Postpartum anxiety is something I’ve mentioned in the past but never written a full blog post so here goes…
Have you guys seen The Big Sick? Ray Romano’s daughter is in a coma for much of the movie and he has a quote that just stuck out to me.
He says, “Being a parent is a nightmare. Loving someone this much sucks.”
It just kind of summed up the anxiety I had been feeling at the time, which was on a plane home from Munich.
Nick and I went to Germany for a work trip of his in October and the whole time I worried about our safety. The Las Vegas shooting coincidentally happened our first night away. I hated being on the same flight as him too, because all I could think about was what would happen to Tommy if it went down.
I’ve wondered if I have postpartum anxiety for a while now as I wouldn’t characterize myself as an anxious person pre-Tommy. Or did I just became a mom and worry is the new normal? On top of that, this has been an insane year with terrorism becoming more frequent and closer to home.
So, I decided to take a look at what postpartum anxiety is exactly since it happens in about 10% of moms.
While any new mom can develop postpartum anxiety, those who are especially vulnerable include women with a personal or family history of anxiety or previous experience with depression, certain symptoms of PMS (such as feeling weepy or agitated), eating disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
I have a family history of anxiety, I get serious PMS, I didn’t have an eating disorder but had my moments when I was younger… I am the perfect candidate and while I thought I had it, now I’m not so sure.
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:
- Constant worry.
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen.
- Racing thoughts.
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite.
- Inability to sit still.
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about the baby’s health and development, her ability to be a good parent, and how she’s going to balance work and home or care for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia.
More than 11% of mothers fell victim to postpartum anxiety disorders while roughly 6% developed postpartum depressive disorders.
“If you’re anxious and it’s getting in the way of your life, you may begin to feel depressed about that and vice versa.”
The same is true if your anxiety isn’t tied to any particular threat, if it leads you to dread everyday situations (like driving with baby), if panic attacks come out of the blue, or if it interferes with your ability to function (because you check on him throughout the night).
“Anxiety is a problem when it overshoots reality.”
Tell your ob-gyn or pediatrician how you’re feeling and ask for a referral to a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
An expert can teach you techniques to help you relax, such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness training. Done before bedtime, they can set you up for a good night’s sleep (which can in turn ease anxiety). Getting moving can also relieve anxiety by helping you feel more empowered, Howard says. Six weeks of resistance training or aerobic exercise led to a remission rate of 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively, among women ages 18 to 37 with generalized anxiety disorder, a study done by The University of Georgia finds.
Mindfulness helps people learn how to have a thought, accept it and turn their attention elsewhere, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) allows patients to become part of the problem-solving process, teaching them how to challenge over-generalized thoughts and adjust their moods.
So for me, it started before the baby was born. I was constantly in a state of worry that something was going to happen to Tommy before his due date. Once he was born, like other moms, I was petrified of SIDS. Even writing this post, I had to go look at Tommy to make sure he was OK.
The first time I drove with him on the highway, I drove well below the speed limit and wanted to cry. It sounds so odd, I know. It started to rain and I wanted to pull over and just cry because I was so scared we were going to crash.
Like 80% of new moms, I had the baby blues about 7-10 days postpartum. I mourned my past life of having the freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted and for extended periods of time but then I moved forward and loved my new role.
Even moving forward though, I’m constantly reluctant to talk about the future like when Tommy is in High School for fear I’m going to jinx us or something. I’m paranoid that something will happen to me and I’ll leave him without a mom at a young age… The thought of flying is so unnerving these days I avoid it as much as possible.
I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and I can’t fall back asleep because I worry about all the bad things that could happen, our house catching on fire, how I’d get out and if there was an intruder what I would do.
Just last week, I took a wrong turn and didn’t know what neighborhood I was in. I suddenly felt like I put us in danger because Nick told me it was the heaviest gang area of Boston (thanks Nick) and my heart was just racing and I felt ill.
We walk around Boston and all I think is “What would I do if a car started to come right at us or if someone had a gun, how I would protect Tommy?”
These are just a few of my anxious thought, things I have zero control over and likely will never happen but nevertheless I worry passionately.
Is this normal?
On Instagram yesterday, a lot of you told me you felt the same way which made me think, am I just a parent? Is this the new normal and we are all in this “nightmare” together of “loving someone so much it hurts” and that we would do anything to keep them safe?
I really don’t have an answer but quite a few of you asked me to share my postpartum anxiety story, so here it is. My plan is to just use exercise for now to manage but I’m not above asking for help.
Feel free to share your own concerns and experiences below or tell me that I am in fact crazy.