For as long as I can remember, I have wanted children. Even as a young girl, regardless of the fact that I was a huge tomboy, I have always just loved babies. That same “want” feeling stayed with me through my teenage years and grew stronger into my adult life. However, I never expected I would experience parental anxiety.
I met my love and now husband at the age of 27, and we both knew we had plenty of time for children. But on the day I turned 30, Mr. Excellent whisked me away to Malaysia to pop the big question, everything just fell into place. I knew that it was time.
We were pregnant only a few short months later, and I was in the land of perpetual vomit. Yes that’s right, morning sickness had hit, and hit me hard. And in hindsight, it now turns out I had a mild “case” of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but it went undiagnosed. And so I suffered.
“Was this what pregnancy was supposed to feel like? Wasn’t I supposed to glow? To feel beautiful and to wake up each morning smiling with joy?”
What did pregnancy actually felt like? I felt defeated and sad. I felt like a failure and I spent many hours crying and being horribly sick.
It is important to disclose here where the anxiety all began. I had been experiencing very sporadic, mild to horrible anxiety attacks years before becoming pregnant. I firmly believe that these attacks were stemmed from working long shifts in a nightclub environment, lack of sleep, then sleeping during the day, eating at odd hours and generally not living the healthiest lifestyle. I left this job a few months before becoming pregnant to work more normal hours. Making this change seemed to help, as my body began its normal rhythm again and my anxiety faded.
How things snowballed? Baby finally arrives and the all-encompassing love began, and so did the lack of sleep, the lazy eating, the constant breastfeeding and general bewilderment that goes along with a newborn. But the truth was that the pregnancy had left me exhausted before I had even began, so looking back, I really didn’t stand a chance, so slowly but surely the anxiety crept in.
What Parental Anxiety Feels Like
It began around 6 weeks postpartum, and hit me like a slap in the face. I would wake from naps in complete terror, heart pounding, sweaty and mildly insane. I would not know where the baby was, or I would feel panic that I wasn’t looking after him well enough. Why was he crying and was I feeding him enough? I started to cry at the thought of breastfeeding, which for me was hard and painful. So the panic attacks were crippling and I would find myself pacing the hallway trying to calm down. Anxiety is like an unseen monster, it creeps up on you, consumes you and leaves no thought but how to relieve yourselves of its presence.
How I overcame Parental Anxiety
I saw my wonderful GP (e.g. physician, if you are in the U.S.), and he helped find me a psychologist. And here I discovered many things about myself. My biggest fear was that I had postnatal depression, and that they would hospitalise me and I wouldn’t see my family. Turns out this kind of thinking is the opposite of PND (sadly, a woman suffering from crippling PND tries to think of anything but her baby), but rather I was suffering from Parental Anxiety, stemmed from my inability to control the acts of a newborn, the unpredictability of children and my struggle with breastfeeding.
was vital in my road to recovery, his courage and acceptance was what really helped me get through it. A team effort so to speak. His love brings me back to who I am.
Acceptance of saying goodbye to the old life
Like all parents, I had left the life of a carefree adult, and been thrust into the life of a caregiver, mother and universe to a tiny human that I had created, though much blood, sweat, tears and vomit. This would often cause me moments of distress, the thought of my old life, gone. But these feeling fade with time, as the love of your family grows. There is no shame in reminiscing about our old life, we just need to remember that a new, more exciting life awaits.
Back during the worst parts of my anxiety and sadness, my GP and I discussed starting anti-anxiety medication, which would result in me needing to stop breastfeeding. Not an easy decision, but the need to be well again was all-encompassing, so I proceeded. Thankfully, the days and nights got easier and I slowly became myself again.
I started taking magnesium orally, and I also found great comfort in using Bach Flower. Both natural remedies have been terrific and I am never without these two products in my house.
Exercise is terrific (no matter how tired you are, try to move a little), and babies love being strapped into slings. Take advantage of how small they are! And get out into the sun!
For me, parental anxiety is still something I deal with. I have two children now, and there are times the anxiety rears it ugly head, but this monster can be tamed. Talking about your feelings with your partner, friend and doctor is essential. My parents were also a wonderful help during these times. Go to those that love you. Don’t hold it in.
Finding breathing techniques has helped me immensely, and taking the time to love yourself is vital. Whether it is a 30 minute walk alone or a long luxurious bath, filled with magnesium and lavender. Snatch some precious shut eye when you baby sleeps, as sleep is vital to recovery.
Take each day as it comes and remember to love yourself. The more you love yourself, the more love you have to give.
Photo Credit: @laylaybaby