photo by: @bloomlightphotography
When my first son was born, I had a lot of self-doubt. Being a parent was completely new for me, and I felt constant pressure to be a perfect mother. I often questioned whether I was making the “right” decisions. Since my husband and I weren’t living close to any of our immediate family, we didn’t have anyone to lean on while trying to navigate our new lives as parents.
After 6 weeks of maternity leave, I had to go back to work, and I was terrified. My baby was still so new, and having to leave him ripped me apart.
We were lucky enough to be able to leave him with a close friend when both my husband and I had to work, but that didn’t make leaving any easier. I loved my job, and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t ready to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom, and our finances wouldn’t have allowed for it anyway.
I spent the first few weeks obsessively calling and texting because I couldn’t shake the constant feeling that something was horribly wrong.
As time went on, those thoughts started to fade, and my husband started staying home with our son part-time. Even though I still worried a lot, it was comforting to know that the two of them were home together.
Then, when my son was 6 months old, I found out I was pregnant with our second child.
We had a lot of financial worries, so we made the decision to move to Florida to live with my mother-in-law for a while. I transitioned to being home full-time, while my husband found a new job.
Despite a tough second pregnancy, I enjoyed being able to stay close to our son. I got to see him learn and grow, and be a big part of his daily development. We laughed and played, and our bond grew stronger.
But when our second son was born, everything changed. I changed. I started to become overwhelmed thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
I’d spend hours reading stories from parents who tragically lost their infants, whether from suffocating from a blanket in the crib, or even while being held by a sleeping parent.
These accounts absolutely terrified me. I spent all of my time researching things that I could be doing to keep my babies safe. I’d run to check on them both with every unusual noise, constantly making sure that they were still breathing.
Going anywhere in our car was scary too. Not everyone out there is a good driver and we’ve had our fair share of close calls. Instead of being thankful that nothing bad had happened, my brain would take these close encounters multiple steps further. What if we had gotten hurt? What would I do if I lost one or both of my kids? Or my husband? I’d consider all the possible what-if’s, getting more and more anxious with each possibility.
All this time, I believed that this response was normal, and I accepted it as my new reality.
Two and a half years later, I was still a nervous wreck if I called out to one of my kids and they didn’t answer right away. And I finally came to terms with the fact that I needed help.
Part of me had rationalized my feelings for so long because I always battled feelings of not being good enough—but deep down I knew this was a whole new level. I let the anxiety eat away at me for longer than I should have because I was afraid, embarrassed, and ashamed about admitting it—even though it was affecting my ability to function normally.
But thankfully, my husband encouraged me to talk to my doctor about how I was feeling. So I recently shared my feelings with her. But I’ll admit that I almost didn’t. If it wasn’t for my amazing and supportive husband, I would still be suffering.
After talking with my doctor, I felt instant relief. I learned that these intense feelings of anxiety were not normal, and what I’d been experiencing for the past 2.5 years was postpartum anxiety (PPA)—something I’d never heard of before. I didn’t realize that PPA was something many women experience. I had heard of postpartum depression, and I knew that I didn’t have that because I wasn’t feeling sad. But the anxious thoughts had become all-consuming, and didn’t subside.
My doctor reassured me that I wasn’t crazy, and that all of these thoughts and feelings weren’t typical. She also told me that I shouldn’t be trying to be a superhero, attempting to do everything on my own. I needed to lean on people, and let them help so I can take a step back and take care of myself. She also prescribed me medication, and we’re working together to find the ideal medicine and dosage.
For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful, and I no longer feel alone on this journey — and that means everything to me.
What I’ve realized is just how important it is that we, as mothers, care for our mental health. All too often we feel like it’s our sole responsibility to take it all on ourselves, including the mental load—I know because that’s how I felt.
But we have to learn to give ourselves a break sometimes and ask for help when we need it. Even if we’re not used to asking for it. Even if it feels awkward. Even if we’re afraid.
Our lives may be different now that we have children, but we’re still human. We can’t give our all to them, if we have nothing left to give.
For more information on PPA, visit: