Written by Stephanie Rice.
This post was written to contribute to the topic of Motherhood for the What Lola Likes blog by Stephanie Rice. All facts, opinions, and professional tips are Stephanie’s.
I have experienced postpartum depression/ anxiety twice with 2 very different experiences.
The birth of my first baby was a planned hypnobirth that turned into a 30 something hour induced labor ending in a very quick and hard vacuum assisted pushing. There is NOTHING wrong with this, and looking back now I can see that there is so much strength in this, but at the time I felt like I had failed. Add to that a massive struggle to breastfeed (my nipples weren’t just cracked – they were gone.) and mastitis in the first 2 weeks, and it was a rough transition into motherhood. I had some baby blues, but after a couple weeks I did feel happy. I was completely honest at my 6 week check that I felt great. I had no signs of postpartum depression or anxiety at this point.
I don’t know exactly when things started to change, but I think it was around 3-4 months when my husband and I decided it was a good idea to buy a new home and move and go back to work full time on completely opposite schedules. We were both air traffic controllers with crazy hours so we would literally pass the baby in the parking lot.
I didn’t really know at first that it was anything. I would see my baby falling out of my arms or see us crashing in our car. Not wanting these things, but seeing them happen and being paralyzed with this fear. I am not someone who likes to stay home, but I had a hard time wanting to get out with him, especially by myself. As time went on I started to feel like I just wanted to run away, like my family would be better off without me. It was a dark time, and incredibly hard to get through a day.
I knew this wasn’t right, but I didn’t get help. We were so busy with work already and I was worried about it affecting my medical clearance. Plus I felt like I already failed my birth I couldn’t admit to failing at motherhood. (This is in no way failing!) Somehow, I was able to get past it. Around 10 -11 months I started to feel like myself again. But I felt like I had missed out on so much of my son’s first year of life. I didn’t live it fully, I spent a lot of it in this fog of depression and anxiety.
My second baby was born at a birth center, and it was my dream birth. Breastfeeding was still hard, but not as bad, and we adjusted pretty well at first, even with him not sleeping at all. It wasn’t until 2 months that I noticed anxiety coming on. This time though I knew I wasn’t going to miss out on life due to this. I brought it up to my midwife and started therapy sessions. I didn’t want to take medication, although I feel there is no shame in taking it. I just didn’t think I was at that point, and I wanted to see if I could deal with it without it first.
Nearly a year and a half later, I can say that I am managing my anxiety well most days. It’s still there, and it’s still something I fight through, but I have found some ways to really help.
Therapy and communication. I learned great techniques and perspective from my therapist. I also have learned to communicate my feelings with my husband, so that he knows how I’m feeling and is able to help. This is not something I could battle on my own. I have had to learn to lean into my partner and accept help.
Diet and exercise. I saw a stat that a huge portion of our mental health is directly linked to our gut health, so I try to eat cleaner and plant based for the most part. I also picked up running which was powerful for me. I notice huge differences when I slack in these two areas.
Meditation and gratitude. My therapist introduced me to a great guided meditation app called Insight Timer, and it is so helpful. I am a doer so having someone guiding me through stillness and reflection is incredibly helpful. I also have started writing out 5 things I am grateful for every morning to start my day. It’s a small act that creates a perspective shift for me and sets a tone for my day.
Knowing and accepting myself. I have really tried to pay attention to what seems to trigger feelings of anxiety, so I can adjust how I deal with situations or adjust my perspective. I have also paid attention to what really and truly brings me joy whether it’s something small or big, and do more of those things. This has been HUGE for me. I have stopped trying to fit into this box that I felt like I needed to be in, and leaned into who I am. Write out a joy list, and ditch your guilt for doing things that bring you joy. My older son has told me on numerous occasions that he just wants me to be happy. This is honestly my biggest motivator to work on fighting through anxiety.
There is sort of this decision that I made to not miss out on life. To not let something like postpartum anxiety or depression take moments of my life from me. Motherhood is hard, and I think postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than our society would like to admit. But there is so much power in acknowledging it, knowing you aren’t alone in those feelings, and deciding to get help with getting happy again. I have said my one regret in life is not getting help with my first experience with postpartum. That I allowed it to take over. My hope is that by sharing my story, more women can see the normalcy in it, and make the decision to get help and not miss out on any of their lives.
Stephanie is a wife and mom to 2 toddler boys who loves shopping, home decorating, and traveling! She is a prior air traffic controller who grew up in Phoenix and moved to Albuquerque with her husband to work as air traffic controllers for 7 years. She left that position to focus on her babies, and also started a lifestyle blog as a creative outlet and as a way to help other moms feel confident and beautiful! You can expect to find affordable fashion, family adventures, and home decor projects! She is also a certified interior decorator! In her spare time she loves to stay active by running or hiking, reading nonfiction books, and she loves to travel with her family! Stephanie’s next adventure is to move to Denver, Colorado with her family in July of 2020!