postpartum anxiety

Aug 7, 2015

Switching gears from all things fashion, and talking mom talk today! Earlier this week when I grabbed some coffee with friends, one of them said "you really do make it look easy". I reassured her that just getting out of the house to grab coffee for an hour was no easy thing. She has seen the craziness of my four children full force. And it is anything but easy. I think it is simply the fact that I am just used to it. I don't get phased by things that I used to with just Ace, or even just Ace and Pierce. I have gained a lot more patience, and the appreciation of a strict (in my head) schedule.

Motherhood comes with it's own set of struggles. I have come to see that my struggles are minuscule in comparison to others. But every mom can relate. And even non-moms can find the similarities. One thing that I struggled with, that no one told me about, or even talked about was postpartum anxiety. I was made aware of postpartum depression and signs to look for. My doctor was very thorough in asking questions about how I was feeling and what not. But no one prepared me for a slightly alarming hormonal shift in the way of anxiety. 
I will never forget my very first, and since then, only panic attack. Ace was just shy of a month old, Chris was gone for a month with little to no communication. I didn't really leave the house much with Ace except to go on walks around the neighborhood park. But, one must eat, so we headed out the door to the store. Everything was fine or so I thought. As I was driving I started having insanely paranoid thoughts. What if we get in a car accident? Is Ace's seat really safe enough? What is the speed limit currently? What if that semi over there runs a red light, loses control of his brakes, jumps the curb and comes flying at my car? I mean it was going on and on. Once we got to the parking lot of Target I just felt uneasy. I thought....ehh...this must be normal. I mean, I haven't ever taken Ace out before. As we were walking in Target the paranoid thoughts continued except now they triggered physical responses as well. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, I felt like I could either throw up or pass out at any moment. I had no idea what was going on! I remember being in the baby clothes section and just crouching down next to my cart, like, Kelsey get a grip. But I couldn't. My fight or flight reflexes kicked in and I grabbed Ace and got out of there! I was now sitting in my car calling my mom since I couldn't call Chris and just talk about what the hell was going on. My mom said "it sounds like you had a panic attack". I was sitting there thinking, no way! I have never had any kind of anxiety. I have never even been slightly nervous about things. Even in very questionable situations in life I would like to think I remained calm. But now I was out of my element. I didn't even know how I was going to drive home. My mom at that point was slightly nervous for me. It took me a little while but I finally made it home and ordered all my groceries online! ha! 
From there, I just stayed in my house. Constantly thinking about when the next panic attack would come. When Chris came home I told him about it and he didn't believe me. He was like, please, you are never nervous or anxious about anything. I told him it was completely uncontrollable. The next time I saw my doctor I told him about it. He said it sounded like "postpartum anxiety" and it happens to plenty of women after giving birth. He recommend I go talk to a counselor. So I went home and made an appointment. I went to that appointment without Ace and felt very little nerves. I wasn't really having wondering thoughts, and as I was sitting there filling out paperwork I was thinking, I am fine. Look at me, why am I even here. I talked with the counselor for about an hour and she even agreed that obviously this stems from thoughts and fears of something harming my child. Because without him present I was pretty okay. That was my one and only appointment with her. It just wasn't for me. I graduated with a double major in psychology and counseling so I know and believe in the benefits, but for this situation I knew I had to work through it. I had to get out there and push myself to conquer these irrational fears and not be paralyzed in my house with fear of something, anything happening. This battle went on for months. And it wasn't until I weaned Ace and got pregnant with Pierce that I stopped having these fears. The shift in hormones somehow balanced me out and I was able to control what I thought was uncontrollable. 

But then again I had the lingering thought that once I have Pierce what if another hormonal shift throws be back into that state of constant anxiety. Now I know there is a certain level of anxiety that comes with having a baby. I was prepared for all that. The scary part was that I was always alone when these things happened. Having Pierce, and Chris being away I felt positive that the anxiety would come back with a vengeance. My family was in full support to coming and staying with me to help ease the transition since I would be in Arizona for two months alone with two babies. And that was great! My mother in law came and stayed with me so that I could go run errands and get my feet under me without having to worry about the paranoia. The anxious feelings came back after Pierce, and they stayed until he was about nine months old. Everyday that we left the house was a battle. I was constantly having to talk myself through the situation. Okay....we are going to the store...no big deal. And if I throw up...who cares. If I pass out...I'll wake up. On and on. But I kept putting myself in situations where I know I would be anxious, just to conquer one more irrational fear. 
Getting pregnant with Avalon and then Odette seemed to be fine. I was prepared to deal with the anxiety should it rear its ugly head. I was ready to tackle those fears. And Chris and my family were ready to be there should I need to call on them to get me through a slightly more difficult series of thoughts. 

Now, I can say that I do things many times without thinking about a panic attack. Maybe it is the distraction of four kids. My doctor seems to think it has a lot to do with my diet right now. There are so many things that could play a role. But, every time someone tells me it looks "easy" I think about that time I was crouched down in Target feeling completely overwhelmed. A lot of people don't talk about the hormonal struggle. It's all about women being able to do it all. Pop that baby out and be a size two again (for the record I am not a size two!). Make motherhood look like a walk on the beach. But it is not all sunshine and rainbows, even for the most seasoned mom. Some things are out of our control. But that doesn't mean they will stay that way. 

So regardless of how "easy" and "flawless" some people may make motherhood be, perception is not always reality. Motherhood is amazing, and messy, and exhausting, and a mental roller coaster. For everyone! So buckle up, and don't forget your commemorative photo along the way! 


14 comments:

  1. Okay so I'm putting on my "I'm not a mom yet, but these are my REAL LIFE thoughts" pants...so bear with me here. I am not kidding you when I say that this post is the reason I am afraid to have kids of my own. I don't even know what to do with myself alone in the car sometimes. I will be sitting at a stop light and thoughts overcome me like..what if a tractor trailer runs this light? What happens if a drunk driver t-bones me at the next intersection? What if when I open my door after I park, someone whips their car into the space beside? AND IT GOES ON.... Anxiety is a very, very real thing and people that have never experienced it often have these preconceived notions of just being able to "grab ahold of your rational self". To that I say...they've never been in a position where they felt like they had no control, yet were surrounded by so many people who loved and cared about them. I can only imagine that this feeling becomes unbearable when you're both paranoid about yourself AND your tiny humans. Okay. So...now that I've gone on a huge tangent...I applaud you SO FREAKING MUCH for this post. It's refreshing to hear this and I admit..you DO make it look easy ;)

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  2. I remember Amanda posting about this same topic a while back. It's never happened to me, but since I read her post, I've kind of just been sitting around wondering if it would. Motherhood always feels like it's always an exhausting roller coaster for me. I still don't feel like I'm used to it.

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  3. It's nice to relate to someone who also has experienced postpartum anxiety. I had a very mild, un-diagnosed version. I would wake up in the middle of the night CONVINCED someone had snatched my child from his crib. Sometimes I'd bring him into bed with me just to know that: "ok, he's with me and safe." Running errands stressed me out and I'd constantly pull over to make sure he was still breathing in his car seat. I never had postpartum depression, but when I heard of "postpartum anxiety," I was like: "ohhh, well that explains some of it." Why don't people talk about this more???

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  4. Comically realistic. I remember my first thought leaving the hospital was just like "They seriously just let us take this thing home? No test? Nothing?" And my thoughts bringing the baby home was like "Erin you have been trauma nurse/nurse for almost 7 years, this baby isn't sick so it should be a piece of cake!"
    Ha! These babies need to come with a warning label, May cause stress, depression, anxiety, sleepless nights, dirty diapers, endless crying (mom and baby) etc. etc.
    And whenever I do something not quite right, I remind my little girl (and myself-for sanity sake) "Mommy's learning!"
    That and I can totally relate to the whole being by yourself thing, when my husband left when the baby was only 10 days old I was shocked/scared shitless that I would have the keep that baby safe and alive by myself for the next 6 months (at least!).

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    1. Yes! Warning labels for sure!! haha. It is one thing to bring a baby home, but then to be alone with no communication or family around, it takes the nerves to a whole new level.

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  5. People don't realize how very real something like this is. You talking about it is important because there are likely Moms who deal with the same thing but don't realize what exactly it is. You do make it look easy and that is good but you are always aware of what can come up. :)

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    1. I had no idea what is was until I finally brought it up with my doctor, he acted very nonchalant about the whole thing, like, yes this is normal. But no one told me that! ha. I had no idea the twists and turns my hormones would take.

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  6. I had severe PPD with Dannika and it triggered major panic attacks...like pulled over on the side of a busy freeway panting while grabbing my steering wheel for dear life panic attacks. I got on medication and therapy. So when I was prego with Mattis, my doc started me on antidepressants a few weeks before his due date and I took them throughout the first few months of his life. Made life a lot easier!

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    1. I remember you mentioning this before! PPD and anxiety are both very real, for so many moms. I wish someone would have told me more about the hormonal effects by body would go through so I didn't feel so alone.

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  7. Hormones are just crazy crazy bitches. Like out of this world. I can't stand them and I want them gone. Good for you for sharing the reality of life. It ain't all roses.

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  8. It's so great to hear someone else's experiences with this. I agree that people talk about PPD (which is great, because it needs to be talked about), but it was only after I googled "panic attacks after having a baby" that I learned about PP anxiety. I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it! I had a really similar experience and it was related to driving in the snow with my new baby, and I continued to have issues for the next few months, mostly related to driving with her and her sleeping at night. I'm glad I kind of know what to expect and look out for the next baby because it was NO joke!

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    1. Absolutely!! It is scary, especially if you have never dealt with anxiety before. I was happy that my doctor told me it was "normal" and went into detail about my hormones and what I expect with future babies. But man. I felt lost and alone in the beginning!

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  9. I had extreme ppd with my first and third babies. I seriously can feel your pain in this post! No one tells you what to expect- I guess it's different for everyone but seriously I can't believe what all we have to go through to have a baby! xxoo thinking of you

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  10. Good for you for posting this! I feel like so many people are ashamed when things like this happen. Especially, moms, who like you said... have to be "on" and "perfect" all the time. It's ridiculous. I'm glad you haven't experienced any since then! :)

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