Jamie on anxiety and the need for control after losing her parents

family photo at a farmers market - anxiety and the need for control in motherhood

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

By the time I was 31, I had lost my parents, including my stepdad. I lost my stepdad in 2007, my mom a month after my wedding in 2014, and my dad three months after our first child was born in 2017. I know I’m not alone in this, but it sure feels that way. 

These losses have become my identity and my hope is to try to use them for good. My mom was my best friend. I think with being an only child, the bond between a mother and daughter takes on a whole new meaning. She was the love of my life. My whole heart and soul. And she’s gone, which means that a huge piece of me is gone too and I know that I’ll never get it back. 

My grief journey has been confusing, frustrating and almost non-existent at times. Some days I think I’m still stuck in the denial phase, just pretending that they’re all on vacation together somewhere. It’s hard to grieve when you lose people so close to you, consecutively over the course of 10 years. 

What I can tell you is that these consecutive losses have created a woman I almost don’t recognize but have come to accept.

The anxiety I experience on a daily basis has been the most drastic change in my life and this was only heightened when we had our first child. 

Related: Postpartum anxiety might be invisible to you—but it’s very real to me

Nora came into the world in September of 2017 and in that moment, I knew why I was born. I also finally understood (as my mom always said) why she did the things she did. I’ve never felt more like my mom than when I became a mom myself. But it also brought up tons of emotions for me because it seemed impossible that I would be able to manage being a mother without my own mom to help. 

In those first few months, I was so controlling about Nora. My dad lived five minutes away from us and so he was around to help out, but it wasn’t the same as having your mom, a woman, to help. 

Looking back, I guess I’m not surprised that I ended up being diagnosed with postpartum depression. I think my brain and body were trying to trick me into thinking that I couldn’t do this without my mom and that I had made a huge mistake. Thankfully, I was self-aware enough to see that something wasn’t right, and I went see my doctor. 

I knew that I needed to take care of myself first to be able to take care of my daughter. After only a few months of meds, I started to feel somewhat back to my normal self. And just to be clear, my normal self is usually a woman with a million things on her to-do list, which just masks her true emotions of feeling lost without her parents. 

What’s funny is that I’m 32 years old, yet I still feel a yearning to have my parents here and I haven’t felt like a daughter in a long time. People have a lot of identities—child, sister, wife, friend, etc.

Being a daughter seemed to slip away once my mom left this earth and again when we lost my dad. 

Now, I feel that my whole purpose and identity is to be the absolute best mom possible, although I know I’m more than just a mom and I’m trying to figure out those other identities as I go along. 

Back to the anxiety—it controls my life and takes over my daily thoughts in a way that can be completely crippling. Because I’ve experienced so much loss in my life, I am convinced on a daily basis that something bad is going to happen to me, my child or my husband. This has created tremendous control issues for me. 

Related: To the mama struggling to parent with depression and anxiety

Having control makes me feel and seem strong. It also makes me feel like my mom. My experiences have shaped me and made me view life in a whole new light. I try to consistently be intentional and mindful about life and what I’m grateful for because even though I’ve seen a lot of loss, I do know that there are a lot of things I do have. 

I’m constantly trying to figure out how to really hold on to what I have now, in this moment, as opposed to fearing what will happen in the future. I hope this gives other mamas some hope and faith in how strong we really are as women. Loss is heavy and can bring us down hard, but if you can channel it into something that will lift others up, it can take on a whole new meaning in your life and the lives of others. And I’d like to imagine that nothing would make our loved ones prouder.