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postpartum

Encouragement, Motherhood

Struggling With Anxiety as a Mom

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I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack.  I was around 35 weeks pregnant and working as a teacher at a child development center.  I was in the infant room that day.  As the day was winding down and there were only 2 babies left, I sat on the floor with another teacher.  I remember becoming hotter and hotter, like a wave of heat hit me.  I was burning up and it was making me feel nauseous.  I asked the other teacher if I could go to the restroom.  I walked down the hall, into the restroom and locked the door.  I looked down at myself and my skin was bright pink, my stomach was in a knot.  I went to the sink and splashed some water on my face and looked up at my reflection in the mirror.  Right at the base of my neck, I could physically see my pulse pounding.  I put my fingers there and felt my heartbeat racing.  As I did so, I began feeling my heart beating violently.  I tried to breathe deeply to help it slow down.  As I tried to form purposeful breaths, I felt like my chest was being crushed and my airways closing in.  I couldn’t take a deep breath.  I was beginning to panic.  What is wrong with me?  Am I going to pass out?  Am I having a heart attack?  Am I about to die?  My mind was racing and my body was in overdrive.  I knew something wasn’t right and I was scared.  I left the bathroom and started down the hallway when my director saw me.  She had one look at me and yelled for me to come sit down.  She asked me what was going on and I started bawling.  Tears streaming down my face, I told her it was hard to breathe, that my heart was racing and wouldn’t slow down, and that I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  She got me water and sat in front of me talking to me and getting me to calm down.  I slowly started feeling a little better.  She wanted me to go to the doctor, but I just wanted to go home.  When I got home (earlier than I should have been), Matt was confused because it wasn’t my normal time.  I walk in the door with tears still pouring down my face.  In a worried voice he ran up to me and asked what was wrong.  I couldn’t talk and so he just hugged me.  I’m pretty sure he was about to go grab the hospital bags and put me in the car because he assumed the baby was coming!  After the incident was over and upon doing some research, I realized that I had experienced an anxiety attack.  I don’t know if it was the stress of working, being in college full-time, and being largely pregnant, but apparently I just couldn’t deal.  I went on maternity leave 2 weeks after that.  It was my first and only anxiety attack while I was pregnant.

JD Middleton Photography

JD Middleton Photography

After Avary was born, I was blissfully happy.  I was on cloud-9.  I felt like life couldn’t get any sweeter.  Even though I had to have an induction and her birth didn’t go as I had “planned”-you can read my birth story, here-every moment of labor, delivery, and taking our baby home felt like perfection.  I was on a high!  I had just had a vaginal birth, pushed my 1st baby out in 15 minutes, and those endorphins had me feeling like a super hero!  You mamas know what I mean!

The days and weeks following Avary’s birth were nothing short of incredible.  So when I went in for my 6 weeks postpartum appointment, and they had me fill out that questionnaire about how I was feeling-if I had any negative thoughts about myself or my baby, if I was feeling hopeless/anxious/depressed, etc.-I found it so odd!  Of course I didn’t feel any of those things, I thought.  Everything is perfect!  I handed in my questionnaire, and they didn’t ask me a single question about it.  Looking back, they didn’t even discuss postpartum depression/anxiety (PPD/PPA) with me at all.  And so I thought everything would be fine, and I no longer had to think about PPD again.  Fast forward several months and things began to change. . .

For me, around the time Avary was 5-6 months old, things began changing.  It felt like my hormones were on a rollercoaster ride.  My body was still trying to adjust to no longer housing a human being, my baby was well out of the “newborn phase” and changing dramatically, my family was 1,000 miles away, my husband had a job that took him from home on a regular basis. . .I began experiencing anxiety.  I’ve talked about in a previous post how I have always been and a somewhat anxious/fearful person, but this was on a level I had never known.  The anxiety made me feel like bad things were imminent. Like, what if we get in a car accident on the way to the grocery store, what if Avary’s cough is really some deadly disease, maybe my breastmilk is terrible and not good enough, maybe I am a terrible mom, what if someone breaks into the house and tries to steal Avary. . .  I was experiencing irrational fears and anxiety and it was affecting my mood.

The truth is, more women than you might think struggle with postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression.  Postpartumprogress.org estimates that close to 20% of mothers experience mood or anxiety disorders-that is nearly 1.3 million women annually.  When I was having my anxious thoughts, I didn’t understand what was wrong with me.  I kept trying to just “snap out of it” and stop worrying. . . Until I did research into PPA did I realize that this wasn’t a problem I just developed on my own, but one that was affected by pregnancy and postpartum.  PPA and PPD can occur up to a year after birth, not just a few days or weeks.  I’m not an expert on this topic, just sharing my personal experience, but if you need help, seek help!  I wish there was more follow-up care for mothers after birth so that so many women wouldn’t suffer in silence and confusion.

My anxiety was mild compared to what so many face and has begun correcting itself, but every woman is different and every experience with postpartum anxiety or depression is different.  Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor and get help!  It is nothing to be ashamed of.  And do your research!  While most all new mamas experience some degree of “baby blues,” anxiety and depression should be taken seriously.  Reach out to your spouse, your friends, your family, anyone you need to so you can get the support you need.  For me personally, it did wonders for me to talk through what I was feeling.

I write this post to tell you that you are not alone in your feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.  It happens.  But you don’t have to be alone in your struggle and their IS help and support.

Also, I hope you never forget that in the midst of your most anxious days, when you in are in the thick of your fears, when stress seems like it will crush your spirit, you have a God to turn to.  You have a Father that wants to give you freedom over fear and power over anxiety.  Never underestimate how much He cares for you.

all-your-anxities

Let’s break the “taboo” that postpartum depression and anxiety has surrounding it, and share our stories.  Let’s encourage fellow mamas to get help.  And let’s support one another on this crazy, rewarding venture called motherhood.

sean-1

 

 

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DIY Postpartum Care Kit

DIY (3)

 

Before having Avary, I did everything I could to prepare for labor, delivery, and postpartum.  I am definitely a planner–I feel more at ease when things are prepared and planned out for me.  (Yes, I’m that girl with 20 different planners, to-do lists, checklists and journals all around the house).  I did so much research, read so many blogs, and surfed Pinterest like crazy to make sure I was ready for this baby!  In my mind, I felt that the postpartum recovery was going to be the worst part of the whole process.  It is so overlooked and under-talked about for us women!  To make it a little better, I decided I wanted to make a postpartum care kit.  I made my care kit based on things I had read online about what I would need for postpartum, as well as recommendations from friends and family.

I had a vaginal delivery, so care items may be different for those who had a c-section.

The following are just some items that might help you not dread postpartum so much, so you can relax and enjoy your baby!  I just placed them all in a basket I found at Home Goods and kept it in the bathroom so it was close by when I needed it.

  • Mesh panties.  These are great for the first couple of days after delivery!  The hospital supplies you with these, and though they are by no means attractive, they do the job and prevent you from ruining your own panties!  After my 2-day hospital stay, I used my own panties.
  • Sanitary Pads.  This is kind of a no-brainer.  You’re going to need pads.  I stocked up on an assortment of different sizes to accommodate the various postpartum bleeding.  The hospital of course gave me the humongous ones, but I only needed them the 2 days I was there and then moved on to smaller pads.  I personally did not bleed much at all, so my favorite pad for the first couple of weeks was the Always Infinity flexfoam.  It provided me just the right amount of coverage and was thin and comfortable.  After my bleeding stopped completely–around week 3–I used the U by Kotex Curves Liners and the U by Kotex Barely There Liners.  I seriously love the packaging of these and they are great, thin panty liners that make you feel secure for any postpartum leaks.
  • “Padscicles.”  If you are on Pinterest at all, you have probably seen this postpartum hack!  Padsicles are only the most cool, pain-relieving little invention!  At the hospital they give you big ice packs to help relieve pain and swelling in your lady-area, but usually you go home and have no more cool relief!  But you can make your own ice packs that are just as great, if not better.  All you need is a large, overnight pad–I used the Always Overnight Maxi Pads with flex-wings, aloe vera gel, and some all-natural, alcohol-free witch hazel.  It is very important to buy alcohol-free witch hazel or you are going to burn your lady-area that is trying to heal (ouch!)!  I purchased Thayers lavendar witch hazel.  It was the only alcohol-free one I could find at my local health foods store.  You can also find it on Amazon.  I loved these padscicles because they are obviously much thinner than the ice packs the hospital gives you and it couples your period protection with cool relief!
  • Peri bottle.  A peri bottle is going to be your best friend postpartum.  After a vaginal delivery–especially if you tore or received stitches, you are not supposed to use toilet paper and wipe the area.  Instead, the hospital will give you a peri bottle and you spray the area after using the restroom.  Spraying with warm water really helps relieve the sore area when using the restroom, and it especially helps with those dreaded bowel movements!
  • Tucks wipes & hemorrhoid cream.  Another must-have for postpartum!  Most hospitals will also supply you with Tucks wipes and hermorrhoid cream and girl, take it!!  I didn’t end up getting hemorrhoids, but the cooling witch hazel in the tucks wipes and the cream really help relieve soreness.  Just rub the cream on one of the tucks wipes, put it in your pad and you’re good to go!
  • Soothie gel breasts pads, lanolin/APNO cream & breast pads.  My last recommendation for your postpartum care kit is for any of you mamas planning on breastfeeding.  Listen, people do not tell you the pain that can come from breastfeeding–cracked nipples, bleeding nipples, sore boobs, leaky boobs, engorgement, clogged ducts. . .  If you’re breastfeeding, you are definitely going to need some breastpads.  I personally used the Medela breast pads.  You just peel the backing off, stick them in your bra, and you don’t have to worry about milk leaking all over your shirt; because, trust me, it will happen!  Many women struggle with their breasts being engorged those first couple of weeks as your milk supply tries to regulate and this can leave your breasts feeling rock hard and sore!  I found the most amazing soothie gel breast therapy pads by Lansinoh that help with so many things.  You can heat them up to help relieve mastitis or clogged ducts and heat also helps increase let-down while pumping, or you can make them cold to relieve swelling, pain and engorgement.  I used these things all the time!  Lastly, you are going to want some kind of nipple cream.  One nipple cream that helps relieve dry cracked nipples and is certified non-GMO is the Earth Mama Angel Baby natural nipple butter.  This one is actually lanolin-free for any of you mamas that don’t like the idea of baby ingesting that.  For me, I had really bad damage on what nipple and my lactation consultant wrote me a prescription for APNO cream (all-purpose nipple ointment).  Ladies, if you have a deep cut in your nipple or abrasions from incorrect latch that are preventing you from continuing to feed, GET THIS CREAM!  It seriously healed me up in 2 days, and I was back to feeding my baby.  Take care of those breasts!

Those are all my tips and recommendations for what to include in your postpartum care kit!  I loved having a basket of everything I needed ready when I got home from the hospital so we didn’t have to run to the store picking up things.  Did you make a postpartum kit?  What did you absolutely love for postpartum?  What were your must-haves?  Leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear!