Wednesday 22 January 2020

I have postpartum anxiety, and that’s okay.

I’ve hesitated writing this post over the last few weeks. It seems silly, but it felt as though writing it would make it all seem worse or even the opposite- that I’m exaggerating. I’ve also been super conscious that family often read this blog and I didn’t want them to begin worrying or overcompensating with kindness or even thinking I need people to step in with more offers of help. It wasn’t until I spoke to the health visitor this week that I decided the easiest way of handling how I feel is talking about it, and that’s why I started blogging in the first place- a safe space to talk.

I’ll begin by saying I’m absolutely enamoured with Harry and how life is going as a family of five. He’s a wonderful baby and everyone has settled into a great routine and it really does feel like he was always meant to be here.

The anxiety is there despite all this.

The first time few weeks, I put it down to baby blues. I happily breastfed Archer, especially out in public as we went out and about so much. It never bothered me, I felt no shame and I believe it’s much more socially accepted these days. But the first time I even thought about feeding Harry in front of anyone except Jack and the kids I started worrying and over thinking every possible scenario of who might look at me funny or feel awkward or treat me differently... of course our family have never behaved like this but I felt extremely nervous and even thinking about it made me tearful. It wasn’t just normal worrying, it was panic. I’d go over potential situations with Jack over and over again until I cried and he eased my mind by telling me it would be okay.

This pattern of overthinking everything and crying kicked in even more at Harry’s two week check  when the midwife told me he hadn’t gained enough weight. Instead of explaining it to me she called the hospital to discuss it with a senior midwife and all the information I had to mull over was hearing the one sided phone call and being told to come back in two days and that he needed to gain it by then. I sobbed, I panicked, I felt sick- in about thirty seconds I convinced myself I didn’t have enough milk and I was failing at feeding him.

I spent the next two days pumping and giving him as many extra feeds as I could on top of breastfeeding non stop and he gained the weight he needed and then some! But the anxiety over it all hasn’t shifted. I still worry I’m doing everything wrong.

Logically I know he’s eating. His output is great, he is active and content and when I pump I have a great supply. He’s thriving. The anxiety however... sometimes he seems to be eating for hours and I’ve had to hand him to Jack and come downstairs in full panic attack that he’s suckling and getting nothing at all. I hadn’t had a panic attack for years. At his latest check he had dropped down a curve- something normal as he started so large and sometimes it takes a baby a while to “find their line” and if anything, the health visitor said he is in proportion now and doing fine. Of course, I’ve been panicking that he isn’t eating enough or properly. Even though I know he is. But I’m worried... even though he is eating. It’s a cycle you see.

It isn’t just the feeding. It’s feeling on edge and as though I can’t act naturally around big groups of people. Christmas Day was a lovely large family occasion and I found myself hiding upstairs when I had a chance and crying because I just can’t relax and I don’t know why.

The health visitor said it isn’t postpartum depression. When I’m comfortable I’m so happy and I’m still interested in doing things and social when I’m feeling okay and I’m still of course looking after myself and the children. I took a little test and she said it’s postpartum anxiety which of course I anticipated. I suppose it isn’t as serious or commonly spoken about as PPD but it’s just as real.

I’m coping by trying to keep to a routine. Keeping the house tidy and organised is helping as long as I remember not to get too worried about it (people always seem to come over unexpected when we’re in temporary chaos and I worry they’ll judge!). Mess is normal with children and I need to relax a little and stop getting cross when Jack doesn’t put his shoes where they go. There’s a fine line between keeping things tidy to ease my anxiety and obsessing and getting anxious about the tidying too. Ridiculous right?

Mostly I’m just upset because I know all my worries are in my head and hold no real standing to what’s actually going on. Harry isn’t starving, people don’t think that I’m not handling it all, people don’t care if I breastfeed him.... I just need to ignore that voice that says “but what if...” and take a deep breath.

I’m seeing the GP for my proper postpartum check this week and it’s definitely something I’ll mention to them so they’re aware. The health visitor said I didn’t have a really high score so as long as I don’t start feeling worse she isn’t too worried. It’s definitely normal and okay to feel how I do as long as I try my best to work on the issue.

Talking to Jack helps. Taking five minutes to cry and calm down helps too. So do cuddles with my children. I’m sure it’ll get better once my hormones fully settle and I start sleeping better at night.

If you made it this far, thank for for reading and listening. If no one reads this, at least I feel a little better for getting it out.

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