I thought I had to hide my anxiety—instead, I became a better mother once I opened up

I had no idea it wasn’t normal to have the thoughts I had.

I thought I had to hide my anxiety—instead, I became a better mother once I opened up

I remember lying in bed in the middle of the night, my newborn in the bassinet beside me, and I couldn't move. In fact, I had a hard time catching my breath because in those few quiet moments when everyone was asleep, I had convinced myself that my baby wasn't alive anymore.

Those moments would come throughout the next year as she grew from tiny helpless infant into a walking and (sort of) talking toddler, and here’s the kicker: I attributed it all to being a worried new mom.

I had gone through years of infertility and thought for sure this was my path in life when it came to parenthood. I thought everything from preconception to raising a daughter in a big scary world was just going to be one massive anxiety attack.

I had no idea it wasn't normal to have the thoughts I had. I knew moms worried. That was nothing new. Unfortunately, the few times I spoke up about how terrified I was about something awful happening to my baby, I was left with, “You’re a mom. You’re always going to worry.”

At times I was scared to say anything because I thought if I did, if I confessed the awful things going on inside my head, my husband and family would become concerned. I didn’t want to look crazy or overly dramatic when all the other moms around me seemed to have it together.

What was wrong with me?

It had to have been my history of infertility. It maybe had something to do with the anxiety and depression I experienced as a teenager and young adult. This was my rationalization for two years.

One day, I made an appointment with a therapist to talk about my anxiety. My daughter, since she was a year old, was prone to stomach bugs and the anxiety I developed every time she vomited was worsening with every bug. During one of those episodes, my vision started darkening in the corners of my eye, and I realized I was one vomiting episode short from a full blown panic attack.

I knew I needed to see someone, especially since we were beginning to enter the winter months and another season of sickness was going to put me over the edge.

Sitting on my therapist’s couch that morning, I started discussing the anxiety over my daughter’s stomach bugs. But then it blew up, so to speak, and I found myself doing a spectacular word vomit (no pun intended) where all the little anxieties, the ones where I thought were just a result of being a new mom, came out and I found myself in tears.

“I can’t live like this anymore,” I cried. Even then, even after an evaluation with the therapist, I continued to have the belief that I was overreacting.

Trying to cover up or downplay how anxious I was, especially when it came to motherhood wasn't doing anybody any favors. I learned that the hard way. I pushed it down, didn't talk about it, and it slowly started eating away at me. I ended up on medication and continued in therapy and when I accepted the fact that I truly had an anxiety disorder, it woke me up in ways that surprised me.

I didn’t cover it up anymore. I am a parenting and infertility writer, so talking about my deep dark feelings is just something I’m used to now. Hitting the publish button on my first blog post where I confessed I was seeing a therapist and had untreated postpartum anxiety was exhilarating, embarrassing, and terrifying. I wanted to own it, but I was so nervous of being treated as that unstable mom blogger.

I didn’t downplay my feelings anymore. From then on, when the anxiety hit hard, I told my husband I needed help. I started talking about it with my family, how the medication was working, how my therapist was slowly helping me with an action plan when my anxiety got to panic levels.

Of course, I knew being open and honest when things were bad would help me overall, but I didn't realize how much better of a mom I am now to my daughter. I can recognize when my anxiety is getting the best of me and can now take steps to decrease it.

I don't get so worked up and frustrated, thinking this whole thing is one giant character flaw. I know when I need a break and ask for it from my husband. I think that's the best thing I can do now—to ask my husband to step in when I can't. I am facing my anxiety head on and gaining more confidence every day.

Society still perpetuates anxiety as something to be covered up, as a weakness or something that needs to be overcome to be successful in life. We are talking so much now about postpartum depression. But our culture still needs gentle nudges at understanding anxiety, especially postpartum and into motherhood.

Somehow as moms we are still believing the myth that we are supposed to be busy multitasking, the ones who run the household, and the glue that holds our family together. When we tell ourselves the anxiety isn't that bad, we're downplaying the fact that anxiety is actually really common, and it's important to recognize it for what it is.

We are worth it too and need to be taken care of, despite being moms who are thought to be the ones taking care of it all.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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