As I have written about in previous blog posts, when I first had Baby Picturesque, I struggled with postpartum anxiety. The thing that would make me the most anxious is how alone I felt. Even though my husband was helping (and very supportive), and we had people constantly coming over, I felt alone in the sense that I was the only person who could meet my daughter's needs. I was the only one who could feed my daughter (I exclusively breastfed, and she wouldn't take a bottle), I couldn't leave the house very frequently (because she hated car rides at that time), and I was the only person who could calm her (because of breastfeeding) in the middle of the night. I knew I loved this little girl, but everything was so new and different. I had no idea what I was doing, but tried to go by God's direction and my instincts. Even though I had a great support system, and my faith, I felt like I was a horrible mom because I really thought this mom thing would come so naturally. I had always been a mother hen type, and always wanted kids. Realizing I had these feelings, that made me feel very alone.
After several months, I finally realized what would set off the anxiety attacks that would seem to come out of nowhere. It was that feeling of being alone. I felt alone in my fears, alone in my worry that I could keep my baby as safe and healthy as possible (even though many things were out of my hands). The first anxiety attack I had was in the hospital. Baby P. had been placed on lights because her bilirubin was high and she had some jaundice. Our second night in the hospital, at around 2 am, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I kept staring at my daughter, so far away on the lights, and I felt helpless. I felt helpless at the time because I knew that the jaundice could only leave her body if she got enough breast milk. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, but I also wanted my daughter healthy. Was my body failing her?? Why couldn't I get her biliribun down??
I stood over her that night, looking at my little glow worm, praying silently over her that she would be okay. With her biliribun so high, she had to be placed on these lights 24 hours a day (other than for her feedings). I knew it was important that she be on those lights, but at the same time I wanted to hold my baby, love on her, and bond with her. We called her our little glow worm, because she was in this jacket on the lights and it looked like her whole body was glowing.
I had never felt so many emotions all at once... helpless, lonely, exhausted, and then as if this big hole which creeped up within my stomach, was going to eat me alive. I had never felt such powerful emotions. What could I do? How could I stop these feelings?? How could I help my daughter??
The postpartum room we had in the hospital had two beds, one for me and one for my husband. The only thing I could think of to help me get through this anxiety attack so I could breathe again, was to wake my husband up and snuggle with him. After laying there with him for 10 minutes, oddly enough that didn't help much. Finally I decided to pick up Baby P. and just hold her close to me. As soon as I picked her up, I felt like I could breathe again. She just nuzzled into my chest and I felt like all was right in the world. I still had fears, but holding my baby so close made me feel like she was real, and that everything would be okay... that God would take care of this little one.
I layed down in my bed with her on my chest and just prayed over my daughter, till we both fell asleep. At this point I had gone almost 4 to 5 days with only an hour or two of sleep, which I'm sure did not help with postpartum emotions and this worry.
A few hours later, like clockwork, the nurse came in to take Baby P's blood to check her biliribun levels. After waiting for the results for over two hours, we were told I would be discharged but Baby P. had to stay for an extra day, at least till her biliribun got to the safe level. When we were told this, I felt that hole come back again to try to suck me in. To make a long story short after lots of prayer, Baby P. was finally discharged the next day. But unfortunately this was the start of a struggle with postpartum anxiety that I dealt with for months to come!
As I said earlier in this post, the postpartum anxiety seemed to stem from a sense of loneliness. Now I knew logically I wasn't alone. My husband was around after work and my mom came up at least once a week to visit... but I sometimes felt alone in the feelings I was having, or alone in my struggles. After talking with several other moms, I came to find out this is extremely common. Often as new moms or experienced ones, we can feel alone. I believe this is because husbands/fathers do not often have the same experiences with a child as a mother does. Even when our spouse tries to help out, they can't help as much as they would like to. Many times the mother is looked to by the child as the comforter, the caretaker, a sustainer of his/her life; and why shouldn't we be looked at like that? We did carry this child for 9 months and give birth to him/her!
The first few months with a newborn can be so lonely sometimes, but there were a few things that I found helped me cope with these emotions:
- Get out of the house. I had to be around and still have to be around my little one the majority of the time. Even at almost 11 months, she still nurses every two hours. But I don't stay at home if I feel cooped up... I get out. I wish I had had this philosophy when Baby P. was younger, I think it would've helped with the loneliness. I have a small group I lead at church, I go grocery shopping, I have play dates, I go to lunch with my mom, Baby P. and I run errands and so on...
- Make mommy friends. This isn't the easiest task to accomplish, but I'm sure prior to you getting pregnant you had some acquaintances who had kids. So contact them! Believe me, moms really do want other mom friends. If they haven't reached out to you, reach out to them.
- Talk through your emotions and whats eating at you. Thankfully I have a very supportive family who is here for me, but not everyone has that. If you can't talk through your emotions with your spouse, family or friends... try to meet people that you can talk through these things with. For example, many counties offer free play groups through government funded agencies (this is a great place to meet other moms and commiserate). Where I live, there are at least two libraries that offer daily activities for mom and baby: story time, baby yoga and so on...
- Know you are not alone. As I said earlier, the majority of moms I have talked with have been honest with me and acknowledged that it really can be lonely as a new mother. So know that you are not alone, and I promise if you keep a positive attitude things will get better!