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Apr 27, 2015

Four Months Postpartum {My Battle with Postpartum Anxiety}

In just five short days Ezra will be four months old. When I say those words out loud it seems like a very short period of time, but living out these past four months has felt a lot longer. I've wanted to update about my own postpartum recovery for some time now, but I haven't felt like I was in a place to process things fully until now.

Looking back on my postpartum recoveries for all three of my babies, I can see some definite patterns, and in many ways it's very comforting to me because it normalizes things a bit. A little over six year ago after Silas' birth things were very confusing, and I was ridden with guilt about the way I felt and my inability to care for my baby the way I thought a "good mom" should care for her baby.

Now, three babies in, I am finally finding peace with my postpartum self and with the high needs babies that the Lord, in His sovereignty, has blessed me with.



Up until the day Ezra was born, the idealist inside of me was determined that this time my postpartum recovery would be different. I was ready to bounce back to normal life quickly and to drag Ezra along for the ride whether he liked it or not.

It's so funny how as soon as the baby arrives and hormone levels shift, everything changes...

 

I hadn't even heard of postpartum anxiety until speaking with a Christian counselor after Silas' birth. Postpartum depression I had heard of. Postpartum anxiety, not so much. The counselor confirmed that my symptoms looked very little like depression and a whole lot like anxiety. He assured me that it was postpartum related, and that things would soon get back to normal {and they eventually did}. He also encouraged a healthy diet of Biblical truth and a good support system, both of which have gotten me through three bouts of postpartum anxiety.

My battle with postpartum anxiety has varied with each baby, but the classic symptoms have reared their ugly heads all three times and have eaten up all of my well-laid plans before I even knew what hit me.

Increased heart rate

Shortness of breath

Muscle tension

Difficulty sleeping

Constantly imagining the worst -case scenarios (dropping the baby, etc.)

Unable to concentrate and focus 

 Forgetfulness

Dizziness

 Inability to complete simple, everyday tasks

No matter what I do to snap myself out of it, I can't. My body responds physically and emotionally to the hormonal and life changes in ways that are for the most part out of my control.

And although many would never know my struggles from looking at me from the outside, the postpartum period is truly a very difficult time for me.  The worst of it lasts for a good three months, but there are lingering effects well into the baby's first year.

I have often wondered whether the fact that all of my babies have been fussy and suffered from varying degrees of milk protein allergies has played a major part in my postpartum anxiety. I have also wondered if my idealistic  personality plays a role. My conclusion is that that my high needs babies have definitely contributed  to the way I feel, and maybe? my personality puts me at a higher risk for postpartum anxiety. But I really believe that my body responds in a certain way to the inward and outward changes that occur after giving birth, and there is really nothing I can do to change the symptoms of postpartum anxiety from creeping in.

Now as a Christian, I am left to wrestle with another issue-- is my postpartum anxiety displeasing to God? Am I in sin for feeling this way when the Bible is clear that we should not be anxious about anything?

I am fully convinced that my postpartum anxiety is a spiritual battle, as are all the trials of our lives {we wrestle not against flesh and blood}. And I am also convinced that my postpartum anxiety can indeed become sin if I let it control me instead of disciplining myself to place all of the negative thoughts and worries at the foot of the cross, submitting each one to God and looking to Him for strength in each moment.

Does that mean the negative thoughts and feelings of anxiety will miraculously cease to exist? No. But when I cease to take every thought captive and when I cease to pray in times of anxiety and when I try to face the trial in my own strength, I begin to take up residence in those dark and deadly places. And that's not where I was meant to live.


In a very practical sense, there are also several other things that have been critical to my postpartum recovery...

(1) receiving help when it is offered (examples: My mom offered to come once a week to watch the boys so that I could run errands. I said, "Yes." A sweet friend from church offered to clean my house a few times. I said, "Yes." My amazing husband offered to take the night shift a couple of times a week so that I could catch up on sleep. I said, "Yes.")

(2) being OK with "survival mode" for a while (examples: we eat out of the freezer section of the grocery store, clean laundry is thrown into a pile on the floor and may never get folded and put away, homeschooling is reduced to reading books together, etc.)

(3) limiting our outings to the ones that are absolutely necessary (church, doctor's appointments, etc.)

(4) limiting company in our home

(5) resting as much as possible

(6) reminding myself that this season is very short and trying my best to enjoy each moment instead of trying to control each moment

At this point the fog is mostly lifted, and I am beginning to feel more and more like myself again. I anticipate that I will still have struggles well into Ezra's first year, but I know that God is good and that His grace is sufficient. I see His sanctifying work in me through the trials of this life, and it brings great peace even in the midst of postpartum anxiety.

Have you suffered with postpartum anxiety? What are the things that get you through this trial?


 

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