I wanted so badly to be the mom that came home from the hospital ready to do this thing. I expected to get back into shape right away and feel like myself again. Have tons of energy to take my baby on walks. I thought I would like looking at myself in photos with my newborn.
But the first few months postpartum felt like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t know myself anymore.
I now know that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety, a variation of a condition that affects about 15% of all women. And that’s only counting the women who report it!
When people inevitably said things like, “enjoy these moments, they’ll be grown before you know it!’ I didn’t just brush it off. I cried. I also cried over any commercial with a baby in it or those stupid car commercials where the teen is going off to college. And it wasn’t a happy cry. I was truly overwhelmed, anxious and lost in general.
But this is the happiest time of my life, right? I was supposed to be fit and made up as I clean the house and care for baby with no sleep. I was supposed to have photos taken of baby and I looking flawless for each new month and holiday. I was supposed to invite friends and family over and be OK with bringing baby anywhere.
But people (mom included) are often so busy thinking of all the things a mom is “supposed” to be doing that they forget to check in with her about reality.
Postpartum conditions can manifest in different ways, so many women don’t even know they have them. Chrissy Teigen recently wrote a piece for Glamour detailing her experience. In the essay, she describes the physical pain in her wrists that she now knows was postpartum depression. She made sure to point out that even with access to the best doctors, she still struggled to discover what was going on and recover from it.
For me, it was anxiety with symptoms that ended up looking a lot like depression. But it was more the worry that was really hindering me. Constant worry.
I didn’t want to leave my baby with anyone. Therefore, I didn’t get out much. When I did leave I had BAD anxiety that she would need me and I wouldn’t be there.
I also worried about my physical appearance. Before pregnancy, I was rarely self-conscious about the way my body I looked. But even my face was different now. My hair began falling out on both sides of my forehead. I have dark eye circles genetically, but these were darker. My tummy certainly didn’t just “go right back down” like people insisted it would. And my hips? Yeah, those will never be the same.
Not only was I lost emotionally, but my physical state felt foreign, too. Not feeling like myself made all of my relationships harder. I tried to be as upfront as possible with loved ones, but I wasn’t in the right state of mind to properly communicate how much I was hurting inside. And I also couldn’t see any clear steps to feeling better (something highly out of character for me).
My daughter turns 10 months old today and I’ve come a long way. I use a daily planner that doubles as a short form journal so I can remember special moments with her. I started eating better and drinking more water. I began communicating to my husband when I need a break. I held my daughter in front of the mirror and looked into her eyes trying to visualize myself as she sees me. I prayed for peace and direction.
Being a mom has taught me so many things about myself. Perhaps the most important is that we must stop expecting instant perfection. Or perfection at all for that matter.
Today, I am not myself again. I am a stronger, less perfect version.