One day something very shocking occurred to me: I have been baking, birthing and feeding babies for the better part of SEVEN YEARS. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL H.
And I’ve learned so much not only about my physical, but also my mental, health since the beginning of this journey. I figured I would share on an important topic–what I’ve learned about postpartum anxiety from child one to child three.
Let’s learn together from my journey, shall we? 😉
It’s Totally Normal to Feel Anxious
This one is going to sound obvious, but for me, I didn’t even know the reasons I was feeling so anxious after having our second baby. I had never experienced issues with anxiety or depression. Also, I just kept thinking that my heightened state of agitation was due only to my permanent state of exhaustion.
It turns out, those hormones can really mess with you. Also, my doctor felt that the fact that my hormones were still different than their normal state (I was still breastfeeding at the time) added to my anxiety. So this time around, knowing that my hormones impact my mood so drastically feels like winning half the battle.
Exhaustion Makes Things Worse
This one is tricky to battle, because let’s be honest: What mom isn’t constantly tired? But being aware of the fact that extreme exhaustion made my mood that much more melancholy really helped me to be aware of respecting my limits.
If it means skipping out on watching my favorite TV show at night in favor of catching a few extra minutes of sleep, I’ll do it. If it means I skip a workout in the morning (I’m a big fan of 6am barre classes!), then that’s what I do.
I remind myself that it’s most important to be rested, so that everything else can fall into place. So if you’re in the same spot, don’t be scared to stand up to fight for those extra few minutes of shuteye! Every bit helps.
Don’t Let the “Experts” Make You Doubt Yourself
I’m a big believer in parenting by instinct. Yes, books can be helpful in guiding you, providing solid objective information, and even helping to establish routines (if you’re into that). But at the end of the day when you’re facing a parenting challenge, your gut will kick in to guide you on how to best deal with it. Listen to it, because when you don’t, anxiety can get worse.
Whether it’s debating whether or not to do sleep training or learning to take a deep breath and enjoy the little moments, anxiety only gets worse when you fight against your limits. So trust your gut and let that be the biggest guide in how you parent.
Therapy is the Bomb–Take Advantage of It
I will never, ever understand what kind of person would be embarrassed to admit that they do therapy, because it. is. the. SHIT.
Drop your ego. No one cares that you’re not perfect. And no other sane, caring person would judge you for reaching out to a professional who is actually trained to talk you through the very problems you’re experiencing.
Most insurance plans cover therapy with a low co-pay. And with sites like Talk Space and others popping up, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to talk with a professional these days. Bonus!
It Takes a While for Hormones to Regulate
To be honest, I’m still waiting to even out after baby number three. Since I’m still nursing (actually just started weaning her), I have a feeling it will be a while before I’m completely back to my normal state. But I’m getting there. (By the way, here are my tips on how to survive breastfeeding.)
I remember telling my husband after I stopped nursing our second–maybe two months after–that I finally felt like myself again. I didn’t even know that I was feeling so different until I started feeling normal again. It’s the craziest thing; you really do adjust to your new normal. But that doesn’t mean you’re back at your baseline levels for hormones again.
If you’re still feeling a little off even after you’ve stopped nursing, consider talking to your doctor to have some bloodwork done. They can check your levels to make sure that everything is falling within the normal range.
And Remember: Someone Else Has Already Been Where You Are
I’m probably not the only one who finds it oddly comforting to realize that every emotion I’ve had surrounding motherhood, every hurdle I’ve faced and every problem I’ve encountered has been faced–and dealt with–by women before me. Incredible women. Strong women. Women who also struggled, then found their peace.
Take comfort in knowing that these paths have been walked before, and countless women have come through just fine.
Be honest about your needs, find your support network, and give it time.