I realized that I had been dealing with postpartum anxiety a while after I had been dealing with it. My daughter was about 5 months old, and the holiday season was in full effect. During this time, I grew overwhelmingly aware of my own mortality, and I became paranoid about even leaving my home. A lot of this was brought on by the fact that my father passed away two days before Christmas when I was three years old. Because of this, I’ve always been reflective during this time of year, but after the birth of my daughter, the burden felt heavier.
That year, I was the age that my father was when he passed away, and the fragility of life became all too legitimate.
That year, I was responsible for a tiny human who depended on me for sustenance at all hours of the day.
That year, I was dealing with postpartum anxiety, which had morphed from heightened baby blues, to rage directed at my husband and my dogs, to paranoia about everything.
Leaving the house was arduous. I feared that someone was watching me. Once in the car, I feared an impending accident. Once at my destination – the grocery store, the mall – I felt vulnerable…like a target…like someone would take advantage of the fact that I was by myself, pushing a stroller, fumbling with bags, and doing my best to calm a fussing baby. One day, after a breakdown, I decided to talk to my mom and explain to her how I was feeling, and our conversation brought an awareness about what I had been dealing with over the past few months.
A few things helped me get through this time. My daughter was born in the summertime, and we were lucky to have a mild fall. To combat the tears that were inevitable every day during the first two months, I would spend time outdoors and with other moms. We live at the shore, so most days, this meant putting our babies in strollers and heading to the boardwalk. The warmth and the fresh air were inspiring and made me feel better physically and emotionally. Connecting with other moms was especially beneficial because I could see that what I was going through was not limited to my experience – many other moms faced the same challenges. Talking things through with my own mom also helped me to put many of my hang-ups in perspective.
Dealing with the anxiety didn’t affect my ability to raise Lucy. In fact, she was the driving force to help me “snap out of it” if I was feeling especially down. Lucy was also my muse. As a former reading teacher, I was reading to her as soon as she made it earth side. Inspired by our experiences in those early days, I decided to put pen to paper and write a story to which both Lucy and I could relate.
One story quickly grew to four stories, and with that, the idea for my business was conceived. I spent the next year researching and planning for the launch of Littlebit Book Club – a series of baby board books, written by me and illustrated by my husband. The project became a huge motivating force for me, and on days when I struggled with negative thoughts, I was able to cope by pouring more into Lucy and planning for Littlebit Book Club, the legacy that I want to one day pass on to her. I am so happy that we have since released our first book in the series – Strolling! A Lucy Littlebit Book, available for purchase at www.littlebitbookclub.com. I am proud because our family overcame a lot to make the dream a reality.
I think about those early days, and since then, I’ve done a lot of reading about PPMD and I’ve identified myself as a textbook case of postpartum anxiety. With this awareness, I’ve thought ahead to having another child. I don’t fear having more children, I just know that I may experience those strong feelings again, and I’ve learned to be more patient with myself as a mother in general. PPMD education is vital, and figuring out how to assess what a mother is going through beyond just the questionnaires at the doctor’s office should be a priority.
I want to share because I wish someone had shared their story with me.
In the final days of my pregnancy, I did everything I could to prepare for healing from birth. I had my postpartum kit stocked with padsicles, laxatives, nipple cream for breastfeeding, and tons of healthy treats. After a very quick, natural birth that only required two stitches, my physical recovery was pretty swift.
It was the emotional explosion that I wasn’t prepared for. People told me that it was normal to be crying so much in those first few weeks. I read that it was common to grow detached from your pets, so when I started to lash out at my dogs with screams of frustration, I thought that, too, was normal. These feelings scared me, but I believed that they were normal, because I was under the impression that you only needed to get help if you were experiencing severe postpartum depression or psychosis. I want other moms to know that wherever you are on the PPMD spectrum, it’s okay to get help. There is so much support out there, even if you don’t see it. It might take a little bit of research and reaching out, but you will find a tribe or a therapist who can help you to get to a peaceful place.
Note from Nicole:
I am so grateful for the bravery and strength Mom’s like Stephanie that are willing to share her story for the benefit of others. If you are interested in connecting with me to share your story or become part of a Postpartum Mastery Group, please reach out on Social Media or Email!