Overcoming Postpartum Anxiety

November 6, 2023, Pollywog Staff

Natalia looking down at newborn IsaiahGiving birth and welcoming a new life into the world is an experience like no other. Of course, babies bring deep happiness and value to our lives, but their arrival can also bring changes that are more difficult to cope with. Like many women, I experienced what was later diagnosed as postpartum anxiety. The happiest time of my life was quickly darkened by a thick veil of worry and feelings of isolation, which made it very difficult to enjoy my baby or feel confident in my role as a mother. Thankfully, through the help of others and the passing of time, I have navigated my way out of the clenches of postpartum anxiety, and I am feeling much better. My goal with this blog is to share my experience and some tips that helped me on my path to overcoming postpartum anxiety.

Quickly after my son Isaiah was born, I realized that I was having difficulty adjusting to being a mom. I was crippled with an overwhelming fear that Isaiah would not bond with me if anyone but me took care of him. I was not able to accept any help from anyone, which left me doing everything throughout the day and night, leading to sleep deprivation and isolation. I also was quick to panic in situations in which I lacked control, such as Isaiah’s struggle with breastfeeding. I was so worried he was not getting enough nourishment, but I refused to bottle feed him because I was afraid that it would affect his ability to nurse and my milk supply. As a result, I would lay in bed awake at night, stuck in a cycle of stress. I felt like no one could grasp all that I was experiencing, and it made me question whether it was because I was weak or crazy. It also made me feel as though no one cared or was grateful for all I was doing to care for Isaiah. Why was I the only one who cared if Isaiah ate or slept? Who else was going to ensure it happened? Who else is responsible for producing life-nourishing milk? So, on and so forth…

I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing my experience of postpartum anxiety. Thankfully, that’s not the end of my story. Through a combination of steps forward, I slowly made my way out of the depths of anxiety. Everyone’s journey will look different, but here are some things that helped me. I hope one of these ideas will help you.

Trust in time

Smiling Natalia holding Isaiah in a carrier looking at the cameraMy first tip is to do your very best to be patient and trust that time will pass, and with it comes growth and change. In the heat of the moment, many situations and emotions can feel like the end of the world. As a sleep-deprived mom living off of 2 hours of sleep, it was very easy to feel like I was never going to sleep a full 8 hours again. That being said, I do trust that time remedies postpartum anxiety. With time, your baby grows and changes, and so do you. Time also allows for hormones to settle and for you to grow into the role and new identity as a mother, and with that, a new sense of confidence. It’s hard to trust in a tough moment that things will improve with time, but in my experience, they did.

Seek professional help

After a couple of months of living with extreme anxiety, I could not deny any longer that I needed to seek some professional help. My midwives referred me to Gathered and Wise, a perinatal counseling center in Stayton, Oregon. I was hesitant at first because I had some past negative experiences with counseling. It also felt like a time-consuming burden that I would be adding to my ‘mom list of endless to-dos”. Out of desperation, I decided to give it a chance, and I am so grateful that I did! Gathered and Wise allowed me to make Telehealth appointments from the convenience of home, and they intentionally paired me with a counselor who they thought would be a good fit for me. I connected quickly with my counselor, and I was assured that I was receiving care from someone with experience working with postpartum moms. Counseling has helped me find my worth and confidence, and it has given me many tools to help me cope with stress and anxiety. The most therapeutic part has been being able to unload all of the worries pent up in my brain and heart into the ears of a person trained on how to listen and respond.

Practice self-care

Natalia and Isaiah smiling at each other on a shore line.It can be challenging to do what you know is “good for you” when you’re feeling overwhelmed or down, but I have found that making time for self-care habits has been replenishing. As a new mom, I could go all day without stopping to take a breath, let alone stopping to use the restroom, drink water, or make sure I’ve eaten. I was living like this for a few months postpartum, and unsurprisingly, it led me to feel burnt out and depleted. An important first step for growing in self-care was admitting that I was worthy of caring for myself and that I needed to keep serving and loving my family. After I accepted the need for it, I tried to add one moment of self-care at a time into my day. Self-care can look like exercising, getting outside, maintaining basic hygiene, taking vitamins and supplements, catching up with friends, and spending time in reflection or prayer. Whatever fills your cup and allows you to keep going. I still struggle with this, but doing my best to grow in this practice has made a big difference.

Find community

Natalia and Isaiah playing with another mom and babyMy last tip is to immerse yourself in the community. One of the most challenging parts of being a new mom was feeling isolated, in my experience. I thought I was alone in my visible and invisible struggles. Thankfully, I had a group of friends who had babies at the same time as me. We started meeting monthly when Isaiah was three months old, and our gatherings flooded me with relief and a renewed sense of belonging. It felt so good to connect with women living through similar experiences. I encourage you to also connect with other parents. You can also venture into the community if you don’t know anyone personally. My son and I attend the Library and participate in Parent-Child Live and Learn Classes through Linn Benton Community College. We have felt very welcomed at both places, and the social interaction has benefited us both.

Children playing togetherI have found that the combination of time, professional help, self-care, and community has played a big role in helping me overcome my postpartum anxiety. My anxiety is not completely gone, and I doubt I will ever be rid of it entirely. That being said, I am happy to say that anxiety is not something that runs my life anymore. I hope that at least one of these tips speaks to you and that you can find some relief if you’re struggling with postpartum anxiety. Please be patient with yourself. You’re a great parent, and your children are blessed to have you!


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