A Look At Postpartum Anxiety With Mom's Mental Health Initiative
My in-laws walked through the door and I broke down crying “I”m so glad you’re here,” my three-week-old already halfway out of my arms and into my mother-in-law’s.
Our son had his first baby sniffle, confirmed by the pediatrician, and I was a mess. So, my husband called his paren
ts in for backup. But, it wasn’t just a call. It was an emergency call. I couldn’t put the baby down. I was exhausted. I was alone. The baby was okay, but I was not.
That day, a nap knowing my baby was safely in his grandmother’s arms did the trick. I knew he was safe and could finally sleep soundly after a night of watching him breathe. I woke up feeling so much better. Sleep definitely has healing magic, particularly when you aren’t getting any of it. Unfortunately, as it turns out, sleep was not the biggest of my concerns.
It would be several weeks and several more panicked episodes later that my husband asked the big question.
“Are you okay?” he asked with a look of concern I’d never seen.
“I don’t think so,” I told him.
I wondered why we decided to have a baby. Everything felt dangerous to the baby. Unbeknownst to me, hot flashes and tunnel vision when I was feeling “new-mom nerves” were actually panic attacks. It was getting worse as my return to work approached.
I’d heard of Moms Mental Health Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping moms navigate perinatal mood and anxiety disorders by sharing information, connecting them to resources, and providing peer-driven support. It seemed like the place to start figuring out why this mom’s mental health seemed so off.
I had risk factors for postpartum anxiety, but the screening at my pediatrician’s office hadn’t thrown any red flags. I needed a provider with experience and expertise in perinatal* mental health. I wasn’t okay and only someone who could understand what I was going through would be able to help.
A couple of weeks later I sat in my new therapist’s office learning I had postpartum anxiety (PPA) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (PPOCD). My provider holds a certification in perinatal mental health (PMH-C), like many of the Moms Mental Health Initiative preferred providers. All of our preferred providers are screened to ensure they have experience or training in perinatal mental health. With her training and experience, my provider helped me navigate my PPA and PPOCD. She helped me calm my anxious thoughts and obsessive behaviors. She gave me the tools to sleep when it eluded me. She reminded me I’m a good mom, even when it felt like I wasn’t.
I’m proof of what we tell our mamas at Moms Mental Health Initiative - you will feel better.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since I began my perinatal mental health journey. I am on a second journey, after having another little boy. I learned so much from my first experience. First, I learned how important the right support system is. I continued therapy and medication to manage my PPA and PPOCD. I took advantage of every opportunity to hand off the baby and get some sleep. We hired someone to clean the house in the newborn days so I could rest. My in-laws, like that day two years before, took my oldest. This time so I could snuggle his baby brother and nap. So I could care for myself and, thus, take care of my family.
As moms, we often put our needs aside to take care of our kids. I’m here to argue it’s not only okay, but it’s also ideal for us to take care of ourselves. And to ask for others to help care for us. You matter, mama.
Casey White is the marketing & communications coordinator for Moms Mental Health Initiative.
To learn more about the services and resources that Mom's Mental Health Initiative provides, visit their website.
If your needs are urgent, or you fear for you and your baby’s safety, call 911 or a qualified crisis hotline such as 800-273-TALK immediately. You can also access the crisis text line 24/7 by texting “HOME” to 741-741
*The perinatal period is comprised of pregnancy and the first year postpartum.