Guest Post submitted by MODERN THOUGHTS OF A MODERN MOM
The days are long but the years are short. Or so they say, right? But what about the days that prolong into weeks, that mesh into months? What about with postpartum depression and anxiety, and the constant fear that you will never be able to pull out of whatever "funk" this is. I remember in 2017, sitting in my child birthing class for my first child, and the nurse asking if anyone had any questions- I remember a million running through my head- "Are epidurals good? Should I go natural? What about a water birth?" But the one that stuck out the most to me was, "So what exactly is Postpartum Depression, and how do I prevent it?" I remember the nurse saying how common baby blues was, and to pretty much expect it, and that postpartum depression was also experienced quite often, and there wasn't much you could do to prevent that. I'd heard the stories. The ones where the mom did not feel connected to the baby, the one where the mom felt guilty for not having love, the one where the mom just felt so sad after what was supposed to be the best moment of her life. So here I am, about to have my first child, and the only thing they have to tell me in preparation for my mental health afterwards is to expect it? Expect the fog, expect the sadness, expect the not meeting up to expectations. Talk about anticipation, anxiety, straight fear. So much unknown. After delivery with my first daughter Navey, I remember having quite a few episodes of just crying. I didn't know why I loved my niece more than I loved her. That made me feel so guilty. I loved this baby-but there was zero connection. I remember my husband saying to me once, "You are more than just a milk machine". Bring on the tears! He definitely had to watch what he said around me. This lasted for about two weeks tops. This time in my life I would definitely define as baby blues. Fifteen months later, I had my second daughter, Capri. During pregnancy I had a few "intrusive thoughts". (See my first blog post for a deeper look as to what these are). However, I was pretty confident in myself that I could handle this whole after birth thing this time. I'd shed a few tears, be a bit hormonal and things would get back to normal. To my surprise I didn't even experience baby blues- Life was GOOD. I felt like I could have ten more kids. Then, six months into it came along. This period of my life is SO hard to look back on and think about. I remember being anxious like I've never felt. Sure, I've always been a worrier, but this. This was something different. And honestly, I'm not sure I can give it justice to exactly what I was feeling. I remember the first day it happened. I was scared. It was this anxiety that I was going to do something wrong. This fear that I would do something out of my character. This worry that I wasn't going to be the mom that I needed to be. That I could actually hurt my kids. But then the next thought would be that I would die early and not be there to raise them. The best way that I can describe postpartum anxiety, would be my brain firing off thoughts faster than I could even catch hold of them. This fear was NUMBING. Not only was it numbing, it was embarrassing. How could I be a good mom and have worrying thoughts? What kind of mom am I? I must be going crazy because this is not who I am. After a little bit of counseling, time for myself, lots of doctors visits, blood tests, and one life changing group therapy session, I could see the thoughts for what they were. Intrusive. And remember how I said the thoughts seemed out of character? It's because they were. Intrusive thoughts are fears and worries that go against who you are, and your CORE beliefs. My thought system didn't change over night, but man, it felt good to know exactly what they were and what I was dealing with. Two years later and I can still feel that anxiety rise when an intrusive thought passes. It is so good to know that worries, fears, THOUGHTS will come. But you know what? That is just what they are. Thoughts. You are the hardest critic on yourself. Have compassion. Have grace with yourself. Postpartum depression and anxiety are very real. After my third child Oakley, I remember seeing my reflection in the kitchen microwave and thinking, "Why am I so sad? I have three BEAUTIFUL daughters, and I'm sad?" For me, there are a couple of things that have helped to pull me out of this dark time in my life. The first is to be open. Oh it's so hard to be open. It's embarrassing. It's vulnerable. But those are all GOOD things. Find someone who is genuinely interested and invested in you. I was lucky enough to have a husband who would listen and then constantly reassure me. Is reassurance a good thing? Not all of the time, but wow. During Postpartum Anxiety I needed to know that someone had faith in me, because I sure didn't. The second would be, just be a "watcher" of your thoughts. Don't take these thoughts to be truths. Don't be so hard on yourself with them. The more you watch them, you will see them for what they are. Just thoughts passing. They do not define you. As you get better with your thoughts you will be able to soon think more intentional, and man, what a beautiful thing. A very smart sister of mine told me once, "Are your thoughts based on your fear, or on your beliefs and your values?" For me, I'm able to see that when my anxiety is rising, those thoughts are based on my fear, verses when I am thinking a thought that aligns with my beliefs and values, the anxiety is not there. Remember this- Your brain LOVES excitement. Thoughts that align with who you are, are not exciting for your brain- there is no dopamine hit with that. In contrast, you have those thoughts that just feel right. They match up with my belief system. They're not exciting, but wow. They feel so much better and true to who I am! It is during these times of peace that I am able to differentiate these thoughts and truly Hear Him.
You can find additional post by this author at https://samanthanymeyer.wixsite.com/
Family Solutions Counseling welcomes guest blog post. FSC is not claiming this as a professional opinion, but is open to the view and one's own experience.