Morra Aarons-Mele: On Time-Tested Tips for Postpartum Anxiety

Love is so beautiful and so heartbreaking

postpartum depression mother's day rallyDear New Mom,

You feel like you SHOULD be enjoying your precious new baby, and all aglow.

Instead:

You might be feeling pretty anxious right now. You may feel completely out of control. You may feel like your child might die at any moment. You may worry you will irrevocably harm your baby, either in utero or out of it. You may walk down the stairs and see yourself falling, dropping your baby from the landing, half wondering what it would feel like, as if you were to stick your hand in a flame. And then reel with terror at the power you have over this little life.

You may wake up in the middle of the night sweating and in a panic, worrying about money, your health, your partner’s health, global warming, the national debt, toxic chemicals in your food, toxic chemicals in his toys, losing your job, losing your home. You will definitely be a bad parent and your baby will grow up to hate you. You may feel there is just no hope in raising a child and why did you do it and all of a sudden you’re having trouble breathing and it all feels too, too scary.

For me, much of my pregnancy and the first few weeks of motherhood were a time of terrors whenever I closed my eyes. I could only see bad things happening. Demons would come to me. I know now this was part of my sickness, of my depression. It didn’t make it any less real.

I imagine each new parent feels helplessness in the face of protecting their little one from the universe. When you have depression or anxiety, it can be overwhelming. When my first baby was born and I felt so helpless, my mother said, “You’re now a prisoner of love.” To me, this is the essential truth of motherhood. Just today, I was drawn to this comment from SueBobon BlogHer.com.She writes, “Love is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. The real truth is that we will lose everyone we ever love, either through their deaths or ours, and yet we do it anyway because it is worth it.”

I can read this quote now and just about cope with it. That doesn’t mean you should. For my dear new moms, scared to shut your eyes, here is my time-tested tip to overcoming the anxiety.

Create a bubble and live in it. You are allowed to censor yourself from bad news, scary stories, and the general awfulness of the world. Don’t watch the news or read the paper. It’s ok. Vet all your movies and reading material. I have a rule, even now: I never ever watch movies or read books in which children die. If someone tries to tell me a sad story I don’t really need to hear, I politely stop them. Watch happy things, read happy things, and act like Candide. It’s good for you.

When it gets rough, have some warm milk with a little B&B or brandy. If you don’t want to drink, have some hot milk and honey. It does wonders for the restless imagination. My mom made this for me and it felt like warm, velvety calm in a cup.

When you go to rest or sleep, ask someone you love and trust (your husband, sister, mother or friend) to sit with you. Let their spirit watch over you as you get some much needed respite (This tip, too, is from my mom. She struggled, too).

Draw on the wisdom of the ages and the law of averages. Chances are, you’ll probably be ok. Have a mantra and stick to it.It may be bizarre, but I like to think of the first line of this classic poem from one of my favorites, Philip Larkin: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”In this poem, Larkin acknowledges the classic conundrum of love: It’s too hard. But of course, we do it anyway.

You can do it. You will emerge. And it is so worth it.

This Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mother, who taught me it was possible to be strong while wrestling with life’s demons.

Morra Aarons-Mele blogs atWomen and Workand is the founder ofWomen Online, a digital PR and marketing firm. Her writing also appears on the Huffington Post. Follow her on Twitter at@morraam.


Donations to Postpartum Progress can be made here: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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Comments

  1. Some really, really great tips here. I especially love the calm that is evoked by the tip to let someone watch over you while you sleep.
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. time to ourselves is the greatest gift we can give to our children.
    it rejuvenates us and makes us a whole mom again.

  3. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I love these tips. I wish I had known them too. They sound so lovely and cozy and like you have this protective bubble of peace and love over you. If we had only known what was going on, perhaps we still would have suffered but maybe not to such an extent! Thank you so much for being here today, Morra.

  4. These are wonderful tips. The first real symptom of PPA that I had was being so stuck on a horrible news story that I could not get it out of my head, and subsequently wondering what I was thinking bringing a child into a world where something so awful could happen.
    My OB suggested censorship, and I am so grateful that he did. Even now I censor what I consume, and I find that I am a happier person for it.

  5. I LOVE the idea of creating a bubble. I have long since stopped watching the news. I will often walk out of a movie if I think a sad ending is coming. And I am very careful choosing books to read. I used to feel weak because I "had" to do all this. Now I feel empowered. It's alright if some topics are too much for me – that's who I am. I am lucky to be that honest with myself and to know what I need. And I am a much happier person for it.

  6. You have a very wise mama and it rubbed off. šŸ™‚ what a great idea with the bubble. I think we should all do that now and again. Thank you.

  7. amazing advice!

  8. That is great advise. I wish every mama with PPD had someone like your mom, who sounds like she was a great source of support and gentle guidance.

  9. I’m about on my 3trimester and I feel sadness I feel like I hate my baby but way do I feel this way.

    • Lupita, I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. Pregnancy depression is common and it’s important you reach out to your doctor and let him/her know what you’ve been feeling. You’re not a bad mom, you just need some help getting better.