Anxiety After Birth
Why is No-one Talking about Postpartum Anxiety?
The day my son was born was one of the most special, if not the most special day of my life. After the hard slog of my pregnancy, here was my little boy. So perfect and finally on the outside of me (yay!), safe in my arms.
I cried with pure love and joy for the entire first week, and like any nervous first time parent I worried about all kinds of things..whether he was hungry or wet, did he have a sore tummy? Was he sleeping enough? Was I ever going to sleep more than 3 hours again?
But then the anxiety got a little more intense. I started to think that I’d never loved something or someone so much. How could that something I love so much last? Surely the universe would, or could snatch it away from me at any moment.
Dreadful scenario’s started to cloud my head. Checking on Jude in his sleep I was convinced I’d find him blue and not breathing. Walking though carparks I’d worry about accidentally tripping and dropping him, perhaps we’d be hit by a car. I worried that at any moment someone might snatch him from our house, even from our car as we were stopped at traffic lights. Petrified he would choke on his food, I would cut it to minuscule size. I even found myself googling whether his latest cold symptoms could mean he had cancer.
The worst though, was a day we were driving and he was daydreaming in the backseat of the car. As I chatted away to him he was ignoring my questions, a sheer panic came over me and I actually thought he was unconscious, screaming his name I pulled over the car.
He was of course fine, and I knew in that moment it was too far - my anxiety was distorting my reality.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM ANXIETY?
Less talked about than it’s famous cousin Postpartum Depression, PPA presents as irrational fears or worries about what the future might hold for your baby. It’s symptoms can be things like obsessively worrying your child will get sick (that’s a tick for me!), a constant fear you’ll accidentally hurt your child, a sense of dread - especially when leaving the house, trouble sleeping, a lack of appetite (this was not a problem for me ;-)), and even panic attacks.
Reading about this was shocking to me. Whilst I’d been on the lookout for Postpartum Depression, anxiety had not made a blip on my radar. I thought all of my worries were part and parcel of parenthood, and whilst some definitely were - others were definitely not.
This anxiety hindered my ability to go out with my son, caused me to abandon my mothers group, I avoided taking him to events (he was nicknamed the phantom baby) because I couldn’t bear to deal with the anxiety around other people. Just in general looking after him was very, very stressful for me.
So, the reason I wanted to write about this is because perhaps this has been happening to you, or, you recognise some of these symptoms in someone you know. If it is happening to you, know this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE, there are ways to help you out of this. If you know someone with these symptoms: REACH OUT TO THEM, ask them how they're going, send them this post, or rock up to their house unannounced and give them a hug. This anxiety is real for the people experiencing it, and there are ways to help them through it.
Again, here are some symptoms of PPA:
Obsessive worrying that baby will get sick, or that general sickness will turn to life threatening.
A nagging fear you’ll accidentally hurt your child.
An inability to relax or focus.
Trouble sleeping and/or eating.
Panic attacks and physical manifestations including dizziness & hot flashes.
Feelings of dread.
And here some suggestions for helping manage it:
Speak with a professional - make an appointment with your GP or perhaps consider seeing a counsellor to discuss what you’re going through. You can search for a therapist that’s right for you via the link below.
Look after yourself, take some time on your own to relax.
Realise that perfection is not possible. Don’t aim to be a perfect parent, aim to be a happy one.
Give yourself permission to ask for help with the everyday - perhaps hire a cleaner to help with chores, or ask a trusted friend to babysit.
Confront your fears - talk to your spouse, a family member or friend about the thoughts you’re having. They may be able to help you work through them.
And finally if you are struggling with type of thing, please know that I'm with you, I feel you, and I promise you, you can get better.