Here’s why no one told you!

Looking back over my experience with postpartum anxiety, I started to wonder why the hell no one warned me about it.

As first time moms, we’re given loads of advice (some unsolicited), and all kinds of warnings about the new baby AND ourselves. We’re told about the signs and symptoms of the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.

We get the questionnaires at our OB-GYN’s checkups and even at the baby’s well-check visits: “On a scale of 0-3, over the past 2 weeks have you thought about harming yourself or someone else? On a scale of 0-3 have you found the joy in every day life?”

We even see the ads in the magazines they leave in the waiting rooms: “Are you feeling hopeless or empty? Are you experiencing rage? Are you having trouble bonding with your new baby? You may be suffering from Postpartum Depression!”

As with many other women I have talked to, these weren’t the feelings I was experiencing and I didn’t understand what was happening to me.

Because postpartum anxiety is more common if you have a history (or family history) of anxiety or depression, I should have seen it coming but NOBODY TOLD ME!

I’m an anxious person and pretty much everybody in my family has a history of anxiety and/or depression, so I just assumed I’d be an anxious mom BUT I had no clue there was anything other than postpartum depression to worry about.

The anxiety hit me like a Mack truck on steroids.

I felt like I had an itchy, wool sweater on in the middle of summer, and no one could see it but me. I couldn’t get this overwhelmingly uncomfortable feeling to go away.

There was a soundtrack to a Stephen King movie playing everywhere I went and no one could hear it but me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen to my baby that I couldn’t control.

So I was recently talking to my therapist who I still see from time to time (not enough) and we were discussing the way I was feeling a couple years ago after having my son. After going through a list of the crazies, she looked at me and asked: “Do you know why you weren’t warned about postpartum anxiety?”

“No, why??”

“BECAUSE SOCIETY TELLS YOU BEING AN ANXIOUS MOM IS BEING A GOOD MOM!!”

Holy lightbulb.

She went on with examples of the way I behaved during my most anxious time with my new baby: holding him constantly, never letting him cry, worrying about every little move he made, checking on him 85,000 times to see if he’s comfortable, breathing ok, and on and on. Then as they get older, anxious moms will hover (“helicopter moms”), and thus instill fear and anxiety in their children by never letting them explore or gain any independence.

Shit.

She’s right.

It’s not our fault that we’re anxious or nervous, but we’re praised for being excessively protective as parents. No wonder there’s no caution tape up warning us about the dangers that lie ahead.

Anxiety is a problem when your decisions are based off of irrational fears.

Checking the temperature in the bathtub before you put the baby in is a rational concern. Avoiding giving the baby a bath because you’re afraid he’ll die (even though you’re standing right there) is irrational. But that’s how I felt.

We need to speak up when we’re feeling unlike ourselves and ask for help. It sounds so cliché but it’s true. Think of it this way: You’re helping your baby (or child/children) by getting yourself help.

I know I can’t be a good mom to my babies if I’m not ok myself.

You don’t have to feel like you’re alone. Your doctor will understand (they’ve heard this once or twice before) and refer you to a mental health professional (if you don’t already have one) who specializes in postpartum care.

Or maybe you have older children and you’re just now understanding that you may need some help. That’s great!

You deserve to feel better.

Sincerely,

The Mom friend you never knew you had.

Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

When I was in the height of my postpartum anxiety, I felt claustrophobic. I often felt like the walls were closing in on me and my very little home was getting smaller by the hour.

I was home alone with my new baby most of the time and afraid to do almost anything.

I didn’t even want to tell my husband just how scared of everything I felt in fear he might make some drastic change like quit his job to watch over me or take me to be evaluated where I would reach my inevitable fate in a padded room somewhere.

I wish someone had just told me to go outside.

Everything indoors is lifeless. The furniture, the decor, the pots and pans, the bedding. Nothing has life, it is spiritless.

Stepping outside, no matter where you are, can instantly change your energy.

Look up at the clouds. They’re moving, they’re alive.

Look at the trees. The flowers. A leaf. Watch them as the breeze makes them move.

Close your eyes and listen. There is life all around you, even if it’s just the sound of cars going by in the distance.

When I’m consumed with my own thoughts and fears and caught up in my mind, something as simple as stepping outside reminds me that there is so much going on outside of just me.

There are people all around me, there is life all around me. What is happening in my head is not as big and overwhelming when I breathe in fresh air, unlike the recycled air of our homes.

If someone had told me to just go outside, I might not have been hiding in my bathroom while my baby napped, sobbing to myself in complete fear and confusion.

So I finally did.

I buckled the baby in his car seat and just drove away.

I was so afraid of even just driving with him, for so many reasons, but I knew I needed to get out.

At first I just drove around aimlessly and then headed in the direction of a neighborhood I love. Up and down streets finding new little neighborhoods and beautiful homes.

I saw people out walking their dogs and people with strollers, people driving by me or pulling into markets. People were going about their days. The world seemed ok and it made me feel ok.

Instead of being a paranoid, anxious, inconsolable new mom, I was just another mom with a new baby driving in her car.

I went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru and got an iced coffee and just continued going from one area to another. (If anyone is looking for a new home, I can tell you where all the nicest, hidden neighborhoods are and which to avoid.)

The baby slept in his car seat and I listened to Jack Johnson (quietly) and started to breathe normally.

All of a sudden I felt happy!

My irrational thoughts and fears began to subside and new feelings of hope began brewing.

Suddenly I was picturing my life as a new mom with this beautiful new baby boy with actual pride and excitement! Getting to drive around with my iced coffee and baby who wasn’t old enough to ask where we were going suddenly made me happy!

I eventually made my way back home and opened a bunch of windows. Even though it was chilly outside, the fresh air made me feel so much better. So I decided to open them every day, no matter how cold it was, even just to get some fresh air in the house.

Even now, with a toddler and a 9 1/2 month old baby, I get overwhelmed. I lose my patience. I have anxieties. So I always know when I need to just go outside.

The other evening, my son was having a full blown tantrum over the contents of his dinner. He’s in a phase where he’ll eat 3 things: Pizza, French Fries or Pasta. If it’s anything else, he refuses it. Most days I give up and give in, but this day I had had enough and decided it was time to start eating some healthy foods again.

After about 45 minutes of sitting at the table with him (while feeding the baby in her high chair) and trying everything in my power, including patience, bribery and punishment, and being met with tears, whimpers and screams, I decided we all needed a break.

I said “that’s it! We’re going outside!”

I put the baby in her stroller and let my toddler walk next to me (because he refuses to sit in the double stroller and I didn’t need a second meltdown) and just walked through our neighborhood and returned a book to our friend’s mailbox.

We took the long way home and just talked as we walked.

Sometimes you need a change of scenery.

Sometimes you need some fresh air.

Sometimes we all (toddlers and babies included) just need a friggin break.

Girl, don’t go crazy. Go outside.

I make this look difficult

I was told by an old man in a yellow Polo not to have a 3rd child.

Are you someone who has children and doesn’t walk around looking like she just came in last place in a mud run towing a grocery cart full of unnecessities?

I make this look difficult.

I am forever in awe (and confusion) of those who can manage children, maintain knowledge of the whereabouts of their wallet, carry one bag and possession of their coupons.

This morning I left the house with my children, one with his juice and snack and the other forced to hold her own bottle on a trip to Target because, let’s face it, it’s the one stop shop all mothers rely on.

I made it a mile and a half and had to turn around to get the Similac coupons I left on the table. They’re $5 off!

When we finally arrived, my baby had fallen asleep so I needed to keep her in her baby carrier and stroller and also get a grocery cart (I refuse to say “buggie”) because I needed too many things.

When this happens, I push the stroller with the sleeping baby and trail the cart behind me.

My toddler refuses to sit in the cart, so he walks beside me. You can imagine what a hot mess we look like and the scene we create as we try to navigate the narrow labyrinth of the toddler, baby, and shoe sections.

When we’re finally done and headed to check out, I have a bag of items to return so we make our way to customer service.

I can see the cashiers whispering “Not it” to each other in the distance.

My son decides now is a good time to break away from me and take off towards the door, only laughing when I catch him and bring him back.

There’s a line forming behind me.

I put the new “backpack leash” on him that just came in the mail from Amazon.

He screams and tries to pull the “leash” off while I try to bribe and calm him down with phrases like “but it looks so cool!” “Lightening McQueen is in the backpack!” And “you look like a big boy going to school!”

People are judging.

I make this look difficult.

I have a return, a cart full of groceries, my own recyclable bags and 2 separate transactions.

I realize too late that I have again left my coupons behind (in the car) but instead of saying “just forget it” I decide to leave everything in a heap on the counter, take my baby (whose now awake and using her new found voice to make screaming noises just because she can) and my toddler, with his leash, (whose starting to cry because he thinks we’re leaving his Annie’s Bunny cookies behind) and go to the car to get the coupons.

When we get back, the line has decreased, as they needed to call for backup, and we finish the longest checkout in history. I stuff all the recycled bags full of our goodies, gigantic tower of paper towels and hand my son his cookies.

There’s a woman behind me carrying a newborn on her chest wrapped up so you can just see his little head. We have the same diaper bag backpack (from Target) and she looks at me and says very friendly:

“I like your diaper bag!”

Me: “Thanks, same here! Is he your first baby?”

Friendly: “Yes!”

Me: “This is what happens when you have two!”

Old man in the yellow Polo: “Don’t have a 3rd”

Me: (putting my head down) “I won’t”

Friendly lady with the newborn had on normal clothes, her hair in place and just enough makeup to probably cover the dark circles that come with having a new baby.

That was never me.

Even in college I carried a backpack AND a purse on my shoulder because I could never minimize or prioritize! Who knew how many different shades of pink lipgloss I might need throughout the day?

I couldn’t tell you where a tube of lipgloss is now but I still don’t go anywhere with just one bag of necessities.

I am a hot mess of snacks, diapers, missing coupons and changes of clothes.

The more children in have, the crazier this train gets.

I always picture an apocalypse happening and having to grab JUST one bag, both of my children, and running.

What if I forgot to replenish one of their sizes of diapers or there’s melted chocolate from a Chewy granola bar all over the first aid kit? What if there’s no container of portioned formula or room-temperature water bottle? That’s actually likely!

I usually walk out of Target (or any market, really) with one lingering sentence that I silently mouth to myself:

“I’m an asshole”

Are you getting sick so I don’t go out again?

I may be losing it (debatable), but I swear every time I get to have a girls night, at least one of my 2 children gets sick!

As you may have already discovered from previous posts, I don’t get out much.

We don’t have family close by to watch our babies if we go out and we don’t have much help in the evenings so my husband and I never get date nights (we’ve had 3 in 3 years, literally) which means it’s either one of us or the other who gets to go out (it’s always him).

On the very rare occasion that I get to have a girls night, my babies get sick!

It’s like an intentionally postponed illness to rear it’s ugly head only when Mommy is on her 2nd glass of a mediocre red blend.

Why is this happening??

I get home with the slightest glimpse of a happy buzz, only to be wakened in the night by a fever bearing baby.

They can sense my freedom and they’re not having it.

It’s like stepping outside into a whole new world where shoppers congregate at Target after dinner and drinks to try on the latest romper and buy it only because this is the only time they’re confidence is boosted.

You make new friends with other moms in the dressing room and tell each other “that looks great!” (And you mean it! But it does not!)

The next day you remember your conversation and that hideous floral jumper and you want to find that woman and tell her to return the jumper but we should be friends!

My children don’t like this, they can sense that I’m gone, (even though they’re asleep) and decide to manifest a virus just to spite me.

Then you feel guilty for leaving in the first place and also realize you’re never going to get to go out ever again and you resent your husband who gets to play corn hole on Thursday nights because even though you hate corn hole, you can appreciate an early evening of freedom and a little buzz.

Your future trips to Target will be accompanied by your babies and there will be no half-drunken fashion shows with strangers or random bubble bath purchases. Baby wipes and gold fish are all you’re going to get.

At least they have a wine isle.

Is sleep anxiety a thing?

My husband and I are incompatible sleepers.

I don’t know how we’ve made it this far.

I’m not a napper. Never have been. Even in pre-school and kindergarten, when everyone else was curled up in their sleeping bags on their little cots, I was tossing and turning.

The Barbie world I had created in my bedroom kept my anxiety levels up during “quiet time”. That one Barbie’s hair I hacked off to double as one of the boys had gone all wrong and now she looked like Ellen DeGeneres instead of Ken (I love her, btw).

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you might have learned that I need a dark room, box fan turned up high enough to mask a freight train blowing on my face, a glass of water in arms reach and no one touching me in order to sleep.

I’m so extra.

My husband, on the other hand, likes the t.v. on.

Picture “Bad Boys II” on the flat screen (Will Smith is so sexy), and me, trying to squeeze my face closer and closer to my obnoxiously large box fan so I don’t pay attention to the movie, although my subconscious is straining to hear so I can picture the scenes.

One of us usually ends up in the living room because otherwise when I hear his alarm go off, I think:

“Is that the baby crying? Should I go make her a bottle? What time did she finally fall asleep last night? What’s the temperature supposed to be today? Is there frost on the table on the back deck? Because that means I have to start the car before we go anywhere. Why doesn’t my car starter ever work for me? I have to call about that. Did I remember to buy more sugar? I need light cream for the coffee too, did I get some at the store yesterday? It’s not half and half, is it? It really does taste different. Why is there only one grocery store that sells light cream, anyway? Bad Boys II so funny! Will Smith is so hot. The part where Mike and Marcus interrogate the daughters boyfriend is hysterical. That’s gonna be my husband with our daughter some day! That black Escalade they drive in the movie must burn so much gas! Im glad we have the Pilot. Have I had that thing maintenanced yet? It must need an oil change by now. I need to call Honda. I haven’t even used the car vacuum I got for Christmas! The car is a mess. Maybe I shouldn’t let the kids snack in the car. Those damn Puffs are all over the place. But they keep the kids quiet! Is it even safe to let them eat while I drive? I can’t really watch them, I’m driving! I should put the phone in the trunk while I drive so I’m not tempted to use it. But the kids like the music! It’s the only thing That keeps them quiet! They shouldn’t be using the phone. Too much screen time. They’re too little. Maybe I should get them their own tablets! No, that’s crazy. They need to be happy with books. I’ll get more books.”

Do they prescribe medication for this kind of crazy?

I’m gonna check.

Tonight I looked at her hands.

Every day seems like a race against the clock.

You wake up too early and once your feet hit the floor, it seems like you’re running.

I’m not a morning person, so when we do leave the house, I usually look like Charlize Theron….in Monster.

While other moms take the time to do their hair, makeup and attempt to look presentable, (even just to run errands and go to doctors appointments), I am usually loading the dishwasher and washing bottles because I was too tired to do it after dinner the night before and let’s face it, last night was a shit show of baths, crying, juggling diapers and then we all flopped into our respective beds or cribs one by one.

I’m not great at time management, so even if I have a couple hours to prepare for our exit, I seem to run around the house searching for keys, phone and stuffing our oversized diaper bag with unnecessary portions of formula and snacks until the very last second. And we’re still late.

So it’s of no surprise that by the end of the day I’m using borrowed time to return emails, reply to clients and set up appointments.

More often than not, these last minute responses are done in the dark using one hand to type and the other to balance a bottle and baby in the other.

I try to play catch up during the quiet moments.

But tonight, I just rocked her.

I purposefully left my phone behind so that when the moment came that I remembered to finally answer that text, I couldn’t.

I just fed my baby girl.

I admired her.

Her little chubby hand was holding one side of the bottle while I held the other.

She has little dimples where her knuckles will one day be, and then I started to wonder at what point my sons little finger dimples turned into knuckles.

I watched her drink her Bubba with her eyes closed. She was so peaceful and comfortable.

I could tell she felt safe and warm in my arms as her little head rested in between my elbow and chest.

Her little belly stuck out just a bit and her knees bent, curling into me.

I stroked her silky soft hair with its little cowlick in front (just like her brother and daddy have) and wondered if it would turn more blonde like mine as a baby or dark like my husband’s was (before he started shaving it all off).

If I weren’t such an anxious person, I swear I could’ve slept right there in that rocking chair with her all night long (or until she woke up again at 12:00 or 3:00, depending on her mood).

Those 20 minutes were priceless and they don’t last forever. My toddler requests his daddy at nighttime now, which leaves me free to not load the dishwasher and also feels a little like getting punched in the gut.

I cherish any time to rock my babies, especially when all else is quiet and I can put the recurring list of worries in my mind on hold for a moment.

I’ll have to remember to forget my phone in the living room again tomorrow.

We haven’t actually spoken in 4 months, but can I vent for a minute?

I’ve made it no secret that living far away from my family and friends I grew up with is not easy.

Being married and having children can be, shall we say “Trying”? at times, and for some reason, most of us are afraid to share these difficult moments, days, weeks, MONTHS with each other.

Living in the south, I have found this especially true. There’s a certain level of politeness and there’s a façade of happiness wherever you go and whomever you may speak to.

Sure, anyone who’s married and/or has children will chuckle and say something along the lines of “motherhood isn’t easy!” Or “being married has its challenges!”

But what I’m looking for is more along the lines of “I think I might murder my husband unless someone gives me a Xanax.” Or “Is it normal for a 6 month old to scream like her crib is on fire when there’s NOTHING wrong? Someone help me!”

Why are we afraid to say what’s really going on?

I was sitting down in the break room at my old job shortly after I got married and just said quite plainly “I hate him. I really just HATE him” and everyone just kind of looked at me with either judgement or pity, I couldn’t quite make out there expressions. All I knew was, I was alone.

“No?” I asked. “No one else? We all love our husbands?” Ok. Noted. No further outbursts from me.

All I wanted was someone else to look at me and say “Girl, me too”. That’s it.

The thing is, I don’t actually hate my husband, I love him and don’t know what the hell I’d actually do without him, which is why I rely on about 3 or 4 friends I have back home who have known me and been through growing pains with me who I can call or text out of nowhere and just VENT. No judgement.

I can say things like “Remind me why we got married?” And I’ll get something back like “I’ve been wondering the same thing all week”. Or “You’re asking ME? I just told my husband to jump out of a moving car.” Simple. Honest. Real.

We just need to know that it’s ok to feel like this because everyone who’s married HAS to from time to time and if they don’t, they’re highly medicated or someone has to be cheating!

Some days, I have no patience and no more F’s left to give and need to just vent for a second until I feel normal again because other moms can relate!

Thank God for the girls I can text with any amount of momentary meltdowns and thank God they all share the same thoughts and feelings I have.

If you feel like venting about anything right this second, feel free to comment below and say whatever the hell you want! The more, the merrier.

If you’re too embarrassed to share, that’s fine too, just know you’re not alone. You’re doing a great job and the genuinely happy moments, days, months are there too. We all have them! The good, the bad, the trying.

Even the most polite people with good hair and well-blended makeup have these moments but won’t admit it! I fear for when they’re 47 and can’t stand the façade that everything is perfect and they’re feet don’t hurt in those BCBG heels!

Don’t be that girl. Wear your Sperry’s. Text your girls. Have a glass of Prosecco.