost 3 hours straight, and was more exhausted and sore than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Combine that with typical recovery pains, stitches, a shrinking and painful uterus, a lack of sleep, and now breastfeeding, and you can imagine how beat up I felt. When we had visitors and family come see us in the hospital, I remember trying to put on a happy face when really all I wanted was to SLEEP and then sleep some more.
You see, right after you deliver, and start breastfeeding, your hormones are raging and you kind of feel like your head is in the spin cycle of a washing machine. At least that’s how I felt. On one hand you’re so in love with your baby, but on the other hand you feel like you could just start crying and not stop until next Tuesday. But, I thought that was normal. I was told it was normal. “Let the tears fall” they said. “Baby Blues are just a part of it” they said. “It takes time for your hormones to regulate” they said. So, I embraced it, did my best to prepare for it, and assumed it would fade away in a short time.
Once it was time to go home, I remember feeling so nervous to leave the hospital. I found it funny that taking your child home from the hospital required fewer signatures and paperwork than buying a house. You mean, we just kind of walk out with our baby, get in the car, and drive away? And that’s that?
When we got home, I knew it would be hard. I knew it would feel overwhelming. I knew there would be sleepless nights and napless days. And I knew I would be emotional. But what I didn’t know, was that Postpartum Anxiety was a real thing. In fact I’d never even heard of it. I’d been cautioned of the Baby Blues, and told they were just a part of wild hormones during those first two weeks or so. And I’d been semi-educated on the warning signs of Postpartum Depression. I knew that PPD was much more serious, much deeper, and would be much more obvious. And I also knew that while PPD doesn’t discriminate, I knew I probably wouldn’t be prone to it. So, I didn’t worry about it.
During those first few weeks at home, it was like I could physically feel when my hormones would plummet and I would just burst into tears. It was unstoppable. And it always seemed to happen early in the evening. Right around the time Adam would get home from work, he would often find me in tears trying to either calm Adeline, or calm myself. But again, I thought it was normal. It was still pretty early on. I remember feeling almost a sense of panic waiting for him to get home, like I was at the end of my rope and couldn’t handle another second. There were even mornings where I would wake up after Adam had left for work and I’d wonder if I could handle another day by myself. I would feel anxious about the prospect of having to change all the diapers, soothe her, feed her, put her down for a nap, keep her on a schedule, take care of myself, feed myself, etc. while I was home alone. Even if Adam was home, like on a weekend, trying to leave the house would send me into tears. The thought of getting “off schedule” was enough to make me melt down. And often, Adam would have to pry Adeline away from me and demand that I just go lay down or take a shower so I could have 5 minutes to myself. It was so hard to relinquish any duties over to Adam, even though I desperately needed his help and knew I needed his help. I constantly felt overwhelmed, would cry at the drop of a hat, was scared to let anyone else help out, and was having nightmares at night of things going wrong which I then couldn’t forget about for weeks on end. I can still distinctly remember a few of those nightmares. All of this combined should have been a warning sign, but again, I thought it was normal.
I never once thought I was dealing with any sort of PPD because I didn’t seem to “fit” any of the characteristics. I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel like I wanted to cause harm to me or Adeline. And I didn’t feel like I wanted to walk away. I felt like, what I thought, was just a tired, first time mom. Neither of us knew that maybe it was actually PPA instead. Adam gently suggested I go talk to someone around Christmas time, but I brushed it off and thought he was just overly concerned. I’ll also mention that right around this time we hydroplaned on the interstate and totaled our car with our 9 week old baby in the backseat, AND called 911 one night because I thought Adeline was choking on her reflux. So, it’s not like I thought my feelings of anxiousness were completely unfounded, but again, I thought it was just stress.
Adeline was after all, in hindsight, a great baby. An easy baby. And everyone told me that. But I think I was the only one at the time who didn’t believe it because to me it was still so overwhelming. I thought for sure I was doing something wrong if everyone else thought she was “so easy.” Sure, there were plenty of times where it seemed like she wouldn’t stop crying, but really nothing out of the ordinary. She never had colic, and other than some reflux issues she was very healthy. She actually ended up being a really good sleeper too. In fact, she was sleeping 9+ hours a night by the time I went back to work at 12.5 weeks. (I’m really not sure how we lucked out on that front, but I’m counting my blessings.) I had a fantastic support system, and Adam was the best husband ever during that time. We had everything we needed, Adeline was so very loved and spoiled, our parents came to visit multiple times, but I still couldn’t understand why I was still crying so much. I couldn’t understand why I still felt in my gut that something bad was going to happen. I couldn’t understand why I still felt such a drastic urge to control every little second of Adeline’s day and if I couldn’t I felt like the world was going to end. And this went on for months. I eventually chalked it up to the idea that going back to work was just more stressful than I thought it would be and these were just lingering overwhelmed emotions.
It wasn’t until Adeline was almost 6 months old that I started wondering if maybe I had been dealing with something more than just prolonged baby blues and new mom stress. This was also about the time where I finally started to feel more like myself. It suddenly felt like the fog had lifted and I could see clearly again, and there was an obvious difference in my emotions. I went from feeling so overwhelmed, all the time, to feeling much more in control and it was plain as day that I had just come out on the other side of something. Maybe it’s true that time heals everything, but I really think I was a prime example of Postpartum Anxiety. All of the warning signs were there, and it makes complete sense to me now. I absolutely think I missed an opportunity early on to go talk to someone, and I wish that I hadn’t ignored Adam’s suggestion. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but I know without a doubt it would have been beneficial, and not something to be embarrassed about. You just never know how something so life-altering is going to affect you, and I never in a million years would have thought that becoming a mom would have surfaced the anxiety I didn’t know I had.
After the 6 month mark things got increasingly better. I started experiencing fewer moments of, “I’m not in control and the world is ending”, and more moments of, “It’s not a big deal, I got this”. The tears still come and go, but I think now they’re coming from a place of nostalgia. The past year and a half has felt mostly back to normal. Or a new normal at least. I do still struggle sometimes with nightmares, and with those bad gut feelings you just can’t kick, but I think that’s just something that I’ll always battle. Now that we’re nearing the 2 year mark, I feel like I’ve just mainly got a better handle on how to handle situations with Adeline that make me anxious. And honestly though, I don’t feel like my “anxiety” is really even worthy of a label these days, but I do think this experience will help me be more proactive come time for a second baby.
So if I could tell a new mom ONE thing, it would be to research Postpartum Anxiety and to not be afraid to admit that you might be dealing with it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, embarrassed about, or in denial about! I wish I’d gone to see someone shortly after A. was born, but I was too stubborn to admit it. I will absolutely be more aware of the warning signs next time, and more open minded about seeking some outside guidance.
I don’t write this to make you think oh pitiful me, yada yada. Just sharing my experience, and learnings, and things I would do differently the next time around. We are feeling good over here now, and I think we’re rocking at this whole parenting thing! I’m sure by the time we think we’ve mastered our crazy two year old, the good Lord will bless us with another!
Thanks for reading!