My Experience With Postnatal Anxiety is a Guest Post by Fiona at Mumma Morrison.
As a new mother to a beautiful baby boy, I’ve undergone a lot of changes over the last 8 months. Like, a LOT of changes. There are the superficial ones, like yo-yoing some serious weight. Or having a wardrobe that consists entirely of yoga pants and easy-boob-access clothing. There are also the lifestyle changes – the sleep deprivation, the total dependence of a tiny human on you, the lack of social life, and the zero amount of personal space you will ever have ever again. But there was another change that I went through – an emotional and social change – which I wasn’t completely prepared for.
My Experience With Postnatal Anxiety
When I had my son 8.5 months ago, the first few weeks were a combined state of infatuation and utter exhaustion. Our tiredness from this stilted sleep was bothersome enough, but it was the volume of our son’s cry that really took its toll on me.
I vividly remember sitting in our hospital room after my son was born, with the door closed, as he cried from hunger or tiredness (or both). My husband heard passersby outside comment, “Check out the lungs on that baby!” That was putting the matter delicately. My son would scream like a banshee if he wanted to, and in those first few weeks (and months) of life, that was what he wanted. This seemed to be fairly innocent enough; a common “reality check” of parenthood, we were assured.
As the weeks went by, however, my son grew fussier and louder. I began to worry. I would fret about leaving the house. Actually, I became petrified about leaving the house. I was anxious about him crying (or, let’s face it, screaming) out in public, and what other mothers would think of me. I can specifically remember one incident, attending a mother’s event, where babies were crying the whole time. My son didn’t start to whinge until 15 minutes before the end of the session. However, when he did start to cry, I had the other mother’s staring at me. MOTHERS. Of all the people to judge my loud baby, mothers were the last people I had expected it from. I had hoped for encouragement and support, but was mostly faced with the complete opposite.
I started to cancel plans regularly to go out with my mother’s group to socialise (Note that it was NOT my mother’s group who were judgmental – they were completely supportive!). I’d almost beg friends and family to come and visit us at home instead – ‘to keep to his routine’ being my excuse. The real reason was to actually curb the anxiety that had slowly built up inside me to beyond bursting point. It got to a stage where I didn’t really want people coming over either, because I didn’t want them to see my fussy son, or the anguish it caused me.
Naming the Anxiety
At its peak, the anxiety really threw me. It left me in tears, sometimes screaming to an ‘empty’ house “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!?” (while my son himself ‘screamed’ in his cot). It would see me buckle my son into the car and drive off to no destination, calling my husband in a fit and crying that I didn’t know what else to do with this freakin’-loud baby we had made. I felt dread at the very thought of leaving the house, and then was left feeling ashamed and guilty when my husband would gladly offer to take him out and about.
“I’m the mother, I shouldn’t be ashamed of going out in public with my son” I would think.
In hindsight, my son wasn’t actually that bad. I mean, sure, the volume of his crying was that bad. But his crying was normal. He’d cry when he was hungry, tired, or frustrated. However, he slowly came out the other side of this “fussy period” (which apparently is also normal between 6-12 weeks of life), I began to feel a bit better. I was more comfortable going out with him, knowing that he wasn’t going to cry at the drop of a hat. I took comfort from my other mum friends who encouraged me to come out and chat with them. They would offer to hold my son for me so I could drink a coffee and ‘relax’ (if that is even possible as a mum?).
It wasn’t until my son really mellowed – very much the opposite to the first 3 months of his life – that I realised that the state I had previously been in wasn’t “normal”. As I spoke to other mums, and shared my worries and angst about leaving the house with my son, I came to the realisation that not all mums felt this way. However, there are still many mums that do. A constant state of panic or stress to do with the baby is common, but not normal. I really wish I spoke to someone about it sooner; that I had the tools to overcome my anxious thinking and feeling, to venture out of the house and to socialise more. In a lot of ways, I feel as though I had the easy way out – having a son who completely changed his tune and now hardly cries at all. If my son was still as fussy as he was in those early days, I know I’d still be an anxious mess. How did I know? I came to the realisation that anxiety has been with me for a while.
The Signs and Getting Support
While on this occasion I didn’t experience any serious physical symptoms of anxiety, I have realised that I have been dealing with anxiety for a long time. I have triggers that set off endless waves of worry and concern, to the point where I obsess over every detail.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. For me, it was the fear of leaving the house with my son. I would obsess over the details of our outing, including how to get there, ‘exit’ routes while we were out, how long we would be out for and possible worst case scenarios. I would have a quickened heart rate and would have to purposely focus my breathing before leaving.
However anxiety can manifest itself in panic attacks, heightened states of panic, sleep problems, memory problems or ‘brain fog’, and a range of other signs or symptoms which you can read about here. It is so important to make sure that you’re getting the support you need during this time, because to be the best mum you can be, you need to be the best woman you can be.
There are lots of avenues for help, but always talk with your GP or Maternal Health Nurse about any symptoms or concerns you may have. PANDA is also an amazing resource that provides support to women experiencing Postnatal Anxiety and Depression, so make sure you visit their website here for more information.
Have you experienced postnatal anxiety?
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