I Am the Face of Postpartum Anxiety: Did you know? 

A lot of my readers (by a lot I mean two but let’s not split hairs) know me or at least are connected with me through Facebook or Instagram. Did you know? Some of you have been with me through all four of my pregnancies and some are newer acquaintances. Looking at my social media, my social calendar, or just from our casual chit chat, did you know? Would you have guessed from my smiling Facebook posts or upbeat Instagram photos? Postpartum mental health is a tricky thing. It does not affect every mother the same way. Sure, there are typical signs and symptoms but not everyone exhibits anxiety and depression in the same way. Read on, to hear my story of struggle with Postpartum Anxiety. Note: I have not experienced severe Postpartum Depression, I tend to have a few weeks of weepy baby blues but my hormonal challenges usually exhibit in anxiety. I hope sharing my story will raise awareness for this side of Postpartum health and maybe help those who don’t suffer from the traditional warning signs of PPD.

I lay exhausted in a hospital bed. I hadn’t slept for more than an hour or two at a time in the last three (or has it been four?) days. I hear someone enter the room and fumble for the light switch. I see the friendly face of my OBGYN peering down at me from the foot of the bed. He asks me how I’m doing. I put on some bravado and don’t complain about much- I’m okay. As he’s getting ready to leave, I sheepishly admit I’m having a lot of anxiety but we both agree that it’s not something we need to worry about yet and we’ll check again in six weeks. Little did either of us know that by the time six weeks arrived, I would have been through a hell I can only remember in small flashbacks. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to remember.

I wasn’t depressed! I just couldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe, other than that, I was fine.

When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child, I felt a little overwhelmed, a little unprepared. See, I was already teetering on the edge- barely holding all the balls in the air as it was. I have never felt anything but love for my unborn children. I have never wanted anything but to hold them and love them and protect them. But to say I wasn’t scared this time would be inaccurate. You see, when I found out I was expecting, I had already been in the ER for an intense gastric attack where I felt like I was suffocating. We couldn’t figure out what was causing this and I was in the midst of a barrage of tests and doctor appointments. Finding out I was pregnant was almost a relief- maybe that’s why I felt so bad. Maybe that’s why my body was rejecting every bite I put in my mouth. Maybe that’s why I woke at night with my heart pounding and mind racing. But, it was also scary because treatment options were limited. We couldn’t get to the bottom of things until I was no longer pregnant. So began the waiting game.

I spent nine long months battling those feelings. I couldn’t eat much. It all made me sick. I was struggling with intense morning sickness (typical of my pregnancies) on top of severe acid reflux. Instead of gaining my normal 40+ lbs I gained less than 15. I worried constantly about my baby. I lay in bed, sick, tired but unable to sleep, sad that I couldn’t be the mom that I wanted to be to my older three. I often felt light headed and dizzy. My blood pressure often dipped well below my normally low 106/60. It was a hard pregnancy. It was a lonely pregnancy.

You see, before I became pregnant for the fourth time, I was on top of things. I was winning at life. Organizing, planning, and doing. I had mom friends. I ran a co-op and a kid’s book club. I had my children in several recreational activities (our favorite being horseback riding). I had play dates a plenty. That gradually changed the sicker I got. And, it’s hard to maintain friends from your bed when all you can do is make it to the bathroom to get sick. I was lucky if I could send my kids off to visit Grandma and Paka a couple times a week. Play dates, co-op, extra curriculars were a thing of the past.

But, we made it. Finally, after months of watching my food and watching the clock. After weeks spent on the couch (to avoid the dizzy spells), and days that seemed like they would never end, my fourth little bundle arrived. It wasn’t a perfect labor and delivery but he was healthy and happy and I recovered, maybe not as quickly as I would have liked, but it could have been worse.

Here’s when I noticed things were not returning to normal. My nausea was not gone. My sleep was worse (not just new mom- I’m up with the baby all night worse- like I literally couldn’t sleep even if I was alone and had opportunity). Everything I put in my mouth led to intense acid reflux attacks. The worst and most intense part was that I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was suffocating. All. The. Time.

I mean you read about moms popping a xanax with a glass of wine to get through the afternoon but they aren’t me. I don’t need drugs. I don’t even like them.

I had spent the last nine months expecting that this baby was going to pop out and suddenly, I would feel better. I had been banking on it, in fact. So, when I didn’t, I started to panic. I remember going to the doctor for one thing or another and mentioning my sleep and maybe slightly worse than normal baby blues (you see I knew what PPA felt like- remember I have had three babies and had it intensely with one and less so with another but not at all with my last boy- so surely, having another boy- one who breastfeeds perfectly- it couldn’t be that). I got several suggestions for sleep aids but was afraid to take them because I was breastfeeding. The doctor offered me antidepressants but- hadn’t they been listening? I wasn’t depressed! I just couldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe, other than that, I was fine. 

Only, I wasn’t. By the time I made it to four weeks post partum, I had been in the ER twice.  I had an endoscopy (which showed some damage to my esophagus and a precancerous condition which I believe was caused by the PPIs they’d insisted would help). I even went to a specialist to determine if maybe I had vocal chord dysfunction. I was struggling. I couldn’t function. Something was wrong.

Why couldn’t anyone help me?

That’s when I finally knew. I may have physical symptoms but I needed psychological help. And, I needed it now.

Being a mom of four, a mom who had dealt with Baby Blues/PPA before, who had got through it without the help of a good doctor or medications (at least not ones that worked): how did I not know that all these signs, these physical symptoms, pointed to PPA? More importantly, why didn’t my doctors know?

I’ll be honest, I shouted from the roof tops: “I do not have anxiety.”

And, I must have been convincing because only one doctor even hinted at it and actually she was a nurse practitioner and I found her kind of rude so wrote off her inquiries as a typical medical professional: when they can’t figure out what’s wrong, blame it on anxiety.

Lucky for me, I had a supportive husband, who could see me suffering and kept insisting that it might be psychological. Why was it so hard to admit? As much as we’d like to think our society is an enlightened one, there is still a stigma attached to mental health disorders, ya know- the crazies. I mean you read about moms popping a xanax with a glass of wine to get through the afternoon but they aren’t me. I don’t need drugs. I don’t even like them. I had knee surgery and a subsequent pain disorder (my leg used to turn purple- it was fun stuff), and only ever took minimum doses to get me through and weaned off it quickly when I decided it was time for another baby. Only this time, not only did I need help but I needed a whole team to back me up and luckily I found that.

My family doctor knew something was wrong and got me in quickly and kept me under attentive eye while I got into see a psychiatrist. Yes, there I’ve admitted it. I see a psychiatrist. Ironically, he put me on the same medication that my family doctor offered me weeks prior and I’d refused. However, he has been a Godsend for me. He’s patient, soft spoken, and kind. He listens to my concerns and calms my fears (I have some health anxiety in addition to my hormonal issues). He has helped me stay at the lowest working doses of medication and is now hopefully helping me wean off them completely. Most importantly he helped me find a therapist.

I’d like to take a minute to explain that process because I had been considering therapy for years but not seriously because, and this is going to sound funny to you but, because I was worried she would make me worse. Yep, that’s right, I had anxiety about getting my anxiety treated medically or even psychologically. By the time I asked for a therapy referral, I was far past any of my reservations and desperate for help. I saw three therapists, all female, before I settled on one. Finding a Christian therapist was important for me. Though we don’t talk about Faith at every session, knowing that she shares and respects my beliefs and when they come up she reinforces them, has eased my fears of self sabatoge that I worried therapy would produce. Turning to God during my darkest times, has taught me how important a regular consistent prayer life is. Between my Faith, the help of my psychiatrist, the perspective of my therapist, and the support of my family, I got through my hardest struggles. If you leave this piece with only one thing, let it be this: don’t be afraid to try. You can always stop taking a medication or fire your doctor or therapist. But, letting my anxiety or prejudices against mental health dictate my ability to get help was probably the biggest mistake I made in my journey with PPA.


Today, I am surviving. More than that, I am thriving. I am back to being the active mom I want to be. I have found a calling that I love in writing this blog. I have found ambition and the will to succeed at a newly acquired dream to help other mothers with whatever they’re struggling with, be it mental, physical, or financial through my (almost set up) non-profit charity: For A Mother’s Love. I have weekly play dates with my mom friends (though I have lost a few of those along the way) and am continuing to organize book clubs and shuttle my children to local extracurriculars. PPA may have taken a toll on my life and it was a long journey to diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, but I’m here to say I made it. There will be ups and downs, but I will not let my mental health struggles define me. I am a mother and I have Post Partum Anxiety but that does not make me less of a parent.

My story may not sound like typical PPD. To be honest, it didn’t sound like it to me either. That’s why I wanted to share my experience with you. There is no one face of Post Partum Depression and Anxiety. There is no one description that covers all our stories. We are the face of PPD. And, though we are many, we unite under the title of Mother.

I am Jamie, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and I am the face of Post Partum Anxiety.

Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook




18 thoughts on “I Am the Face of Postpartum Anxiety: Did you know? ”

  • So sorry that you are going through this! Glad you are getting help. We love you! Aunt Kim and Uncle
    Rick

  • Hey Jamie,, thanks for sharing this. It’s important that we do for other women. I could have an entire blog written on my crazy two years after Gabriel was born. My kids refer to that time as mom’s year of insanity. And it’s not far from the truth. And you are very correct that there are many varied symptoms and faces of post parfum. For me it was clinical PP that no one was able to even guess at when I would show up at the ER with racing heart and breathing thinking I was dying. They’d just give me more Valium. My 2 cents that I would add to this for women is that they REALLY need to understand the hundreds of functions in the Body controlled and regulated by HORMONES. And unfortunately rebalancing hormones are not found in the repertoire of regular doctors who just think an anti-depressant will fix everything. It’s just a bandaid. For me it made it 100 times worse to the point of losing my short term memory completely for about six months or so… (I dont remember how long because I LITERALLY don’t remember! 😂) it was not until I went to an naturopath/herbologist who gave me a mix of progesterone and estrogen that I was able to begin to come out of the dark room I had to stay in for months to keep my heart and breathing at a normal rate. Emotions, heart, breathing, the processing of sensory information by the brain, ALL these are controlled by hormones. FIXING those fix PP. I highly highly recommend naturopaths when it comes to this problem to women, even women who are just slightly weepy. You’re not a bad mother or an emotional mother, you’re not sad (meaning your “sad” is a symptom too.) Hey, moms everywhere, know that it is your HORMONES that need balancing, and you don’t have to just “wait it out and you’ll feel better.” There’s a physical reason for those emotions too. I am VERY vocal about my insane years in order to help other women who have had babies. I volunteer the info because there is nothing to be ashamed of. You cannot control your hormone balance, and you can’t control the emotions that are a symptom of that imbalance. But you CAN seek the correct help from knowledgeable doctors. Thanks again, Jamie! I am happy you have shared this hard story with us and the world. Women need to hear it. And men, too. This is not just an emotional time we can snap out of.

    • I think it’s great that you are so vocal about your experience. I remember Claire even talking to me about how hard that time was. It’s great for women to know, it’s not something to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good naturopath locally (I’ve tried a few). For me, medication helped when I needed it and now that I’m feeling better, I hope to be off it completely soon. My OB actually prescribed me estrogen after my second but he didn’t do any tests or anything and I thought better of it being that I’m already at increased risk for breastcancer. I wish I could find a better holistic doctor locally though. But, between it being hard to find a good one and it’s being so darn expensive since insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s really a crap shoot! But, so far, I’ll tell ya that my therapist has helped me more than any medication or doctor (natural or not) ever has!!!

  • Thank you for this honest, open, vulnerable post. Statistics show that there are as many women with postpartum anxiety as postpartum depression, yet we hardly talk about PPA.

    You’re right that women show signs and symptoms of PPA/PPD differently, so it’s SO IMPORTANT to share our stories and struggles. I’d bet you helped someone today. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your kind words! I remember with my second it was so hard to admit what I had going on because I wasn’t depressed. I remember laying on the floor of my daughters bedroom and closing the door and just crying because I couldn’t stop the anxious feelings all the time. It was so lonely. That’s why I decided to share my story- because we don’t need to do it alone- we don’t need to hide or be ashamed. I can’t control my PPA anymore than I can change the color of my eyes. It just is.

  • A Great read! I went through pre and postnatal anxiety as well and understand how helpless and out of control you can feel. Its great that you are getting help and talking about it, I found that helped me tremendously.

    • I think talking about it (with my therapist and with friends and family) has been more therapeutic than even the medication. That’s why I’ll always recommend therapy as the first step (if you catch it early enough). Anxiety can be hormonal but it can also be situational (being a mom today is overwhelming- we don’t have the village moms used to have- we don’t have the safe neighborhoods and communities that were in place in the 50s). I think all of the women opening up about it now will be an amazing resource for moms of the next generation ❤️

  • Thank you so much for being brave, sharing your story, and spending awareness! ❤️ PPA is something that needs talked about more. Women can experience it in completely different ways. I’m at one year PP, and my anxiety is still really bad at times. It’s posts like these that help other women realize they are not alone.

    • ❤️❤️❤️ we struggle better together than alone! I know from personal experience. It’s hard to hide it. And, it’s not good for us either!

    • Good luck- just get a notebook and start writing! You don’t have to share it but writing it down may give you the courage to want to!

  • Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing the struggle. I know too many women who have struggled with this and had no outlet to express themselves. It’s really important that you’re giving a voice to those who don’t feel they have an outlet.

    • Thank you ❤️ It has been a journey but in the end it has changed my life in so many positive ways- I can’t be anything but thankful for it!

  • This is what I’m worried about now that I’ll be giving birth soon.. hopefully just like you I can overcome if ever time may arive

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