When it comes to parenting, there is so much information. So much to take in. So much to prepare for. Having a baby is one of the most amazing events a human can experience. But, no matter how hard we try, knowing everything and doing everything before that tiny being is born is impossible.
After worrying about being a good parent, making sure the nursery is “just so” or having all the clothes washed, folded and in neat little piles, who has time to worry about their own mental health?
I certainly didn’t.
Until my son was about to be born.
He was due in May and since he was my second, my brain went into hyper-mode. I worried about how much I would love him compared to my daughter. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go through all the milestones again, like nursing, bottles, sleep schedules, pacifiers and diapers. And with an almost two-year-old running around at home, there was no time to convert our spare room into a new nursery. Of course I just figured the over-worrying was due to the hormones. Everyone goes through this. But these thoughts became intrusive and overwhelmed me to an extreme. My OB even suggested I leave work early. Really?? I’m not THAT freaked out, am I?
The truth? I was that freaked out.
I could cry on command. Absolutely everything bothered me. When I saw my doctor at that April visit, I just blurted out that I needed help. I was a puddle. She listened. She was compassionate and sincere. I was very lucky that there was a local clinic set up for assistance during pregnancy that went beyond chatting with my family doctor.
I could share my inner worries and deepest concerns. What if this was affecting my baby boy? Did he know I was worried? Did he hear my thoughts? Was he going to feel the same physical anguish from which I suffered? I felt like I might fail at doing this all over again and knew I needed answers.
When I met with the specialist at the clinic, we went through a very thorough list of questions which would point him in the direction of a diagnosis. I’m pretty sure I said, “I didn’t know Postpartum Anxiety was a thing!” And then something clicked.
Almost two and a half years prior, I delivered my little girl and went on a similar hormonal ride. I would bark orders at my husband because we were “on a schedule” and I was obsessed with being the perfect parent. I remembered flying on 4 hours of sleep in those first few months with her and the adrenaline kept me going. I looked at this health care professional before me and told him that I needed to nip this now before it happened to me again.
And we did. We went through all the steps including one-on-one therapy, group therapy (with other moms – bless their hearts – that suffered from the same, if not worse, symptoms!) and exercises in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. And here I thought that it was just a mild case of crazy baby hormones.
I often think about all the work that was involved in changing my thought process and I do still refer back to my notes/workbook from time to time. There’s no quick fix for what I suffered from in those postpartum months, but going to my doctor and asking for assistance has helped me immensely. When I sit today with my two kids (one crying and the other screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!) - I know that I don’t need perfection.
I can look at my perfectly imperfect life – and smile.
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