My older daughter turned one as the world shut down in 2020. Many of my family and friends now joke that her first birthday party was our last “hoorah” for a long while. Fast forward to 2021, I found out I was pregnant with baby number 2 almost a week after my older daughter’s second birthday. My husband and I were very excited, but nervous about welcoming a new baby while we were still in the midst of a pandemic. Due to Covid, my husband wasn’t allowed to many of the first appointments or ultrasounds. He attended every single one for our first daughter, so this was heart breaking for both of us. Fortunately, as my pregnancy progressed, restrictions eased up a bit and he was able to come to the anatomy scan, as well as several follow-up appointments. My first pregnancy was pretty textbook & uneventful, however this time I was dealing with a low-lying placenta and a sensitive cervix which led to many scary bleeding episodes. Over time, my placenta moved up, but the bleeding continued & my blood pressure started to rise.
At my 37 week appointment, my doctor brought up induction due to gestational hypertension. Now I’d been induced before, so I knew the process, but I wasn’t expecting to be induced a second time around. Not to mention that I thought that I had 3 more weeks of pregnancy left! This caused a whirlwind of emotions, and I was induced the day after this appointment. I spent the entire night before crying- crying over what I felt was an abrupt end to my pregnancy, crying over not being able to say goodbye to my class (I’m a teacher), crying over the thought of my older daughter no longer being an only child, crying over how our lives were about to completely change three weeks earlier than I had anticipated.
Thankfully, my induction went very smoothly, and our second daughter was born on November 13th, 2021. As happy as an occasion this was; however, this was also when my postpartum anxiety began to creep in. The first month was rough, to say that least. Two days after being discharged from the hospital, I ended up in an ambulance heading back to W&I with a 104 “milk” fever. A week later, my older daughter contracted hand foot & mouth. Almost a month in, I experienced the heaviest bleeding I’ve ever had in my life (with clots the size of a golf ball), and ended up back at W&I again. On top of all of this, the baby had jaundice, so we were making round trips to W&I almost on the daily for blood work. It seemed never-ending. I found myself questioning every single ache, pain, cough, breath, etc that seemed “off” for either myself or my daughters. Overall, I had a very hard time adjusting to being a mom of two. Was I spending enough alone time with my older daughter? How long should my newborn’s wake windows be? When will I be able to get back into a routine? On top of the physical and mental exhaustion that came with having a newborn, I found that my mind just wouldn’t shut off, and my anxiety was at an all time high.
Fast forward to my 6 week appointment, I broke down in front of my OB. I cried and cried, but it honestly felt good to let it all out. My doctor was extremely caring and supportive, and she let me just vent for almost half an hour. She assured me that I wasn’t crazy (my words), and that postpartum hormones unfortunately can just take over without your permission. “Take 4 more weeks”, she said, “we’ll get you hooked up with a counselor and go from there”. At that point, I left feeling hopeful, which I hadn’t felt in quite a bit of time.
From there, I began meeting with a therapist and started taking a low dose of Lexapro. My husband, my mom, and my friends had also been helping out a ton, which finally allowed me to get some much-needed rest. I noticed that all of these supports and resources were beginning to help, but my transition back to work from maternity leave was coming up, and along with it came my anxiety creeping back in. Panic attacks, late-night crying sessions, my mind racing again at all hours of the day. All I could think was, fuck….. I thought I was ready.
At my follow-up appointment with my OB, I told all of this to her and she explained to me that postpartum anxiety is different than postpartum depression. She mentioned how depression can be treated, but anxiety will always be there. There will always be triggers, and it’s how we cope with those triggers that will help us to heal. “4 more weeks”, she said. “We’ll check in again then. You can do this.” Her words of encouragement are truly what kept me invested in the counseling, as well as the medication, and she was right.
Over the next four weeks, I took the time I needed to learn coping strategies. With the help of my therapist, I learned how to identify my triggers as they were happening, and how to talk myself down when situations become overwhelming. Because of this, I was able to transition back to my job as a teacher with a bit more confidence than I had had previously. Today, I still find myself adjusting to being a mom of two. However, our daughter is now 4 months old, we’re beginning to get more sleep, and our routines are sort of settling into place. I still have days where my anxiety peaks over and taps on my shoulder, but so far I have been able to stay on top of it. My husband, my mom, my friends, my OB, my therapist- they’ve all become a part of my “village”. I’m not sure where I’d be today if it weren’t for their support, and I’m glad to have faced my anxieties head-on instead of hiding in the background and drowning beneath them.
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