Angela is a certified fitness instructor for postnatal fitness, helping women live their best life. To know more about her journey, follow her on her Instagram handle, ang_by_design.
Editor’s Note: The definition of PostPartum Depression and PostPartum Anxiety is all over the internet if you look it up. Yet, very few understand the true meaning and impact it has on a new mother. It is not “just a phase” that will pass. It needs timely intervention, medical or otherwise, depending upon the severity. If you would like to share your account of PPD/PPA, please feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Motherhood is full of unknowns, the unexpected, and a whole lot of newness.
When you haven’t been there before, you don’t know what to expect when you find yourself in the position to care for another life. I believe, that it is a great responsibility and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted.
So, when I found myself a new mother in that position- one that I hadn’t planned on- I decided I would do all I could to be the perfect mom for her. I took all the classes, read all the things online, joined all of the pregnancy and mom groups, exercised, ate well, and took my prenatal vitamins that made my hyperemesis gravidarum awful.
I did it all for her and the kind of mother I wanted to be. I was SO set on being such a good mom that I feared what that meant for ME, the person I was before her, and how my life would change.
After she was born, I had typical new mother concerns and unknowns. She was a healthy happy baby, but I always feared the worst. I felt undeserving of this amazing gift of life I was now responsible for. I loved her with every ounce of my being.
I fought through our breastfeeding struggles, through spoon-feeding her colostrum and then milk as our latch issues took time to correct themselves.
“I would hold her hand as she slept in the bassinet beside my bed, often waking in a panic or checking her breathing.”
I bought the best breathing monitors I could find. One clipped to her diaper, the other on her tiny foot. I thought everyone did those things.
It wasn’t until we started being around other moms in playdates and noticing how much I cried every day that I thought it might be beyond the normal scope of motherhood worries. I had intrusive thoughts, and still do, of horrific things happening to her or me.
I also started to not feel like myself anymore. I just cried a lot, but couldn’t necessarily understand why. I chalked it up to the amount of change that was happening in my life at the time. I went from an independent, carefree world traveler to being at home on the couch with one breast out trying not to drop food on my baby’s head while I tried to inhale it before she woke up again.
It strained my relationship as I tried to also balance being a good partner for him. I put SO MUCH pressure on myself.
It’s like there’s this societal image of perfection that no one ACTUALLY lives up to, yet we always are trying to meet that mark.
I felt guilty wanting to have my own life, but I knew I couldn’t because I couldn’t trust anyone to care for my daughter as I would. Even her own father, who I knew is and was an amazing one.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to be away from her out of fear that she would die if not under MY care.”
The thought of that was crippling and made me break down in tears every time. Still does.
Someone told me in my family that “postpartum depression is just a mother looking for attention” and so I felt ashamed for how I felt. I kept quiet.
I spent a lot of time trying to find comfort in a good bottle of sauvignon blanc. I wanted to be numb. A different family member came to visit me and after a particularly difficult day for me, I sat in my bed and cried to her and laid it all out.
I was overwhelmed. I had anxiety I didn’t ever know I had. And I was depressed. I didn’t know what those things looked or felt like by definition, so I didn’t even know I had them.
And I felt so guilty for all of it. I was a capable mother with a great man and a happy healthy beautiful daughter… And yet, I had postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
I was terrified to be put on medication for them, and so I kept quiet because I didn’t want someone to take my baby away if I was on meds or asked for help. Although sometimes it is definitely necessary and I believe everyone must do what is right for HER, I felt it wasn’t for me to turn to medication at that point.
That family member suggested I exercise and work on my health and myself.
Being terrified to leave my daughter meant that I had to do that with her right there with me. I began home workout programs.
That 30 minutes of ME TIME I took every day, helped me feel more like myself. I felt GOOD. I may have had to stop and pause and nurse her or sush her cries… But I did it anyway. Not just because I wanted to, but because deep down I knew I NEEDED to.
Physically I started transforming. So much so that I lost 45 lbs in a few months and was in far better shape than I was even before having a baby.
But the mental transformation has been far greater than I could have imagined. Sure, I still have my days and triggers. I squeeze my daughter tighter after every tragic child related story. I fear the worst in public places frequently.
But I feel stronger now than I’ve ever been. I have confidence that I hadn’t felt. I can still be that amazing mother that I wanted to be, but I understand that taking care of ME is also just as important as taking care of her. If I’m OK, she will be OK. And I have come to realize that perfection doesn’t exist anywhere, so I can stop putting that pressure on myself.
My daughter sees me, flaws and all, and loves me anyway. She saved me from myself, and for that, I am so grateful. She led me to be in the place I am now, a constant journey to being my best self.
Now I also help other women have that same outlet that helped me. I became so in love with health and fitness that I became a certified fitness instructor, with specialty certifications in pre and postnatal fitness.
I help set women up with the same online health and fitness programs that changed my life. I even run an accountability group that supports each other and checks on each other when we don’t show up in our online group.
It’s an amazing community to be a part of. I hope other women who have been in, or are in, the situation I was in reach out.
“You matter too, mama.”
You’re just as important as your sweet babies. If you need an ear or a shoulder from someone who’s been there, I am here. I will hear you out. Your voice matters.
It’s ok to talk about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. You are and will be a great mom, even if you need help.
As mothers, we are a part of a special group of women who don’t always know why we are OK sharing baby poop pictures or aren’t phased by spit up and scraped knees.
We are a collective group of women from all walks of life, all over the world, who can understand and appreciate what it is to be a mother. So always remember, we are in this together, mama. ❤️
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