Doctors Said My Postpartum Anxiety Was Just The 'Baby Blues' -- It Wasn't

by Cara Harvey
Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty

Having a baby is no easy task.

For 9 months, your body is no longer your own. Some days you feel great, some days you want to rip someone’s head off, and some days you can barely walk without being in pain.

But you know that all of the mood swings and pregnancy symptoms are just that… short-term things associated with pregnancy.

You tell yourself and those around you who deal with your wrath, “It’ll be over as soon as the baby comes, these hormones are just wild!”

But what you don’t realize is, for many women, the swings and highs and lows don’t always end when you get to hold that little bundle of joy.

After I had my daughter, I was elated. She was our rainbow baby, our child conceived after a miscarriage, and I waited anxiously for her each day. My nerves were high all pregnancy, worrying something would go wrong, and I just wanted her to be here.

After she arrived, I was in love. I couldn’t believe my heart was so full and this little miracle was ours.

When she was around 3 months old, I started to feel overwhelmed like most new moms do. But something else felt off, things that normally excited me held no weight, I struggled to push myself in some of my day to day tasks, and I just felt lost.

I went to my doctor and she dismissed me, telling me it just sounded like “baby blues.” She said most mothers she sees who have postpartum depression aren’t as positive as me, and it was just a phase.

I headed her advice and trudged on, but in my heart I knew something felt off. I had struggled with anxiety for years, and I could feel some of my symptoms coming back but, hey, if the doctor didn’t think it was a problem, I guess I was just being “sensitive” right?

I pushed through, hid some of my emotions, and just assumed this was normal.

Twenty-one months past and I delivered my second child, a beautiful baby boy. Again, I was so excited to have him in our life and to add to our family. Things were different this time since we had a toddler running around as well. I immersed myself in all of the day-to-day tasks and kept my mind off things by being busy.

But when he was 2 months old, I had a panic attack at 2 in the morning. I couldn’t catch my breath, my mind was racing and I was physically in pain.

I hadn’t had a panic attack in years, but the symptoms were very clear in my mind. I knew what was going on, but couldn’t pinpoint why. I was starting to feel super overwhelmed again and was getting angry. I was angry at myself for feeling so stressed and crazy and angry at my family because they didn’t understand.

I went to my postpartum check-up (I had a different doctor at this time) and told her about it. She again dismissed me and told me I was probably fine and it was just normal “mom feelings.”

But this time, I knew better.

This time I knew that something just wasn’t right. I was dreading bedtime because if the baby woke up, and I couldn’t get him to sleep right away (a common thing for babies), I would feel like a failure. I constantly struggled with an internal dialogue that told me I was a bad mom, that every decision I made was wrong, that if I didn’t “get it together,” my husband was just going to get tired of “my crazy” and leave. I found myself crying a lot over nothing and than feeling guilty and angry at myself because I was crying. I was impacting the mood of my household, and I could feel everyone walking on eggshells around me.

My anxiety doesn’t always manifest physically (though I had a few anxiety attacks, my hand is constantly tingling and numb, and my heart can race when I am having an episode), but it’s more mental.

My anxiety is more racing and spiraling thoughts. The smallest thing can send me into an episode of feeling unworthy, stupid, lazy, and worthless. If I made a mistake and burnt dinner, I was automatically the worst mom in the world, my family was better off without me, and I had, in turn, ruined our entire day. I struggled to get out of this self-deprecating spiral and spent almost all of my day ruminating on what I had done wrong, feeling guilty about my feelings, and struggling to pull it back together. I knew this time it was more than “baby blues.”

And I had had enough.

I am so fortunate that my husband and I have good communication because without him I don’t know where I’d be (most likely still sitting on my kitchen floor crying because the lady at ShopRite asked me when I was due… at 3 months postpartum).

It was scary to say this to him, but I knew I needed to talk about the elephant in the room, so one day I just said it….

“I think something is wrong with me. I need help.”

With his encouragement, and even though my personal doctors dismissed me so quickly, I made an appointment to see a therapist to talk through what I was feeling. I knew that my family deserved me at my best, and that I was worth the time and effort to get better.

Immediately after taking action on my anxiety and seeing someone, I felt this weight lifted off me. I felt like I could breathe again. My anxiety wasn’t (and isn’t) better overnight, but just saying it aloud made me feel okay. It made me feel like things could get better.

A lot of times, mom’s feelings get dismissed so quickly as “baby blues,” stress or overwhelm when in reality, it can be so much more.

I am so thankful I didn’t listen to my doctor this time, and took my care in my own hands.

Currently, I am still going to therapy weekly, use strategies I have learned there and in other self development books to talk myself out of my spirals when they begin, and can communicate my needs with my family so much better when I can sense my anxiety raising.

I have started eating healthier and exercising more which I found really makes me feel better. On days I eat more poorly, I feel my anxiety rising. And while right now I am not taking any medication for my anxiety, I am not against it if I find that it’s something I need at some point.

Because there is no shame in self-care.

There is no shame in admitting when something feels off.

And there is no shame in deciding that you are worth the time and effort to take care of yourself.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s important to make sure you’re okay and take care of you so you can also take care of them.

And as hard as it is, saying “I need help” can be the scariest part, but the most important.