Getting through Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety isn’t as well known as postpartum depression. I actually didn’t know about it until I was pregnant. According to Postpartum Support International, “approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety.”

In this post, I’m getting a little more vulnerable as I tell you my journey through postpartum anxiety. This is not medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. I’m hoping by sharing my story that you can find someone to identify with if you think you may have postpartum anxiety and that you can find courage to seek help.

Realizing I Had Anxiety

In early 2019, I started therapy. I attributed my anxiety in large part to my job in a high-stress industry where I felt like I had to drop what I was doing and always be available at a moment’s call. I had been trying to find a new gig for a while but job hunting wasn’t going in my favor. I felt defeated and stuck, but I needed help learning to deal with my situation.

Right away, my therapist could tell how much anxiety consumed me. I would worry about potentially getting a call from work, my mother going on a trip or a doctor check-up. I’d constantly think about the future and plan out conversations in my head before they happened.

It was pleasing to have a third party listen to me and it seemed my therapist could easily point me in the right direction. Soon after starting therapy, I got a new job and the stress lessened but did not disappear.

When I got pregnant later that year, the anxiety dialed back up. I took seven pregnancy tests before my initial appointment. I was constantly worried I would lose my daughter, even into the third trimester, despite having a healthy pregnancy. My therapist warned me that I could experience postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety after birth.

Anxiety after Giving Birth

You know that beautiful moment moms talk about when their baby is first put on their chest? My beautiful moment came when I heard my daughter’s loud cries as she took her first breaths of air. I looked over at her being weighed and measured by the nurse, her daddy awestruck at this sweet little screaming girl and my eyes filled with tears. She was finally here. I could hold her in my arms. Her cries weren’t a bother.

Although her cries weren’t anxiety inducing, in the weeks that followed, worry set in. I became worried if she was eating enough, getting enough tummy time, taking long-enough naps. Did she have thrush, reflux, lactose sensitivity (we had a bit of feeding trouble for a bit)? Was I doing enough as a mom?

Having an Anxiety Attack

As my maternity leave came to a close, the anxiety increased. Cora, who was eight-weeks-old at the time, would be going to day care. It was one my husband and I had previously vetted and loved, but now, my mind only thought of it as a place filled with germs. I was TERRIFIED of her first sickness and knew it would come soon. In the days leading up to her first day, I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up and stare at the clock for an hour or two of intrusive thoughts.

Eventually, though, the day arrived. I took her to day care, feeling weird about passing my child over to a stranger and expecting them to know what to do with her. She had all these quirks I wanted to explain. This day is hard for lots of mamas.

I felt empty and sick when I got back home and prepared for work. My knees were weak, legs shaky and standing seemed impossible. My gut churned with nausea and worry. My vision blurred. My heart raced. My mind flooded with news stories of the “double-barrel flu season” and RSV that was “three times higher” that year.

How would I get my child, just two-months-old, through this? Could I call on my family who lived 4.5 hours away for help? Was I being dramatic? What if I didn’t notice signs of trouble quickly enough?

Mind you, the sickness had not even happened yet (though her first cold did come in about a week). This was an anxiety attack. Luckily, I knew what was happening after hearing of loved ones feeling similar and sudden senses of dread.

At some point, I was able to take myself through the motions of getting ready for work and faked a smile the rest of the day. Other work mamas understood the pain and that was comforting. I called the day care three times that day to check in on her.

In the months that followed, I watched the day care’s app like a hawk to check when they fed her, how much she ate (She drank two ounces less. Is she feeling ill?), how long she slept (Was it too short or too long of a nap?) and how many dirty diapers she had and I charted it all in a notebook that I kept since she was born. She was about 5-months-old before I decided to let go of the notebook.

Starting Medication for Anxiety

Like I mentioned before, I knew I had anxiety before pregnancy but had started to feel like I was gaining control of it. However, with the flood of hormones after birth, the anxiety was too intense to handle any longer. I felt crazy with worry.

Eventually, I took the plunge and asked for help. I was prescribed a low dose of a non-addictive antidepressant that also helped with anxiety and was safe for breastfeeding. (Very important to work with a doctor to find the right medication and dosage.) It took a couple of weeks to kick in.

During that couple of weeks, the fight or flight response battled it out in my body. Anxiety would want to make my heart race, but my head would tell me, “Nah, we don’t have to worry about that.” It was a strange sensation, but I was happy to see the medicine was starting to work.

To be honest, I was scared to be on medication because I was ashamed. Even though I preached to people who felt anxiety or depression that there was absolutely nothing wrong with getting medicine to help with mental issues, in my mind, I thought I would catch myself before I got to that point.

After being on medication for a year now, I am glad I did it. It’s not something I will be on forever, but it helped me realize I don’t have to worry so much and am capable of making the space around me calmer. I see now how important it was for me to get help to reach this point.

There have been setbacks. It’s not like I will never feel anxiety again, but the anxiety I feel every now and then is much more controllable. I know life goes on just fine when I don’t worry so much and all the things I worry about don’t necessarily come to fruition.

Continuing My Journey of Self Care

In 2021, I am continuing my journey of self care. 2020 was spent clearing the clutter from my home and from my mind (can’t be the only one who did this, right?). This year, I’ve mapped out goals through a vision board, plan to take on new hobbies and plan to return to some hobbies that helped me release pent up energy in the past. Some activities that brought relief for me in the past include fitness, reading, yoga and spending time in nature.

You Are Not Alone

Mamas, if you are feeling postpartum anxiety, I empathize with you. I hope sharing my story shows that you are not alone in how you feel, you are not crazy for how you feel, and you are nothing less when you ask for help. By seeking help – whether that is by reaching out to your community of friends and family, by talking to a therapist, by starting medication, by reading a self-help book, by releasing your stress in a hobby – you are showing your strength.

You are showing those close to you how important it is to love yourself and not let your life rot in worry. You are becoming the best version of yourself, which is only accomplished by first taking care of yourself.

A poet whose work I’ve recently fallen in love with. Her writing perfectly captures parenthood and the emotions that stir with it.

Below are some resources on postpartum anxiety and a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to moms if you want to build your community of support.

Resources

Postpartum Support International

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Facebook Groups

Jess Hover & Friends

Mom Check 7

If you have any other resources you think would be helpful, please leave them in the comments below. ❤ Thanks for listening.

Creating a Couple’s Vision Board

I am walking into 2021 with a focus. 2020 was a huge balancing act for us all and most of us are leaving it likely feeling worn out and spread thin. Personally, it’s been a year where all I can honestly look back and say is, “I tried.”

That being said, I have a few themes for myself for the new year: wellness, intention and connection. As a gentle and inspirational reminder of these themes, I spent time with my husband creating a couple’s vision board so we could look over everything we wanted to accomplish in 2021.

How a Couple’s Vision Board Works and Vision Board Benefits

A vision board is a collage of pictures, quotes and affirmations that resonate with you and that are used to motivate and inspire you to hit your personal goals. After 2020, I feel like we could all use some of this positive energy.

Working on this project together with my husband allowed us to reflect on our lives as they are separately, together and as a family and to talk about goals we have for each area of our lives. Hearing each other’s goals got us on the same page and allowed us to think of opportunities we can give each other to pursue our goals – giving him a break on the weekends to play guitar, writing out workout plans together, etc.

I will admit, he did think the project was going to be corny but he enjoyed doing it in the end. 🙂 It was a fun and crafty New Year’s Eve project.

For this vision board, we used a seven-spoke wellness wheel. The seven-spoke wheel focused on areas of life we wanted to truly work on: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental and financial. There are also eight-spoke wellness wheels and six-spoke wellness wheels if you are interested in those instead.

Vision Board Reflection Questions

Here are a few reflection questions that got us started on choosing topics for our vision board.

  • What brings happiness and peace to your life?
  • Which areas of your life need more attention?
  • What accomplishments would you like to achieve by the end of the year?
  • Which actions will move your life forward in a healthier direction?

Vision Board Materials

Your vision board materials will depend on where you want your vision board to exist. Is your vision board your desktop background or phone background? Is it a poster in your room or a collage on your refrigerator?

If you want your vision board to be digital, I would suggest using Canva (which you can use for free), choosing a phone background, desktop background or poster template and having fun searching for free stock photos, picking different elements, placing text wherever you want it to go and uploading your own photos to add to the mix.

We decided to go with the old-school method of cutting out photos and pasting them on thick paper. We decided to hang our vision board on our refrigerator where we would both see it each day.

The materials we used were:

  • Inspirational photos and/or quotes found online, in magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Printer paper if you are printing photos
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick

We spent our New Year’s Eve cutting out photos and pasting together our vision board collage on our sunroom floor while we watched Netflix.

Vision Board Photo Examples

You want to be sure your images and quotes embody your goals and inspire you or trigger a response when you see them. If you are looking for vision board photos online, I’ve created a Pinterest board where I placed some examples that personally resonated with me.

I also created some graphics on Canva that you can feel free to use!

Hello, 2021!

As we close the book on 2020, I want to highlight the parts of the year I was grateful for that I would not have experienced otherwise. I got to be an eye-witness to most all of my daughter’s firsts during year one of her life – smiling, rolling over, army crawling, big girl crawling, words, walking. I’m thankful for the extra time I was able to spend with her and my husband. That was truly the best part of the year.

To those reading this, I hope 2021 shines brighter for you. I hope you get the break you deserve, the love and connection you crave, and hit the achievements you wish to accomplish. Maybe spend your first couple of hours of the new year making a vision board with us and you’ll know at the end of 2021 that you envisioned what you wanted, you went for it, you fought for it and you made it.

Children’s Books with Positive Messages about Diversity, Emotions and Purpose

Children’s books are a wonderful way to introduce young minds to positive messages you want them to carry through their lives.

I haven’t met a baby who didn’t love books, especially my little girl. When Cora began to crawl, she would go over to our bookcase and pull all of her books off of her shelf multiple times a day. Though it created a mess, I smiled seeing her look through each book, pointing and jabbering as she flipped the pages.

Baby reading her books
With at least four former librarians in her family, Cora gets her love of books honestly.

We have books of all kinds on her shelf, but we definitely wanted a selection of stories focused on positive messages, like diversity, emotions, culture, kindness and how to be a friend.

Here’s a collection of some of our favorite children’s books. These are not just for babies – these books have messages that will resonate with young children as well.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened is a favorite children’s book of mine. It focuses on a little boy and the emotions he feels when his block castle comes tumbling down. Through the rabbit’s character, we learn that sometimes being a good friend doesn’t mean solving your friend’s problem – it means listening to them and letting them feel all of their emotions.

The Rabbit Listened is an endearing story. I think it’s great for toddlers, who often have big emotions they don’t yet understand. Feeling and learning these emotions is part of growing up.

Think Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Think Big, Little One shows inspirational women of different backgrounds who influenced culture, science, technology and more. With messages like, “Discover New Things,” “Color Outside the Lines,” and “Shine a Light on Your Culture,” this book encourages young readers to be brave, bold and true to themselves. Vashti Harrison has several books on Amazon and we are excited to pick up more in the future.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

The Big Umbrella is a sweet, welcoming story. The big umbrella grows and grows to have room for all kinds of characters and creatures of every shape and size – it doesn’t discriminate. There’s always room for one more under the big umbrella.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough is a great story for showing our connection to all things. It finds similarities in its characters and the nature around them – the moon, the trees, the wind – but it also celebrates the beauty of differences – from talents, to cultures, to opinions.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Be Kind is a book that shows how a small act of kindness and practicing empathy can have a major impact on the world. It reminds me of something my mother told me when I was having a hard time, “To have a friend you must first be a friend.”

You Matter by Christian Robinson

You Matter shows how everything in the universe that is or was, no matter how big or how small, has a purpose. From the ants to the sun, from people near and people far, everything around us is connected and has meaning.

Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz

This sweet book follows children around the world as they celebrate International Peace Day. It shows little readers diverse people, places and cultures through its illustrations and introduces them to other languages as they learn how to say “peace” around the world (this definitely appeals to my husband Seth, the linguist in the family). It also has a beautiful message of how the people all around the world want the same things – to learn, to explore, to feel safe, to share time with loved ones and to have peace.

If you pick up any of these books for your kid, I hope you enjoy them as much as we have! What are some children’s books in your collection that you love? Maybe some with messages that resonate with you?

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My First Year with Baby Must-Haves

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

I remember feeling fairly confident going into motherhood though I was told soon before my daughter’s birth that nothing can truly prepare you for the challenges of parenthood – you just have to experience it. While the parenting book I read did give me some idea of what I was doing, this was accurate – I mostly learned as I went. It was stressful at times during the first year, but along the way, I found a few items that my baby and I loved. Maybe they can help you and provide some comfort on your parenting journey!

  1. Baby Dove Tip to Toe Body Wash Sensitive Moisure and Baby Dove Face and Body Lotion Rich Moisture

When my daughter was a couple of months old, patches of eczema started showing up on her limbs and torso. After doing some research and reading tons of reviews, I decided to try these Dove products that I saw many moms raving about. I used Dove products when I was younger because of my sensitive skin, so I figured it might be more gentle on my baby. We use these a couple of times a week and my daughter’s eczema has decreased dramatically. I’ve since heard of several other eczema products that mamas swear by but these provided a quick fix for us!

2. Silicone Bibs

Starting solids is an exciting time, but it is also an extremely messy time. When Cora started finger foods, I would watch again and again as she practiced her pincer grasp, went to put a piece of food in her mouth and then dropped it before it got there. While we were using normal bibs when feeding her pureed foods, I bought a couple of silicone bibs to try because I liked the idea of having a little pouch to catch fallen food. It worked! Now when Cora has eaten all the food on her tray, those sticky fingers grab pieces of food that fell in her pouch (instead of falling on and staining her clothes). I also appreciate how easy these are to clean!

3. Silicone Fruit Teethers

The silicone fruit teethers aren’t a necessity, but they were a favorite in our household! I found as we were transitioning from pureed foods to finger foods, these helped her get more texture out of fruits that she couldn’t easily pick up and chew yet, but could smush around in one of these teethers! With these, she was still able to get some mango, peaches, etc. in her diet while getting used to eating foods with more texture.

4. Sleep and Plays

With how much Cora hated to change clothes and how wiggly she was from the get go (coupled with my fatigue), I really didn’t have much energy to put her in anything but sleep and plays for the first month or two. Zippered sleep and plays kept her warm, provided easy transitions when changing diapers or going into naps and came with cute designs!

5. Hatch Sound Machine

We LOVE our Hatch sound machine. It also acts as a night light and time-to-rise, but we only use it for the sounds and lights. I love how you can customize your favorite sound and light pairings to find something that soothes your little one best. We like to use the rain sounds at night and the waves for naps!

6. Portable White Noise Maker

If you want to visit a friend, go for a walk, or go on a car ride and you know your baby will need a nap somewhere in there, this portable white noise maker can help make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar place. When Cora was still sleeping in our room, we put the Hatch by her bassinet and used the portable white noise maker for naps in her crib.

7. Blackout Curtains

So many articles will tell you to make your baby’s room as dark as possible to limit any distractions that might keep them awake at night or during naptime. These work so well – better than the blackout curtains I bought from a department store for our room.

8. NoseFrida

This is not a glamorous topic, but at some point, your baby might catch a cold. The usual nasal aspirators were difficult for me to use. Even with as a gross of a concept as this is, the NoseFrida worked so well for us. Even the pharmacist said she loved it for her grandkids over the bulb syringe.

9. Stroller Fan

It stays hot in the South for a looonnngg time. This stroller fan brings relief on our trail walks and on car rides!

10. Halo Swaddle and Sleep Sack

A local pediatrian recommended the Halo Swaddle for us during our first visit. At almost a year old, Cora still uses Halo products but is now in the sleep sack. It’s like a wearable blanket. With the Halo swaddle, we liked that it was designed in a way that you didn’t have to buy another product when transitioning your baby to arms-free sleep.

11. The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies

This is a bonus item! The days are long but the months are short, and pretty soon, your baby burrito will be an always-wiggling, never-sitting-down, picking-up-every-crumb toddler who will want to explore everything. And you know what? It’s an exciting time as a parent. You’ll still be tired but you’ll be watching your toddler’s personality bloom as they experience so many firsts.

The Montessori Toddler taught me the benefits of letting my child lead. It reminded me that when we let a child try and try again, get messy and explore the world around them on their own terms (with the limit’s of their safety and the safety of others), instead of rushing them through the process, they can actually learn to be more independent. I believe that mindset can help strip away any perceived frustrations of parenting a toddler. I’m excited to try out the suggestions in this book as my little girl grows into toddlerhood.

Every mama has her own tried-and-true products that she loves. What were yours? If you are a mama-to-be (congratulations!), what is on your registry that you are excited to try?

1st Year With Baby: Things You Need to Know that Aren’t Talked About

My first year as a mom was full of learning experiences. I read baby books and thought I had a good grasp of what to expect, preparing my husband and I as best as I could. But, the old adage remains true: You won’t know until you experience it. Here are some things I learned THE HARD WAY. I’d like to save you the trouble.

Where Woman Wanders Founder Photo
  1. Every baby is different, but mine would often refuse to take the bottle for various reasons. As a new mom, it took me a long time to figure out why. Here is what I learned with feeding that will hopefully help you if your good eater suddenly refuses to feed.
    • When our daughter was 3-weeks-old, she suddenly stopped wanting to feed – from the bottle or from me. When bottlefeeding, I would see that she took an ounce and would immediately pull off, cry and arch her back. We were worried that it was reflux, but our pediatrician didn’t seem that concerned. After a couple of weeks of this, I finally called the nurse’s line and received helpful advice. We switched to a sensitive baby formula and I cut dairy out of my diet while breastfeeding because my baby was lactose sensitive.
    • When you become a parent, you will soon learn that these tiny humans have PREFERENCES. Keep all of the baby bottles you received from friends and family at your baby shower, because the standard baby bottle might not suit your baby. You might end up with a graveyard of bottles as you work to determine what your baby likes the most (at least I did), but it will be worth it. My daughter actually preferred these Nuk bottles until I stopped breastfeeding and she decided it was time for Dr. Brown’s bottles at 5 months.
    • If your baby all of the sudden stops finishing a full bottle after a couple of months or downs a few ounces and pulls off and on the bottle, you might need to choose a faster nipple flow. My daughter would usually transition to a higher flow about every 3 months. However, some babies are content with keeping a slow flow for many months.
    • Your baby will likely eat less when they are sick. To get the calories in them, offer smaller, more frequent feeds. If your baby has recently had a cold, seemed to recover and then gives you trouble with the bottle again, you might want your doctor to check for an ear infection. Helping a baby through an illness can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are a parent who fretted over your baby’s weight gain like I did. If you EVER feel concerned, call your doctor. You will not be a bother, you will not sound silly. They are there to help.
  2. As soon as you are home with your baby, get some noise going. Get your baby used to sleeping while you are drying clothes, washing dishes, or having a conversation in the background. This was golden advice from my mom. Our baby could sleep through sounds of lawnmowers, cats knocking glasses off shelves, tornado siren drills, construction in the neighborhood – you name it. While you’re at it, get a sound machine. We loved our Hatch, which acts as a sound machine, night light and time-to-rise.
  3. Something I’ll try with future babies down the road – sleep training from the time they are newborns. Sleep training from early on will be helpful during those oh-so-real sleep regressions.
  4. I received golden advice from a friend when it comes to diaper rashes. When your baby has a diaper rash, you’ll often be recommended to leave them diaperless as long as possible to get air on the rash and dry it out. That’s great advice, but where do you put your bottomless baby in the meantime? When your babe isn’t old enough to move around the house, buy puppy pads and stick your baby on it. It’s easier to clean up accidents as you give the rash time to dry and heal.
  5. I can’t stress this one enough. When help is offered, take the time for yourself. As a new mom, I tried to do as much as I possibly could during those first weeks when my mom and mother-in-law were here to help. They both said they could have helped more, but I was determined to do it all – already feeling the mom guilt if I took what I considered was too much time for myself. But, having an hour to myself in the morning to shower, have breakfast and get ready felt SO good. I also wish I would have taken more naps. You can never have enough naps.

These are just some lessons I learned in my first year as a mom. Every baby is different, but maybe this will spark an idea for you when you experience a rough patch. What is some advice you’ve recieved that you actually found helpful? Did you learn any lessons the hard way with your baby?