How mindfulness saved my motherhood from anxiety, PPD and OCD

My entry into motherhood was not the explosion of joy I anticipated.

How mindfulness saved my motherhood from anxiety, PPD and OCD

[Editor's Note: This essay contains mentions of self-harm. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.]

My entry into motherhood was not the explosion of joy I anticipated.

With a background in psychology, I was informed enough about mental health and wellness that I expected some challenges as a new mama, but during my pregnancy I stayed focused on the joy, beauty and purpose that my baby would bring into my life. I loved decorating my daughter's nursery, learning about birth, and preparing for life postpartum with my little one.


What I never planned for? Terrifying intrusive thoughts, overwhelming anxiety or a diagnosis of both postpartum depression and OCD.

On the outside, it probably looked like I was doing fine in postpartum, and that's because mental health is often invisible. It's not something that can be seen like a broken leg or a cut. To the person in passing, I just seemed like a typical new mom—tired but happy. I never wanted to come across as ungrateful for my daughter, so I smiled through it, yet on the inside I desperately wanted to run away from the overwhelming feelings of frustration, confusion and rage.

I had intrusive, unwanted and scary thoughts about hurting myself or others, which is a common symptom of OCD. I didn't have any outward rituals typically associated with OCD like counting or hand washing, but I did a lot of internal rituals like bargaining with my higher power to take the horrible thoughts away, singing a happy song on repeat, or avoiding my triggers, in particular certain household objects, the sight of which would conjure up scary imaginary movies playing in my head. It was if I was living two lives, the one my eyes saw and wanted to engage with and the one in the back of my head streaming a horror story on repeat.

For nearly eight months I suffered alone, silently feeling ashamed. As a licensed school psychologist, I was clinically trained to help others learn how to cope with strong emotions and stress, yet I didn't have the first clue how to help myself. I felt like a fraud in my career and life, and I was afraid that if I came forward, I would lose both my job and my daughter. I was convinced that they would take her away from me because I felt "unfit" to care for her because I couldn't even care for myself.

I knew from a practitioner's lens that mindfulness helps ease depression, anxiety and stress, as well as increases self-compassion. I used mindfulness in my practice as a school psychologist and I saw the positive impact it had on families I worked with, so I figured, "Why not? It's not going to work for me but if I don't try something I am not going to last much longer." In the depths of my depression, I dove in. I took a 10 week mindfulness course for caregivers. If you had told me, a person with OCD, that I was going to learn to love my mind, I never would have believed you. I hated being alone with thoughts.

It was slow going at first. I engaged in the class for a few minutes, then I excused myself to "go pump" to escape the discomfort. I felt uncomfortable sitting in silence, tuning into my thoughts, breathing and body sensations. But each day I showed up. Slowly, I learned to observe my experience as a witness, not engaging in every pulling thought or emotion vying for my attention. As time went on, I craved more space and silence. Each time I sat, I cleared out more room in my mind and in my heart for love to grow. Intense emotions bubbled to the surface often. I got angry or sad or felt really tired during meditation, but I knew that every feeling I felt was a layer peeling off me like an onion. My true authentic self was just below the surface.

Ultimately, mindfulness made me aware that I needed help. I wasn't broken and I wasn't a bad person or a bad mother. Mindfulness gave me strength to tell my family, my friends, and my doctor that I wasn't okay, and to find a therapist that could help me.

I became so obsessed with mindfulness that I committed to bring it to *every* mama around the world, which is why I founded Mindful Mamas and created a mindfulness tool just for moms. No matter what our motherhood experience is, mothering is hard. But mindfulness can get us through each challenge.

Mindfulness is the act of noticing things as they are, without judgment. We can simply observe our thoughts and feelings; giving us an opportunity to see things as they truly are.

It allows us to see things we weren't aware of before. Because it can liberate our perspective, mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools a mother can have.

Here are 5 ways mindfulness changed my life as a mother:

1. It freed me from my negative + unwanted thoughts.

Mindfulness helped me learn that my thoughts were not the end-all-be-all truth tellers. It is impossible to stop my thoughts, so mindfulness (and meditation) taught me how to watch my thoughts like a leaf falling from a tree, landing on a river, then floating away into the distance. Leaves will continue to drop, but with mindfulness, I didn't continue to be swept downstream. Today, I can observe my thoughts as I sit by the pretty river and watch them float by.

*To learn how to work with unwanted or negative thoughts, listen to "Working with Negative Thoughts" on the Mindful Mamas App in the guided meditation feature under Self-Discovery > Mindset series.

Listen + Relax guided meditations

2. It allowed me to be present and notice the magical moments that were right in front of me.

Thousands of miraculous moments happen every day. Before I learned how to meditate, I missed out on many of these beautiful moments. Now, I choose to see them. Everything in my world is so much brighter. A mindfulness practice gave my brain, heart and body more capacity to notice and wholly receive beauty and goodness.

*To become more present with the ones you love, listen to "Hugging Breath" on the Mindful Mamas App in the Mini Pause feature under the Family Connection category.

Hugging Breath meditation

3. It allowed me to understand my inherent worth + to seek support when I needed it.

Self-compassion is one of the benefits of mindfulness. I used to think I had to earn my worth; now I know I am worthy because I am alive. This shift in perspective allowed me to understand how to set boundaries, notice when to take breaks and ask for help when I needed it without feeling guilty or weak.

*To remember your inherent worth, listen to "I Am Worthy" on the Mindful Mamas App in the Mantra feature.

I Am Worthy Mantra

4. Mindfulness helped me find calm among the storm.

Each of us is one person doing the work of an entire village. Our to-do list never ends, and we are responsible for little hearts and minds. We carry so much, and when our kids melt down, it can feel like the entire world is crashing down. Through mindfulness, I discovered my calm center, rather than being sucked into my child's chaos. Difficult parenting moments used to throw me into my own emotional spiral. Now, I know how to stay grounded and regulated for my child. Tantrums, resistance and boundary-pushing are now completely doable.

*Find your calm by listening to "Calm in the Chaos" on the Mindful Mamas App in the Guided Meditation feature under Foundations> Cultivate Your Practice.

Calm in Chaos meditation

5. Mindfulness reminded me that messiness is beautiful and human.

We all make mistakes and we all have limits. Mindfulness taught me that I don't need to be a perfect mother. I'm actually teaching my children valuable lessons when I say or do something that isn't in line with my values, because I create an opportunity to repair my relationship with them. While I grow as a person, and work to respond rather than react (most of the time anyway), I am teaching my children how to maintain healthy relationships, even when they make mistakes and still honor their feelings in the process.

*Cultivate self-compassion by listening to "The Art of Losing It" series on the Mindful Mamas App in the Guided Meditation Emotions category.

The Art of Losing it

Start your mindfulness practice, let my team and I help guide the way. Mindful Mamas is a mindfulness and self-care app for moms and moms-to-be. It was created by mamas for mamas. You can download and try for free for 7 days! I would love to walk the mindful path with you today.

Download the app now

Click here to download now.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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