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From the outside the postpartum journey looks like baby cuddles and pure joy. Family and friends see the photos on social media full of delicate baby faces and even some smiles.
What isn’t seen is the lack of sleep and deprivation that comes with having a baby, especially a first child. The depletion of being “on” 24/7” over time has a significant impact on the caretakers and mothers.
When the lack of sleep, enough food, sometimes support all come together it creates a perfect storm, initially staved off by the adrenaline.
I remember waking every hour and a half to feed and I promise, nothing can prepare a new parent for that reality.
What’s talked about even less is postpartum anxiety and especially postpartum anxiety after the first six months of baby’s life. I was waking every hour or two, but I couldn’t always sleep in between feedings. I’d be anxious about the baby waking and then I’d be pulled out of a deep sleep in a panic. It’s not uncommon for parents to also check on baby to make sure baby is breathing, or sometimes you’re stressed and feel the need to check just because. That’s if baby is sleeping at night and on a new sleep rhythm!
This is the reality for new moms.
After months of having a baby, the worry is still there. The questions and concerns grow.
Is baby sleeping enough ? Do I sleep training ? Do I have the right kind of support ? What about daycare? Can I continue to breastfeed? How do I manage work and being a parent ? How do I know I’m a good mom? Why do I feel shame about staying at home?
The pressures of motherhood begin to look like a mountain that needs climbing.
I had a good handle on my generalized anxiety and life stresses before pregnancy. The hormones threw me off, especially after birth and even more so after baby had been in the world for a few months. What’s not talked about is how this manifests physically and what you can do for support.
First - always seek help from a mental health provider. Postpartum Support International can be a great place to start talking to someone or be referred to a licensed professional counselor or a medical doctor who can prescribe medications.
Second - when those moments of pure anxiety build up, don’t run away from the anxiety. Often times anxious women feel the need to run from their feelings. Breathe into the discomfort. You can take conscious inhales and longer exhales. This is a technique that can be used anytime and in the moment.
Third - surround yourself with community and support. It truly does “take a village” to raise children. Grant yourself permission to only be around others who are helpful and not causing more stress.
Fourth - always speak to a medical professional if you start to notice physical signs of stress such as headaches, chronic pain, and increased blood pressure.
The stresses of parenthood will continue over time and one challenge will be replaced with another. The new normal is fresh and it takes a lot of time to adjust past that initial three month postpartum phase. Know you aren’t alone and help is out there.
Sometimes I wish I can just drive away without my kids and move to a different country and have my old life. I feel so selfish saying this.
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