When You’re a New Mom with Anxiety
Pregnancy: what a blissful, joy-filled time in a woman’s life, right? For some, perhaps. For me? It was nerve-wracking, hand-wringing, symptom-googling agony. Don’t get me wrong—I was so thrilled to be pregnant that I happy-cried every time I thought about our little baby, but I also sad-cried every time I let my anxiety overrule what should have been some of the best days of my life.
My pregnancy anxiety was on high-alert:
Something that isn’t unusual for pregnancy-after-loss parents. I found out I was pregnant because I just had that “feeling”, and trusted my intuition. I also trusted a less-than-a-dollar pregnancy test to be right, and it confirmed what I both longed for and feared: I was pregnant again. Again, with no baby to show for the first pregnancy. I told my husband in none of the ways I’d anticipated doing so on Pinterest: I’d already done that before, and had decided I would do most things different this time in the event something went awry.
Fast forward a year and some change later, and I’m proudly mothering the hell out of a 7 month old fireball. She’s feisty and funny and freaking adorable, but I find myself constantly waiting on the other shoe to drop. How can we be so lucky this time?
The “what ifs” dominate my mind:
What if she’s sick in a way that doesn’t have symptoms? What if this cough is RSV? What if she has a food allergy to this new thing I’ve introduced? I’m the mom hovering over her as she sleeps, placing a palm on her tiny chest as it rises and falls because I’m constantly thinking about SIDS. She’s not allowed a blanket, and sleeps in a bare bassinet in our room. A run-of-the-mill diaper rash had me thrown over the side of my bed, Disney Princess style, convinced I was messing everything up. I’m good friends with Dr. Google and her real-life doctor: they know my number when it pops up at their office by now, and we’re on a first name basis with the after-hours nurse. I’ve only called about weird gas twice—something my dad had joked I would do. The anxiety of the “what-ifs” consumes me, and though I find myself relaxing with each passing day, I’m still gripping onto her with wide eyes and my phone at the ready to call on either doctor whom I pester so frequently.
Postpartum anxiety is extremely common, but goes undiagnosed more often than not, due in large part to the stigma attached to mental health issues in our society.
I am thankful to have the support of friends and family, who gently nudge and encourage me to seek help. There’s absolutely no shame in it, I know, but it was something I denied having for quite some time in the attempt to seem strong. I’m fortunate: I’ve had no difficulty bonding with our girl (I might be too bonded—going back to work was a huge struggle for me, but financial necessity and fears of debt also send me spiraling) as can happen with postpartum anxiety. My fears are most at bay when I’m with her in the little moments: playing on the floor, nursing her to sleep, and watching her imitate her dad’s funny faces. I breathe in deeply, and blow out slowly: something I googled that I should do, naturally.
The other night over a casual bagged salad, (because we’re fancy like that) my husband laid a huge query at my feet. In between chewing radicchio, he says “So, when should we have another?”
Another? Another what? Another bagged salad? I get them all the time. I’m always worried he’ll tire of them, and eventually me. Anxiety is omnipresent, y’all. He tells me he’s being serious: when should we start thinking of having another baby? Needless to say, a streetcar named anxiety revved its engine on me once more. How could such a tender question send me into overdrive? I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I changed the subject. My hope, though, is to be able to answer that question, and many others constantly swirling around in my head, very soon.