My mental health has changed since having my daughter. I wouldn’t say it’s gotten any worse, but it also hasn’t gotten any better. It’s just, different.
I still suffer from anxiety and depression, as I did before, but they manifest in different ways now. My negative/anxious thoughts are about different things. It’s as if my mental illnesses have just shifted.
Anxiety is very common among mothers, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it to go anywhere. In fact, I was really expecting it to get worse.
Going through childbirth, followed by the overnight stay at the hospital, was a major, major exposure to things that cause me anxiety. As most people who know me, or read my blogs, will know, my main causes of anxiety have always been medical stuff. Going into a hospital, even when I wasn’t a patient used to cause me tremendous anxiety, and so would regular doctor visits. I had gotten a lot better with those before becoming pregnant, but being hospitalized and having “procedures” done were still terrifying thoughts for me.
My experiences while giving birth at the hospital, such as having an IV placed, getting an epidural, being in extreme pain, and getting stitches were very very difficult for me. However, they gave me the exposure therapy I needed to become significantly less anxious around these topics. It certainly isn’t completely gone, but I am a lot less anxious about these kinds of things now.
Unfortunately, like a lot of other moms, I now have a lot of anxiety around my baby. I constantly have thoughts about bad things happening to her. Things like, “what if she lunges out of my arms” while I’m walking down the stairs, or “what if she gets really sick and has to be hospitalized?” Now that she’s starting to work on standing up, I’m worried about her falling and hitting her head. I also sometimes think about the really really awful things like, “what if I lost her?” “What if someone takes her?” Although these are rarer thoughts, they cause me a lot of distress when they happen.
The fear of SIDS was very real for me during her first 6 months. Knowing the risk of that happening drops significantly at that age helped, but not entirely. I still look at the monitor from time to time to make sure she’s still breathing. I’ve also had a few heart-sinking moments when I’ve gone in for her 10:30 pm feeding and she’s extremely still and I have a few milliseconds there where I believe she had stopped breathing.
I’m sure most moms have similar thoughts and worries, and I am not alone. But these thoughts become very distressing and difficult to cope with or brush aside. But I am working on it daily.
I have dealt with depression for most of my life. It stems from being bullied in school, and feeling like no one likes me. I have always had a belief that no one would miss me if I was gone and that I don’t have anything to offer the world. Logically, I know I am loved, but it’s hard to believe when your brain is telling you otherwise. In the last 7 or 8 years, my depression has made me believe that my husband would be better off without me. Yes he loves me, but if I were gone, he would be fine and probably have an easier life not having to deal with me. I have felt worthless, useless and pathetic.
Since having my daughter, a lot of those beliefs have minimized significantly. Being the only one who was able to feed her, and the person she found the most comfort in made me feel so important and loved. Knowing that she truly needs me, and not having a voice in my head saying otherwise has been wonderful.
On the other hand, I have new thoughts and beliefs that contribute to my depression. The sleep deprivation during the newborn stage was certainly not helping, but beyond that, there have been a lot of feelings of guilt and sadness as I’ve been experiencing motherhood. I am constantly wondering if I am doing a good job. Cassidy is amazing, she is the cutest sweetest little girl ever (not biased at all!) She deserves the best, and sometimes I don’t feel like I live up to that. I sometimes feel like, even though she loves me so much, and I truly believe that, she deserves a better mommy. Especially on those days when I am really tired, or having a bad day and I’m not spending as much quality one on one time with her as I normally would.
I also sometimes get sad when I think about how fast she is growing. I know this is probably a common thought among parents. Sometimes when I see pictures and videos of people’s newborns, I really start to miss that stage, and wonder if I really “took it all in” enough and appreciated that stage enough.
Before having Cassidy, I had an inkling that I might have a little PTSD from a past job I had. But I only really felt the effects of that if I thought about that time in my life, and never felt it was necessary to speak to someone about it or do anything about it.
Now, I am starting to believe I may have PTSD from giving birth. This is something I know I need to deal with at some point, but it’s been easy for me to put it off with the current pandemic going on.
After giving birth, I remember being a little upset about a few things that happened while giving birth. But it’s been more in the last 4 or 5 months that it’s been starting to really bother me.
Since my period has returned, I’ve been experiencing heavier and crampier periods. The cramps feel very similar to labour contractions, just a lot less intense and crippling. But they feel enough like contractions that when I experience them now, it brings it all back. I almost have a flashback to that day, and suddenly I am feeling helpless, scared, and vulnerable all over again.
I was really unhappy with the nurse I had that came in after I had started pushing. My amazing nurse that I had throughout my labour had finished her shift before the baby was born. This new nurse was adding so much stress to me and was making me feel like I wasn’t doing a good enough job pushing her out. (It took 3 and a half hours of pushing) She kept making comments about how I shouldn’t have started pushing too soon, and that the baby needs to come out asap because of meconium. Her voice was drowning out the encouraging voices of my husband and doula, and when I look back, it’s her voice I remember the most. I really regret not advocating for myself better and either telling her off or asking for a different nurse.
A newer problem I am having now is hearing about, or seeing videos about labour and childbirth. A couple on YouTube who I’ve watched for years finally had their IVF rainbow baby last month. Watching their labour/birth vlogs was so hard for me. Before giving birth, I had watched a lot of birth videos for exposure therapy and had been totally fine. But watching these videos now, and watching her struggle with labour pain and things not going according to plan (her and I both ended up with epidurals we weren’t planning on) I felt like I was back there again. I kept having to stop the videos to take breathers from it, but I really wanted to watch it because I had been hoping for them to have their bio baby for a couple of years and I wanted to see these videos. There were times that, while watching, I would get suddenly light-headed and my right arm would go numb. I did eventually get through them though and I am so happy for this couple, who also named their daughter Cassidy.
I sometimes feel like I didn’t have a traumatic enough experience to warrant having PTSD and getting help. But I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I might still have a problem and I definitely need help.
I’ve always been an empathetic person. When a friend would cry, I would cry. I could feel for a character on a TV show, and I could definitely empathize with animals. I also wish more people on this planet would have more empathy towards other beings, regardless of how different they are. The world would be a much better place.
That being said. I believe that becoming a mom has put my empathy into hyper-drive. I feel more others in such a strong way that it can be hard to deal with it emotionally.
With everything going on in the world right now, a lot of empaths are really struggling. There is just so much sadness, unfairness and suffering, and it can be really hard to feel it all.
Before, when something bad would happen, I could feel for the person or creature affected and be mad/sad/upset about it. Now, it’s as if I mentally put myself in their shoes and experience it too. I experience the fear, the pain, the sadness, and it is so hard to deal with when there are so many different bad things happening.
I’ve been crying for strangers not being able to have their weddings, not being able to see their grandparents, having to go through labour/childbirth with all these new rules, and having your partner only able to be by your side for a part of it.
I am happy to be an empath. And as I said, more people need to have empathy, especially people in a position of power or privilege. But, this new level of empathy is going to be a big adjustment for me.
Being a mother has changed me in so many ways. Mostly for the better, and I am so so happy with this new life, despite the challenges. My daughter is worth all the struggles that motherhood may throw at me.