My postpartum anxiety kicked into high gear about two months after I had Luna when I noticed a lump beneath my knee that triggered immediate and paralyzing panic.
I’ll never forget the moment I saw it.
I was sitting on a lounge chair on our rooftop deck holding Luna. Anthony was shuffling through the playlist he made for Luna when she was born. Lots of Neil Diamond and The Birds – totally vintage.
It was a beautiful summer day, the sky was blue, and the sun felt incredible. Luna was so teeny and we were so happy. Like stupid happy. I wanted to capture the moment right then and there, so I placed her on the chair in front of me while my legs acted as safety on each side.
Having gotten the baby perfectly placed, I lifted my arms, iPhone in hand, and snapped what I was sure would be my newest, favorite photo of my sweet baby girl.
But as I looked at the photo, I didn’t see Luna. I saw a lump. And it was big. I examined my leg to make certain I wasn’t imagining it and then mentally, all hell broke loose. What I saw was indeed a larger-than-a-golf ball-sized lump looking right back at me.
It took my breath away. From that moment on I spiraled. I instantly felt sick to my stomach while my brain boarded a one-way ticket to Catastrophe City.
For lack of better words, it freaked me the fuck out.
My sister, Nicole, was meant to stop by which felt like perfect timing. I had already panicked to Anthony, who validated the giant lump but told me not to worry.
NOT TO WORRY?!
I just had a baby and now I “have cancer”. How was I not supposed to worry?!
After all, I’d been worrying for weeks and the lump just added fuel to the fire.
You see, I had been suffering from spooky thoughts and anxiety regarding my and Luna’s (sometimes even Anthony’s) health for a while by then.
I had read about postpartum depression, but I wasn’t feeling blue or down in the dumps. I chalked it up to my hormones being out of whack and was certain my body was just going through the motions of the post-baby hormonal shifts.
A part of me figured this was a universal part of the postpartum experience.
During the first few weeks of Luna’s life, I worried about: falling down and squishing her to death, Anthony dropping her in the middle of the night, her little baby breast buds being pediatric breast cancer, her clogged tear duct being a symptom of Covid, becoming preeclamptic even though I was in the clear, and thinking myself into me having Covid and masking up while breastfeeding even though I was showing absolutely zero signs of being sick and tested negative.
I know. These sound laughable. But imagine that type of worrying running through your brain over and over and over again.
It’s brutal. It’s exhausting. It’s sad.
And then, of course, there were the scary postpartum thoughts you only hear whispers of. The thoughts that moms are too ashamed to admit having because they don’t want anyone to think they’re crazy. Or harmful. Or unwell.
For a period of time when I was supposed to be in new mommy bliss, I was pretty worried about myself. In fact, I was worried about my worries.
As Charlie Brown once said, my anxieties were having anxieties.
I called my doula and asked if she could come by to talk with me. Having a doula was and always will be one of the best decisions I ever made.
While we sat, I told Jen of the constant worries that were running through my brain. Ironically, I chose to leave out the part where I was having scary thoughts because I, too, felt ashamed.
Regardless, I had given her enough information for her to assume that what I was suffering from was postpartum anxiety.
Unlike its cousin, postpartum depression, which most new moms are screened for at six weeks postpartum, postpartum anxiety is not screened for or nearly talked about as much.
In fact, when I told my GP that I was suffering from anxiety, her flippant response was, welcome to motherhood.
That was not helpful. At all.
Especially since it is now reported that one in five new moms experience postpartum anxiety.
Having sought therapy years ago for a different bout of anxiety, I knew it was time to go back so that’s what I did.
I’ve been working on my inner dialogue, how to better approach health scares that creep up, and everyday ways to stay present and mindful.
MINDFUL. Mindful of the good stuff, not all the lies my mind wants me to believe.
Therapy has helped me to confront my mental health wholeheartedly and honestly. Over the past couple of months, my anxiety has subsided and I am much better equipt to handle it when it does arise.
I am no longer living in a place of worrying.
Being a new mom is the most fucked up, beautiful, life-altering, emotionally charged experience I have ever had in my entire life.
How they don’t send every new mom home with their baby AND a therapy appointment is beyond my comprehension.
I’m choosing to share this part of my own experience because so many women suffer in silence. Our healthcare system must come up with a better way to screen and talk to new mothers about all aspects of mental health.
New moms need just as much medical attention and care as they had when they were pregnant. Sadly, it just all goes away once the baby is born.
YOU as the reader, you can help change some of that for new moms in your life. Check on them. Asking them how they’re doing might be exactly what they need to talk about some inner struggle they may be having.
PS. It turns out the lump is a lipoma, a non-cancerous fatty tumor. Apparently, I’m a bit prone to them as I have one on my arm as well.
Oh, and I’m also in the process of finding a new GP.
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