Before having kids you have a vision of what life will look like.
Your new bundle will wear cute little outfits. You will feed him homemade baby food. You will balance work and home life seamlessly. And you will quickly slip back into your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans.
As it turned out, my life and emotions were a little more complicated than that.
Adjusting to motherhood was a huge shift for me. I felt my identity change and my marriage was evolving—all while fully realizing that this little baby’s life depended on me.
Cue my anxiety.
My Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) arrived on night one of my oldest son's life. I sat in the hospital bed nervously clutching him—wide awake and all alone in the middle of the night. The nurse came in to remind me about never putting him on his belly. She spoke about SIDS and all I could hear was "His life DEPENDS on YOU! How are you going to keep him alive?"
We headed home and I never mentioned a word to anyone. I smiled, nodded when everyone told me how blessed I was—all while silently thinking, “What did I do? How can I handle this?”
After a few months of dealing with these anxious thoughts, I decide it would be good to spend time with other moms. I started a "Mommy Meetup" and spent time chatting about motherhood including the pressures, the struggles and the joys. The anxiety lingered, but life went on. I worked out, found mom-friends, started a new job and slowly found myself and my identity as a mother.
Fast-forward a few years later and I gave birth to my third child. It was a girl after having two boys. Everyone said "She is going to be so easy! She’ll just go with the flow!" Well, let's just say—my children have never been the “go with the flow” type—so I wasn’t expecting that to start at this point.
The first few weeks of my daughter’s life went well. I felt good and often thought to myself, “Maybe I beat it this time! Maybe the anxiety isn't going to come back.” But, as soon as I came out of the newborn haze, life went back to it’s hectic pace and I found myself yelling a lot more. I was snapping at the littlest things.
I remember my middle son hitting the baby and I yelled, "What are you doing?! Why don't you ever listen?" I squeezed his little arms and then immediately melted to the floor in tears while wondering what was wrong with me. I apologized frantically and told him it would never happen again... Until it did happen again.
This wasn’t me. I’m a laid back person. I rarely lose my cool. I have handled many stressful situations in my life with a calm demeanor. Why was I yelling at my baby for crying? My baby! I found myself crying in the shower more often than not. I was disappointed in myself. I felt ashamed and felt like I couldn’t do anything right. I was snapping at my husband. I had zero patience. I saw myself slipping away and I didn’t know what to do.
Finally, I read an article that really hit home. Somehow it popped up in my newsfeed and said that one of the symptoms of PPA was anger and rage, along with a list of other symptoms. I was reading and nodding and reading and nodding. This was it. This is what was happening to me.
But why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the anger? I mean, it's embarrassing—I get it. No one wants to post a picture to their Instagram feed captioned, "This is what it looks like after you scream at your kids!" But it’s real and I’m forever grateful I read that article.
So I decided to make some changes in my life.
I changed my diet, went to therapy, talked to my husband and finally spoke to my doctor about my anxiety. I decided to try medicine and it helped me―tremendously. Not only did my anger lessen, but my head was clearer. I didn't feel the weight of anxiety on my chest and I finally felt happier.
I knew it was in there, I just needed help finding it.
To be honest, I was ashamed to admit I needed medicine to help me. But after I noticed myself feeling better, I realized it was the best choice for me and my family. It may not be for everyone, and it may not be forever for me—but it is right for me right now.
I shared an article on my Facebook page recently about anxiety and anger and could not believe the response. I had so many women sending me private messages sharing their experience. I had moms bringing it up with me on play dates.
I am lucky enough to have had a support system of other moms that told me I could feel like myself again. I was glad to be that voice for other moms, too.
For me, PPA looked like anger and emotion that came flying out at any given time. For other mothers, it's obsessive thoughts that something's going to happen to your baby. For others, it may feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and you can't stop worrying if it's ever going to be OK.
But it will be OK and you can feel like yourself again. Whether that comes from yoga, therapy or medicine it is true.
Anger doesn't always have to be present in your life.
Motherhood is stressful, but anxiety is not a prerequisite to being a mom.
Pervasive thoughts and a quickness to snap doesn't have to last forever.
Create a support system around you. You deserve to feel happiness and your family deserves the best version of you. We all have moments we are not proud of, but anxiety can bring out an anger in you that surprises you.
It's real and you are not alone.