The Ups and Downs of Postpartum Emotions
Shortly after birth, there is a roller coaster of emotions moms go through, and it's so very important to take note of signs if something more serious is taking over.
I’m so very grateful to live in the age I do now. There’s a lot of awareness and knowledge out there for new moms to understand all the ups and downs that happen after having a baby. With my history of anxiety and panic attacks, I knew, even when I was pregnant with my first daughter, that I had a higher chance of being diagnosed with either Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety. But since welcoming two daughters into this world, I’m learning to pay a lot more attention to myself and how I feel.
Becoming a mother can be very overwhelming. Not only are your hormones leveling out in those first few weeks, but there’s also so much of the unknown out there. On top of that, figuring out how to parent in those first few months can be stressful, and there’s a whole slew of emotions tacked on with the baby blues.
After the birth of my first daughter, Abigail, we spent time living at a children’s hospital with her for 11 days as doctors tried to figure out the cause of her vocal cord paralysis. I remember the first night I spent with her, waking up super early as she was crying, and how I couldn’t calm her. At that moment, doctors and residents came in for rounds. And I almost lost it, but I only shed a few tears instead of having a full blown panic attack.
Days later, though, I did lose it in front of doctors and nurses, crying so hard I was on the verge of hyperventilating. A social worker was sent in to talk to us the next day. At that time, my anxiety had turned to anger and I was very bitter about this individual coming in to try to help us cope.
When we finally were able to take Abby home, anxiety kept creeping back into my life. She had an NG tube for feedings and we were told that if it came out, we’d have to take her to the ER to get it put back in–not exactly what any new parent wants to deal with. Deep down I knew that health-wise, things could be a lot worse and so many other parents aren’t even able to take their babies home, yet I felt sad in the depths of my soul. The new-parent gig wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Months later, I felt like I was mostly getting control of my emotions as the NG tube came out and Abby was doing great. However, one day after reading about someone I knew being diagnosed with PPD, I started to wonder if I was still struggling with my emotions. Just days before, I had to walk out of my house, while my husband was home, to breathe because I couldn’t quell Abby’s tears. So I quickly made an appointment with my OB. I filled out a questionnaire to assess my mental stability. Though I was showing signs of anxiety, it was determined that it wasn’t PPA, and I was given some tips to help cope with anxiety. And they worked. I was so grateful.
My second pregnancy was riddled with anxiety from the get go. I kept playing what-if games in my head. What if my second child had medical problems at birth too? Would I remember how to parent? And after helping a friend through the loss of her third son shortly after his birth, I couldn’t help but wonder if my baby girl would be OK. My due date came and went and I ended up being induced, which caused more even more anxiety.
But the anxiety didn’t end there. When my water broke with my second daughter, it was noted that there was meconium. This, coupled with my first daughter having to be vacuumed out, meant that we had extra team members in my hospital room as Olive was born. What scared me even more was that Olive didn’t cry right away. For a few minutes after birth, she was quickly whisked away to be evaluated by the NICU team. It was the longest three minutes of my life as my husband and I waited to get the all-clear that she was doing fine. And she was.
During my first few weeks home with Olive, I was pretty weepy, especially as I felt trapped with a newborn at home, unable to go out and do the fun things my husband was planning for our oldest daughter. I knew it was very important for her to have outings, but I felt like I was missing out on so much. Then, there was the drastic weight loss Olive had right after birth and talk of having to readmit her to the hospital if she didn’t gain it back quick enough. She gained enough at two subsequent weight checks, though, and it was such a great relief.
Olive is now almost 7 weeks old, and last week I had an epiphany. I’m handling the emotional side of being postpartum way better the second time around. Once the haze of baby blues faded, I’ve had no more feelings of anxiety or woe is me–well nothing beyond this whole trying to figure out how to parent two kids thing.
It’s invigorating to feel this way. But mostly, I feel so very blessed. With a history of anxiety, though I’ve worked hard to cope with it, and despite a history of mental illness in my family, I’m now able to deal with these emotions. I feel like I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
PPD and PPA are not to be taken lightly. And I’m so very grateful that I was able to know the signs and when to worry. I’m also glad that when I started to feel things spiraling out of control after the birth of my first daughter, I called my husband right away and told him, before setting up an appointment with my doctor the same day. I know I’m not out of the woods yet after Olive’s birth. I’m only a month and a half postpartum and I still need to be on the lookout for symptoms as this can strike at any time. But I’m not afraid to deal with it all if it does strike. No stigma attached here–just trying to do right by my husband and daughter and making sure I also take care of myself.
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