As if the stress of bringing home a new baby isn’t enough, anxiety can often rear its ugly head and complicate things. Thankfully, among the resources available (like medical care, therapy, and online 24/7 support groups, other moms can help a new mom with anxiety, too. Turns out, it truly does take a village, and that doesn't necessarily mean that it's all about child-rearing. Sometimes, the people who understand you best are the other mothers who are going through, feeling, experiencing and thinking the exact same things you are.
I don’t assume that my own experience with anxiety is going to be relatable for all who have had, or who currently suffers from the disorder, but I do hope that perhaps some of the insights I’ve gained might be helpful. For example, may I suggest that if you know someone struggling with anxiety, don’t agree to watch their baby and then pretend like you lost their baby. Don’t knock on their door and run away, but leave a threatening note written in cut-up magazine letters behind. Don't say things like, "get over it," or "I know exactly what you're feeling," or anything that can downplay what they're feeling. You know, the basics.
All joking (and not joking) aside, anxiety can show up in many forms, but empathy and kindness can usually go a long way. As always, a medical and/or mental health professional is going to be best equipped to help, but we can all make a commitment to be supportive and caring by showing up and offering the following:
Share The Good And The Bad
Anxiety and related issues are super common, yet not talked about all that often (at least not in my experience). Letting another mom know that even the moms who seem the most "pulled-together" have experienced struggles of their own, can be a huge source of reassurance and comfort.
Give Her Room To Share Her Experiences
If she wants to talk about what she’s going through, having another trusted mom ready to listen is a huge deal. If you found yourself in this position, please accept an internet hug from me since it means you're an awesome friend.
Hold The Baby For A Few Minutes (If She Feels Comfortable With It)...
A couple moments of free time can help her feel supported. It gives her a chance to stretch, think, and eat something while sitting (instead of standing over the sink). Of course, anxiety can make it difficult for a new mom to allow another person (even a trusted, capable mother) to hold their baby, so be respectful and don't take it personal if your offer isn't accepted. In the end, sometimes it's just nice to know that there are options.
...Or Take The Baby For Longer Than A Few Minutes (Again, If She Is Comfortable With It)
Sometimes, a longer break is required. She could use the time to rest, or sleep, or do all the things that new moms don’t have time to do, like, oh you know, shower, run errands, and take deep cleansing breaths.
Be The One To Name Specific Things You Can Do To Help
The classic “let me know if there’s anything you need,” is an easy one to drop into conversation, but it puts responsibility back on her to come up with something. However, a clear offer like, “Can I bring you dinner tonight?” or “Can I watch your kids for a few hours this weekend?” are much easier things to say yes to.
A simple, “Have you checked in with your doctor?” might seem obvious, but could very well be the exact thing she needs to hear. It can not only validate her, her feelings and her experience, but it can give her the permission she needs to pursue the help she wants. Thanks to the stigma associated with mental health issues, silence permission (sadly) is often a necessity.
Encourage Her Efforts To Seek Resources Or Care
If she’s already taken steps to find help, having that choice supported by another mom can feel great. I like to show my support with a heartfelt slow clap and tearful nodding, but you do you.
Actually, a good rule of thumb is to try to never judge anyone dealing with any mental health disorder. But, a little reminder never hurts, right?
Let Her Know She’s Not Alone
If you’ve been in her shoes, letting her know how you beat your anxiety, or made it through or continue to manage it or just deal with it on a daily basis as best you can, can give hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. What works for one person might not work for another, but I found that it’s reassuring to know that there’s more than one path through.