I need to exhale.
Sitting here, writing this, I didn’t realize I’ve been holding my breath for the past year. Actually, probably longer – since I found out I was pregnant again in June 2016.
I’ve often thought about writing this post, but just as soon as the thought came into my brain, out it went. Surely, I would jinx myself. Surely, Postpartum Anxiety was still waiting in the wings, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. It probably doesn’t like bragging and would delight in showing me that it still had the upper hand. It could always win.
So, I waited. And waited.
And after months of waiting, I almost….forgot.
And because I Google’d my way through my uncertainty when I was trying decide if I should have another baby and take a chance on possibly getting Postpartum Anxiety again, I promised myself that if I avoided it the second time around, I would share what I did. I would give mamas hope.
So I’m here to tell you that: YES. You CAN enjoy that first year of your sweet babe’s life. You CAN savor those little moments and not wish them away. You CAN avoid Postpartum Anxiety/Depression/OCD, even if you suffered from it with your first babe…
HERE’S HOW I AVOIDED POSTPARTUM ANXIETY/OCD THE SECOND TIME AROUND…
I HAD A PLAN. The first time I was hit with PPA, I was blindsided. I had no idea what I was feeling, why I was feeling it and when the hell it would leave me alone. This time, I knew the signs, I was prepared and I had a plan. I found a therapist and psychiatrist.
I TALKED ABOUT IT. Whether it was my psychiatrist, my husband or my mom, I had my village who was there to listen and talk and help me through it. No longer was this something that I had to struggle through on my own. I could share my fears about the possibility of getting PPA again. We could brainstorm ideas that could help lessen the chance. I had a team and we were in this together.
MEDS. I know. For some (myself included), this is the scary part. It’s the one step you’re not ready to take or hope you don’t have to. But, hear me out first. I don’t know if medication is right for you. Maybe therapy will do the trick. Maybe having a village of support will be enough. But, what I do know, is that I needed something more. I had tried everything, and that damn Postpartum Anxiety and OCD was still there. And when my psychiatrist explained that my brain just needed a little shift, I was overwhelmed with relief. It was biological, and there was help. I started a low dose of Zoloft right after a chemical pregnancy, and following the advice of my doctor, I stayed on it through my pregnancy with baby girl. (Word to the wise regarding medication: don’t Google. Listen to your doctor. Follow your gut. Feel confident in your decision.) I can say that starting Zoloft was THE best decision I’ve made. It was like a switch went off. No more overwhelm and debilitating anxiety and no more losing myself in the downward spiral of what ifs.
I PROTECTED MY SLEEP. OK, before you laugh about protecting your sleeping right after having a baby, let me explain. This doesn’t mean I slept 8 hours a night. Hell, I didn’t even sleep 5 hours a night for the first year. BUT, for the first 3 months after having baby girl, I jumped at any chance I could to SLEEP. If it came down to choosing between sleep and…anything…I chose sleep. During the day, I would take cat naps. At night, I went to sleep when the baby did, even if that meant I was in bed at 7pm. Without sleep, everything is HARD. I protected my sleep like it would save me, and it kind of did.
EXERCISE. When I exercise, I feel better. Plain and simple. Those endorphins are powerful. I’m telling you: it’s science. Even now, I will make room in my hectic schedule for exercise. It just makes everything better.
If you’ve stumbled upon this post in your late night “how-the-hell-can-I-do-this” Google search, I want you to know: it gets better. It takes work and you might have some stuff to figure out, but you CAN figure it out. There IS help. And no matter what, YOU will get through this. And if you need more support, start here.