Anxiety had never really been something I’d suffered with until I became a first time Mum.
I had always felt slightly anxious in social situations but I wasn’t prepared for what hit me.
The minute I became a Mum, I felt anxious about most things; feeding, burping, being up in the night, my daughter’s general well-being but I also experienced anxiety for no reason and it could hit me at any point.
I remember when my daughter was around 5 weeks old, we took her to a café one Friday afternoon. We just had a coffee and she was soundly sleeping in her pram, in the corner, out of the way.
Suddenly I could feel my pulse rising, I began panicking, feeling flustered and breathing heavily with that awful knotted feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t work out why. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t even awake…
It was around 4pm on a Friday afternoon and the café we were in sold alcohol and a table (quite some way from us) began filling up with young men who had finished work and were drinking. They were getting loud and the louder they got, the more uncomfortable I felt.
I kept telling myself everything was fine but I became more and more panicked and we had to leave quickly. My daughter was still asleep, completely unaware that Mummy was feeling so anxious we had to leave.
The feeling continued even though we had left.
I had been in a situation where I feared for my daughter’s safety, even though we and she were absolutely fine but I could not control how I reacted.
My postpartum anxiety continued most days after that. I would become anxious about my partner going to work the next morning or about leaving the house the next day. I even get anxiety now each night before I go to bed and my daughter is nearly 11 months old.
I believe the trigger was a lack of control. Becoming a Mum changed me and my routine completely and suddenly I had a small human being completely relying on me for survival and I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. Sleep was out of my control, she may not feed or burp and leaving the house didn’t always go to plan.
My anxiety has improved over the months because of the following steps I have put in place:
1). I have had to learned to “go with the flow” and lessen my need for control.
Every morning when I wake up I say to myself “whatever happens today, happens”. If the day doesn’t go to plan, that is okay, I did my best. You can’t plan everything, especially with a baby.
2). I leave the house.
Being in doors, especially with a young baby, is harder sometimes than going out. Especially when they are at an age where they require a lot of attention. During my maternity leave I made sure we had a loose plan each day of something we were going to do. This may be meet a friend, go to the park, go to a baby class or simply a walk round the block. Knowing that I had something to do the next day, even something small, kept me relaxed… once we actually made it out of the house.
3). Make lists and tick things off.
A day with a baby, especially if you’re implementing a routine or trying to leave the house, takes planning and whilst a plan may not always work, it is good to know what you need and when things need to happen (even if they don’t).
I used to write down her routine (until it became second nature… or then changed!) and I used to write lists of everything I needed to leave the house, to ensure I wouldn’t forget anything.
I don’t think I needed these lists for anything other than managing my anxiety. It helped me stay calm.
4). I wrote a diary which became my blog.
By writing down my experiences and feelings I felt as though I was off loading my fears and worries onto someone, without having to. It helps me process my emotions and keeps me calm.
If you do suffer from postpartum anxiety, no matter the lists, plans or meditation, it still may hit you at any time.
If you find yourself becoming anxious, remember to stop, breathe and focus on one thing in particular, perhaps just look at your baby’s face and breathe. The feeling will pass and the most important thing to remember is, your baby is happy and healthy and not in any danger.
If you do feel this way, please talk to a health care professional, a friend, your partner. So many parents, not just Mums, suffer in silence when they don’t need to. There is help out there.
For more information see todays parent.