Today I’m happy to welcome Warrior Mom Maggi B., who shares not only how postpartum anxiety wrecked her body and mind but also the 6 things that saved her.
When my daughter was born nearly two years ago, I knew right away that something wasn’t quite right. Not with my baby – she was perfect, healthy, and beautiful. Something wasn’t right with me.
I had been really anxious during my last trimester and had been so hopeful that once my baby was born, I would bounce back and feel good. Instead, I spiraled into a horrible bout of postpartum anxiety. Within 48 hours of her birth, I developed HORRIBLE insomnia. I could not sleep. I would lay in a sort of stupor, night after night, listening to my new baby go through the cycles of sleeping and waking, unable to get any rest myself. I went ten days in a row getting anywhere from just minutes to maybe two hours of broken sleep each night (and none at all during the day) and pretty much had an emotional collapse.
In addition to not being able to sleep, I had no appetite. I’d only gained 15 pounds while pregnant. I was breastfeeding, and barely able to eat a bite, which left me weak and exhausted. I lost 20 pounds in the first week after my daughter was born; all 15 I’d gained plus another five pounds I couldn’t spare. I was a sliver of my former self, a shadow.
I had awful health anxiety, phobias, and the blackest, bleakest depression. I felt like there was toxic sludge moving through my veins. I rarely went outside. The people and places most familiar to me suddenly seemed foreign. It was a truly surreal experience. I felt like a visitor in my own body. I could see my face reflected in the mirror but I hardly recognized the pale, frightened, exhausted woman looking back at me.
I was a wreck. I can’t even describe how awful I felt. I was terrified all the time, terrified I would never sleep again, that I would never feel like myself again, that I had ruined my life. Here I had this wonderful baby, and I couldn’t enjoy my time with her because I was awash in anxiety, and fear. If it weren’t for my mom, who cared for me and my daughter for the first four weeks postpartum, I have no doubt that I would have had to be hospitalized. I could hardly care for myself, let alone this fragile new being. My mom made sure I ate even if I wasn’t hungry; she and my sister helped cover night feedings so that I could take medication and try to get some sleep.
The road to recovery was long, and tiring. There were setbacks, and days when I thought all progress had been lost. On those bad days, I returned to Postpartum Progress and other support sites and read (and reread!) stories of hope and recovery. I told myself I would get there, too. I would get to that place called better.
Here I am, nearly two years later, and I feel GREAT! I feel 100% like myself again. 100%! I never, ever thought I would be able to write those words. Here’s what saved me:
- Postpartum Progress and its stories from other moms who had felt as terrible as I did, and came out the other side
- My daughter’s pediatrician, who immediately recognized I was spiraling down and insisted I get help
- Medication: Zoloft, and Trazodone for sleep
- Support from family and friends
I have been off all sleep meds for almost a year now and I sleep just fine. Each and every night I am thankful for it. In fact, I can honestly say I am thankful for my experience with postpartum anxiety. It has made me a kinder, more compassionate person. It taught me that “normal” is the most amazing feeling, and I don’t ever take it for granted. Postpartum anxiety has also brought me together with so many brave moms who fought back against it, and won.
For those of you still struggling with postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression or OCD, please know that it will get better. It may take longer than you’d like, it may mean taking meds, but you WILL get better. And better is wonderful.