my journey through pre & postnatal anxiety
Nothing could have prepared me for the twenty minutes following my daughter’s birth. Having two uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries prior to her none of this had crossed my mind.
“We’d like to take her to the NICU, it’s a choice you can make but we believe she will end up there regardless and it would be safer to take her there now.” My mind raced as I listened to the nurses explain to me that because my daughter was so small (4lb 7oz) and because her blood sugar was borderline they wanted to admit her to the NICU.
Despite wanting to keep her with me I agreed. I remember walking into the NICU for the first time and seeing the nurses buzzing around. I sat down….I think I’m going to faint I told the nurse. Looking back now, I know this was one of my first mini panic attacks. My heart raced, I felt hot and like I was going to jump out of my skin.
when your baby is in the nicu
Harley would stay in the hospital for 5 days, while I slept at home and drove to see her from 8am-5pm everyday. We were in survival mode, that’s the only way I can explain making it through that time. Harley had cholestasis an issue with her liver and she couldn’t stabilize her blood sugar. She was so so tiny and so jaundice that it looked like she was born with a spray tan (I can joke about it now). I never said it out loud then, but she looked sick and it was terrifying.
She was released into outpatient care and we brought her home on the 4th of July…freedom for Harley! I started to notice my anxiety a couple months after she was home. I had struggled with it during pregnancy but not to this level. I think it went unnoticed for the first couple of months because everything was such a blur. We were in and out of specialist appointments. We spent a night in the hospital when she had a liver biopsy. This was all while we were living in a rented house at the beach almost two hours from the children’s hospital. Pure chaos.
When we returned from our beach trip Ryan and I took Harley to a routine GI appointment. That’s when it happened. Our very sweet amazing doctor walked in and as soon as he opened his mouth I swore I was going to die. My heart pounded out of my chest and I rubbed my hands on my thighs to try and ground myself. My mind said “you’re not ok, you have to get out of here”. The lights blared down on me and for the first minute I didn’t hear a word he said. Pretty sure he was just asking how we were doing.
Postpartum anxiety and panic attacks
I jumped up and shouted, “I don’t feel ok, I need some air. Is it ok if I walk into the hallway?” Both the doctor and my husband just stared at me. I walked to the door and visibly paced in the hallway until I could catch my breath. “What’s wrong with me I thought? I’m so embarressed. Is this seriously happening?” I took a few deep breaths and sat back down. I assured everyone I was ok and that I think I just needed to eat.
I looked over at my tiny, sick baby and thought I can’t be like this. She needs me. She needs me to be strong and take care of her. I had to get this under control. Up until this point I hadn’t taken any action steps to help my anxiety. I was living my “normal” life but I had changed. I needed to accommodate these changes. I also knew my husband would be going back to work and I would have to do these things on my own.
That day I stopped drinking caffeine I also cried a lot and asked my husband “what was wrong with me?”. To which he replied “absolutely nothing”…I love him. I started paying closer attention to the foods I was eating, to how much sleep I was getting (although I had very little control over this one), I made sure I was using my oils and I went to see my integrative doctor.
what postpartum anxiety feels like
I want to stop here and explain something for those of you that have never experienced severe anxiety or depression. Most days living with anxiety are a struggle. When you wake up with “that feeling” you just want to go back to bed so it goes away. The idea of talking about it with my doctor caused me…you guessed it…more anxiety. It was like talking about it was admitting that “something was wrong with me”. When I did pull myself together enough to see the doctor, it was extremely hard for me to talk about. My fear (fear is big with anxiety sufferers) was that this was my fate. I would have to live like this forever. For reference my daughter turns 8 months tomorrow and I am just now able to talk about this openly. But taking that step was really important and I encourage everyone suffering to make the phone call. Trust me, I know making that call is one of the hardest parts of getting help. It’s the thing everyone without anxiety wants to tell you to do as if it’s so simple. It’s hard, but your health is worth it.
My doctor offered some helpful suggestions which I’ll list below. But what I know now is that time, patience and consistency were super important in helping my postpartum anxiety. Consistency in taking my supplements, eating well, sleeping well(ish) etc. I’m now 8 months through this journey and I can say I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve gone over a week without any anxiety and it seems like a miracle. If you’re suffering through postpartum anxiety just hear me, you will feel better, I promise. I know it’s hard to believe right now but by taking the steps to better your health and listening to your body you will get through this.
natural ways to ease postpartum anxiety
Self care is also hugely important during the fourth trimester. These fourth trimester tips from LiveBreatheMom.com will help you prepare yourself for all the talked about and (not so) talked about things that can come up postpartum. I also took the following steps to help me get through my day to day.
Because of anxiety I planned every trip out of the house very carefully. I always bring my bag of oils. These rotate but the one that is always there is Valor. This oil give me confidence and is so calming. After suffering with a few panic attacks I wasn’t always confident that I could go to doctors appointments with Harley, but using Valor really helped me step out. Plenty of water and snacks. I was afraid to get low blood sugar because that feeling would send me spiraling. So I always make sure to eat and have plenty of snacks and water on the go. If I have these things it just eliminates any fear of not having them…know what I mean?
I take Nature’s Ultra CBD daily and it has helped immensely. I think this is really what started to get me over the hump. It helps to calm my nerves and keep me out of fight or flight. While medication was always an option I personally wanted to try everything natural that I could before going that route. These things worked for me but hear me loud and clear if they hadn’t I was prepared to take whatever I needed to get through this season of life. There is no shame in medication if you need it!
Other things that were suggested- weighted blanket (I never got around to getting one), magnesium, I took mineral essence from Young Living which was helpful and epsom salt baths. I always thought some of this was hormonal but as time went on I noticed a correlation between the way my stomach felt and the days I felt anxious. Knowing what I know about gut health (your gut is your second brain!) I started taking a probiotic regularly and made an appointment with a new integrative doctor here in LA.
Fast forward to today, Harley’s bilirubin and liver enzymes are completely normal after 7 months! I’m still working with the doctor in LA for my health and will soon get blood test results back. She suspects we’re dealing with leaky gut which may be contributing to my anxiety and a few other things (hives…yikes). So you can see, while I’m on the other side and functioning way better than before it’s still an ongoing process. I truly feel at the end of all of this I will feel happier and healthier than ever before. One thing I always tell myself is that the only way out is through. If you’re in a dark season just know there’s light on the other side. Take it one day at a time and I’m always here to chat if you need! Thank you for giving me the space to share and hopefully this will help some of you dealing with anxiety.