With the birth of my second child, I didn't experience the same debilitating postpartum depression (PPD) I had with my daughter. I didn't spend hours curled up on the bathroom floor, wishing I were dead, and I didn't lose every last bit of myself. I did, however, have panic attacks. I became irritated when loved ones visited for too long. I insisted I was the only one allowed to do the bathing, rocking, and feeding. In short, I realized new moms with anxiety have it harder than other moms, and that constant, debilitating fear makes enjoying the process of having a new baby damn near impossible.
From the moment I held my son, I was in love. I couldn't imagine a single moment not spent staring into his big eyes. I wasn't very great at being the mother my 5-year-old daughter needed after he was born, though. Confined by an anxiety disorder, I could't figure out when I should stop tending to my newborn and start focusing on my daughter. Internally, I couldn't handle it. Those seemingly new mom situations that are taxing but manageable, suddenly became major issues because I had no control over my anxiety. It dictated my everything.
Five years later and I still consider myself a new mom. Every day, for me, the clock starts over and there's something new to learn, new to discover, and new to worry about. That restart also reminds me, for better or worse, of all the ways the world could hurt me or my baby. So with that in mind, and because speaking openly and honestly about mental health issues like debilitating anxiety is a necessary form of treatment, healing, and education, here are some of the ways having anxiety makes being a mother just, well, harder:
They Can't Enjoy Company
Whenever anyone stopped by to visit my newborn, I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to be thankful for the love and support of friends and family, but anyone new in my house felt like an imposter. I was constantly nervous, especially if someone held my baby, so I would just sit and stare and stress out and count down the seconds until the visitor finally left and I could feel like I was in control again.
I became so obsessed with making sure my baby was safe, I lost all joy in the simple things — like a visit from a good friend.
They Can't Go Places
Oh, how I wanted to hop in the car with my kids and go to dinner, but it was impossible. My anxiety didn't allow me to do anything that wasn't explicitly scheduled and planned out well in advance. I had to prepare, ensuring my baby had everything necessary, and that took time. And even when I felt prepared, I dreaded leaving the safety and security of my home.
They Have To Know Where All The Exits Are
On the rare occasion I did leave the house with my baby in tow, you better believe I noted every entrance and exit the moment I stepped inside a restaurant or a grocery store. In case of something horrific, or even uncomfortable, I needed the assurance I could slink away whenever I wanted or needed to to. Crowds were, and still are, overwhelming.
They Stay Up All Night Watching Their Baby Sleep
I didn't sleep for fear my child would stop breathing in the middle of the night. I tried to get some rest — I mean, I wanted and needed to get some rest — but I just couldn't. I was obsessed, and my obsession was fueled by the anxious fear that if I fell asleep, my baby would die.
They Worry About Things Other Moms Don't
There was nothing I didn't worry about when it came to me and my baby boy. I worried about how much he ate, how much weight he gained, or how much sleep he was getting. I obsessed over his acid reflux and worried that every set of hands that touched him was covered in germs. You name it, and I worried about it.
They're Prone To Other Mental Health Disorders
Suffering from anxiety made me more susceptible to other mental illnesses, like postpartum depression. I didn't have PPD after my son was born, but I could feel the claws of depression closing in on me.
They Don't Realize It Doesn't Have To Be So Hard
It felt like my anxiety had no end. Everything I did was dictated by the impossibly high standards I set in order for me to feel as though me and baby were safe. It's hard to explain what anxiety does to an already exhausted mind, but regardless of what I went through, I see now it didn't need to be so draining. Sure, I would worry, as moms do, but I didn't have to worry as much or as often.
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