I’m a naturally anxious person, so when I was home with a newborn, I had a really hard time managing.
I knew some other people that had babies around the same time, and everyone was posting cute monthly pictures with their babies’ big milestones, and it just made me panic. Had my daughter hit that milestone yet? Was she behind? Were there any developmental issues I needed to be worried about? I was completely consumed with these thoughts.
I know being a new mom is supposed to be exciting, and you’re supposed to feel like your babies are growing up too fast and want it to slow down. But for me, the new mom stage was filled with anxiety and nervousness about if my baby was developing the way she was supposed to. I was also constantly worried that she was sick or injured but unable to communicate that with me.
It took most of a long, nerve-wracking maternity leave to figure out how to deal with this crippling problem, but by the end, I felt like I had a much better handle on the anxiety, and I was able to enjoy my baby and her personal path to development so much more.
For anyone facing the same struggles, here’s what I learned on my journey:
1. Seeking help shows your strength as a mother, not your weakness
After I had my daughter, I felt the need to handle everything myself, without any assistance, even though that’s crazy. I’ve already had a known history of anxiety. And postpartum anxiety affects up to 10 percent of new mothers.
Having a newborn naturally comes with its own share of worry because you are entering a completely new field. But sometimes, it’s more serious than that, and postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression are real, serious illnesses. So many of us think that we can just work through these issues on our own and that everything is just in our heads — but often we are dealing with something much more severe than being just a bit worried, and it requires professional help to treat.
My worries consumed my mind most of the day and were sometimes irrational. Once I faced the fact that I was mentally struggling — and not just dealing with normal levels of worry — I got in touch with my OB-GYN and she provided me some medication to help.
If you feel like you are facing postpartum anxiety or depression, please don’t be afraid to call your doctor. I don’t know why I thought doing this would make me such a failure when this is so common among postpartum mothers. I really wish I hadn’t waited so long. I also started seeing a therapist which was really helpful in talking through my concerns and making me feel like I’m not so alone in having these worries.
2. Get off the internet
After dealing with anxiety or depression from a medical standpoint, the next step is to definitely get off WebMD or any sites like that. I recommend this for those not just dealing with postpartum anxiety but also those with any type of worry or question about their baby. Typing symptoms into the Internet can make even the most level-headed person nuts.
When I was home feeding the baby or putting her down for a nap, I had plenty of time to dig myself into a rabbit hole of worry on the Internet. With just a few clicks, I convinced myself that my daughter was gravely ill just from typing in a few basic symptoms. I would pace back and forth with worry about all these imaginary illnesses I was convinced my daughter had.
I finally had to ban myself from WebMD. If there were symptoms that seemed truly concerning, I would call the nurse line at my pediatrician’s office and instead follow their advice.
I also had to learn to scroll past “milestone” posts that I know might make me anxious. I know these posts are meant to be joyful and harmless, but I knew they were a trigger for my anxiety — as silly as it may seem.
3. Take a mental break
Being home with a newborn is all-consuming and completely constant. If you start to feel anxious about something, you literally have all day home with just a baby to think about it and continue to worry. When you feel a mental spiral coming on, find the best way possible to just take a breather. If you’re with the baby, even just taking a walk around the block or through the mall seemed to help. It would let my mind float to different places, and I felt a lot better.
If you have someone that can help out with the baby for a bit, take an hour to yourself and do whatever you usually do to make yourself feel better after a bad day. I think this is so important for all mothers. Browse a bookstore or meet a friend for lunch. I usually felt that after some distance the worry seemed to fade and I could look at the problem with a lot more objectivity.
4. Find a pediatrician you trust AND can talk to
My pediatrician is on my list of Favorite People Ever. She is the kindest, most patient, most knowledgeable person I know. She was recommended by a few other people, and I honestly completely trust her advice and her assessment of my daughter. She allows me to let out my concerns, no matter how crazy they may be, without being judgmental. She considers each concern fairly without immediately dismissing it as wrong.
I have no medical background at all, so having a pediatrician, I feel like I can trust really lifts a burden off me. If you don’t feel like the pediatrician you have is the right fit, don’t feel bad looking elsewhere! Ask around for recommendations — I’ve found that’s the best way to find providers I’m happy with.
Having a newborn is hard no matter what you are dealing with mentally. If you are struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help or take a break.