Finding the Light with Postpartum Anxiety
Words by Megan Martie
They say that worrying as a new parent is normal, that you’ll worry about your child for the rest of his/her life.
That may be so, but I was experiencing something I couldn’t imagine feeling for the next 18+ years of my life. It went much deeper than just worrying about whether or not I would be a good parent or if my children would grow up to have a good life. The anxiety I felt was like a life sentence.
With our oldest, I experienced Postpartum Anxiety and had found natural ways, like essential oils and a lot of prayer, to cope with that anxiety. So during my second pregnancy, I began to prepare for the possibility of having PPA again. I had experienced it before so I thought I had it handled, but I think that mentality only enabled my denial. In reality, my anxiety was far worse with our second son.
I was a recent college graduate turned stay at home mom of two boys. While all of my friends were starting their exciting careers, I was contemplating whether or not to get out of bed that day. As emotionally, physically, and mentally drained as I was, I got out of bed each morning because my littles needed me. But while I was just going through the motions, my mind was trapped in a mental fog. Our youngest is 8-months-old now, and aside from photos, I have a hard time remembering what happened in the first five months of his life.
I didn't sleep for the first four months of either of my sons’ lives. They weren't bad sleepers or colicky babies, but the fear and "what if's" filled my mind 24/7, leaving me in a state of anxious panic. "What if I don't wake up to hear him over the monitor?" "What if he rolls over in his sleep and stops breathing?" The worrying about SIDS became an obsessive intrusion each night. I would stretch my arm over the side of the bassinet so that I could easily see if they were breathing at any moment. There were many nights I would wake in a bone-chilling panic that my youngest had stopped breathing.
It wasn’t until the night my older sister sent me an article about PPA, that I finally realized how bad it had gotten. As I went down the list of signs and symptoms, it was as if every single bullet point was written about me. "What if" thoughts, racing mind, needing to do something at all times, constant worrying, no appetite, a sense of dread that something bad will happen (this one got bad, y’all), feeling like something was wrong with me, worrying what people would think of me for feeling this way, the list goes on. She doesn’t know this, but that article kind of saved me. It shook me out of the denial that I was in. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I not only was suffering from PPA again, but this time it was far worse.
There is such a stigma attached to Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety. I didn’t want people to think I was crazy, or incapable of taking care of my children. What if people thought I didn’t love my children, or worse, what if they thought I would hurt my babies?
I was weighing myself down with negativity. Just because I had anxiety didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the lighter things each day that brought me joy. I turned this idea into my new perspective. If all I was looking at each day were the darker times, the harder, less rewarding moments of each day then I would forever be consumed by the darkness. But if I changed my perspective, if I sought out the light in each day, in each moment, then I could get through this. My family could get through this. It took prayers and great effort, and continues to each day, to find the positives that will brighten my day. But without this mentality, I’m not sure where I would be today.
Megan is a wife, stay at home mom of two boys, photographer and blogger from the Midwest. Singing, reading, laughing and playing with her boys is her greatest joy. She can often be found at a coffee shop, listening to music while writing and editing. Her biggest project at the moment is the launch of her new mommy blog, Rian Gray. Follow along with Megan on Facebook and Instagram.