From the beginning, I loved being pregnant and enjoyed every change that came with growing a baby inside my body. But all that changed the day I gave birth to my son. His arrival was completely unexpected. Sure, I was 37 weeks and knew that at any point he could come into our world, but I wasn't prepared for the way he did.
We went in for an ultrasound to see if he was still breech. He was stubborn from the beginning and refused to turn around for us, so we had weekly checks to see if we would need to schedule a C-section. We were so convinced that everything was fine that we showed up to that appointment without any hospital bags. In fact, I hadn't even showered and my husband was planning to go to work after.
Turns out I had almost no fluid, which prompted my midwife to look at me with her blue eyes as big as I ever saw them and say, "This baby needs to come out immediately!" Cue the panic.
I was sobbing realizing that I wouldn't have the unmedicated vaginal birth I had been dreaming of. My husband was running around making calls to our family, and our doula was not even in the hospital with us.
My anxiety was at an all-time high—or so I thought.
He was born that same day in the afternoon without major complications. I managed to convince the attending OB to let us do immediate skin-to-skin so I was able to keep my fresh out of the womb baby on my chest as they closed me up after surgery. I was feeling good because, after all, I was able to have the bonding moment I wanted to experience at birth.
He was a super easy baby at first, the nurses even commented on how chill he was when he had to get weighed or have his ears tested compared to the rest of the babies born that day. I think it helped a lot that he was super adorable.
We were discharged with a healthy boy, but I started to realize something was off with me. But the numbness from major surgery and exhaustion from the sleepless nights made me assume this feeling was just part of being a new mother.
As the days went by, new struggles popped up left and right. Our son was struggling at breastfeeding and was not gaining weight fast enough, but I was determined to make it work which meant I was running on no sleep.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps," my mom friends told me, and every time I tried I just laid there thinking, "He's going to wake up to eat soon, I need to close my eyes, what is that noise he's making? Is he breathing? Now it's too late for me to sleep."
When evening approached, I started having panic attacks because I knew it meant another sleepless night. At one point I even considered calling the hospital to see if they would admit us so we could all get some sleep.
But here's the thing: I didn't feel depressed or sad. I didn't have dark thoughts that haunted me. I had nothing of what I thought were obvious signs of postpartum depression or anxiety.
So for weeks I just kept pushing until I almost broke down. I texted my husband a photo of me sobbing while holding our 6-week-old with the announcement that I was hiring a night doula because I needed at least one night of sleep.
He later confessed that that was the saddest photo he has ever seen and to this day it breaks his heart to know I was feeling that way.
One night of full sleep gave me enough confidence to stop breastfeeding and start pumping. Our son started gaining weight and slept more consistent hours. Soon enough things were falling into place and I was beginning to feel better.
But every time something happened and life got messy for a second—even the most insignificant thing—I started feeling the panic in my chest rise up.
At six months postpartum, I weaned myself off the pump and slowly started to feel like myself again, like a veil was lifted off my face and I was back to being me, except it was me and this little dude together forever. I started doing research and asking my midwife and doula friends why I was feeling the way I was and what had happened to me during those first months.
I had passed all of my postpartum screenings with flying colors, yet I didn't feel like myself at all. That's when I realized what I had gone through, that dark cloud that was following me everywhere that I couldn't verbally explain to anyone was postpartum anxiety.
Looking back, I wish I had spoken up for myself and done more to feel better, because in those initial months I constantly felt like a failure. For not being able to breastfeed, or sleep, or bond more with my newborn, or, honestly, enjoy the newborn stage at all.
I wish I would've done things differently so I wouldn't have pushed myself to the point I did. But being able to call it by its name makes me feel stronger than I ever have before.
Talking about it openly has also made me feel less guilty about how I felt and acted, how I spent hours Googling the worst case scenarios, how I convinced myself that I was never going to be a good mom or how I wanted my husband's help in every little thing that involved the baby because I was sure I was going to mess it up.
So if you're struggling with postpartum anxiety, know you're not alone, mama, and remember that having it does not make you a bad mom. Reach out to the support around you to get what you need to go back to feeling like yourself, even if your medical check-ins are "fine."
As for me, now when life gets chaotic and messy, as it usually does with a toddler, I embrace it instead of allowing it to paralyze me—after all, it's not going to be like this forever. Now when I have a bad day, I text my mom friends for support, I speak openly to my husband about the feelings I'm having, but more importantly I speak candidly about it on social media because I've learned that so many feel the same way I did and being able to read other stories and tips makes me feel less alone. Plus, if I can help anyone not feel the way I felt, my day is made.