A Battle With Postpartum Anxiety

Gia, 31 yrs old, Mississippi

Number of Children: 3

How would you describe your pregnancy experience?

  • Each one was different, my 3rd was my hardest. But overall I enjoyed being pregnant (most of the time lol).

Did you have a birth plan? If so, how closely did your actual birth experience align with your plan?

  • The extent of my birth plan was that I knew I wanted an epidural & wanted to avoid a cesarean if at all possible. All my wishes were honored, but I didn't go into it with a detailed plan.

Were there any unexpected challenges or complications during childbirth?

  • I didn't have any complications. My first birth went smoothly, my 2nd I was told if my daughter wasn't born in X amount of time we would probably have to do a cesarean because she was turned facing my side - she ended up turning while pushing. My 3rd was my longest and most difficult labor experience but had 0 complications.

How did you feel emotionally in the days and weeks following childbirth?

  • As a first time mom, this time was very difficult for me. I felt like I was losing myself. On one hand, I was so happy because my baby was here and I loved spending time with him, but I suffered with postpartum anxiety. I remember it being a very dark time mentally. I would have intrusive thoughts about my child's safety. I was exhausted because the breastfeeding situation wasn't going as I hoped it would. My emotions were all over the place and as first time parents, both my husband and I could have both been more understanding to each other and what each one was going through. 

How did your body feel after giving birth, and how did it change over time?

  • Thankful that it felt good and truthfully didn't change much. Other than my butt becoming much flatter LOL.

Were there any specific challenges you faced during the postpartum period?

  • The mental health aspect was a big challenge and source of many arguments. I didn't know how to deal with what I was experiencing or voice how I felt and what I needed and my husband was frustrated because he wanted to help but I couldn't communicate effectively for him to be on the same page as me. 

What kind of support did you receive from your partner, family, or friends during the postpartum period?

  • Even though the postpartum period was harsh for both of us, my husband is a wonderful father and stepped up to his newfound responsibilities with eagerness and love. He also picked up some slack where I was not able to give my all. This was my experience with our first child. With each child after he has amazed me more and more with understanding the effects of PPA/PPD, the mental load that mothers typically experience, and the initiative he takes. 

Did you seek professional support, such as therapy or counseling? How was your experience?

  • The only professional support I sought out was notifying my OBGYN about Postpartum Anxiety, which I came to the conclusion I was experiencing through my own research. He prescribed me medication that I started at about 6 months PP.

Were there any support resources or communities that you found particularly helpful?

  • Unfortunately, no. I did my own research online through Google and social media but there was not a specific resource or community I found that gave me the support I needed.

What self-care practices or coping strategies helped you navigate the challenges of postpartum?

  • I noticed that the days I made sure to shower (we all know how hard this simple task can be as first time moms) and taking just 5 minutes to put on some makeup really improved my mental state. It made me feel that I was more than just a mom, I was a person with her own interests outside of motherhood and like I MATTERED still. It also motivated me to be more productive. Snowball effect, you know?

Did you engage in any specific activities or hobbies to relax and unwind?

  • Doing my makeup. When I was feeling extra anxious, we would (as a family of 3) all get in the car and go for a drive together. This was helpful for a change of scenery and fresh air. This always helped me feel better.

What lessons did you learn during your postpartum experience?

  • That postpartum needs to be talked about so much more. Resources need to be made more readily available beforehand. And I'm so thankful that mental health and postpartum is talked about more even just these few short years later! But I still think we have much room for improvement. That going on medication doesn't make me a failure. That it's OK to take time for yourself and not have it all together. And probably most importantly, to TRUST YOUR GUT and that you are probably doing better than you think. 

Do you have any advice or tips for new parents or parents-to-be based on your own experiences?

  • People will always have unsolicited advice and opinions. Try to take them with a grain of salt. If you find something they say helpful, use it and apply it, but the rest just a smile and thank you will suffice & don't feel like you have to explain your choices. Enjoy each new stage. The days are long but the years are short. Don't be too hard on yourself because you are probably doing just great!

Looking back, how has your postpartum experience shaped your perspective on motherhood and self-care?

  • It made me realize self care is an important part of mental health. And that in motherhood, it is easy to forget about yourself. You are caring for your child(ren) and still have the responsibilities you had previous to becoming a mother. But it's important to be aware of that and to make time for yourself because it all goes hand in hand... when you take care of yourself your mental health improves & you are in a better state to also care for others. Like the saying you can't pour from an empty cup. It's cliche, but it's true! 

Is there anything else you would like to share about your postpartum journey that hasn't been covered in the previous questions?

  • Just want to say that in my experience, each postpartum experience has consecutively been better and better. I think part of that comes from knowing what to expect and how I've learned to deal with my own emotions and needs through the years. Oh and one more thing I have learned, ITS OK TO ASK FOR HELP!!! In fact, I encourage it. Don't try to be the bigger person. If someone is offering help, take it. It will lighten the load on your shoulders and it will probably bring them joy to help out as well!