Postpartum Anxiety

Let me tell you a little something about anxiety, for those who may not understand.  We all have it.  It’s the feeling before a job interview, on a first date, or while you’re running your feverish child into the emergency room.  Anxiety is natural and I believe it happens to everyone.PostPArtum Anxiety

The difference is that some people suffer from anxiety when it’s not necessary.  Some stress over what others would consider to be no big deal.

This can especially happen after the birth of a baby.  This is twofold.  On one hand, you have a new baby and all the world is so dangerous.  You may have sped across town, blaring music with your hair flying out the window.  Now, you’re looking 3-4 times before you cross a railroad crossing.  Now, you’re turning down your music for delicate eardrums.  You’re checking their skin for redness, finding cradle cap, altered hair patterns, birth marks, your senses detect every peep, every fart, every turn.

You don’t sleep as much because you are ready to pounce out of bed at the first sign of anything….anything at all.

But then, there’s the anxiety that isn’t as grounded.  The creeping suspicion that your child is sick, with no symptoms.  You need to watch them while they sleep, just in case.  You, perhaps, don’t let other people take them, watch them, feed them, change a diaper.  You may not do any of these things, but you’re just stressed. ALL. THE. TIME.

This may be you, it may be your partner.  It’s real.  This is not something to “get over”.  This is nothing to write off as paranoia.  This is different.

Pay attention.

Here are 5 things you can do, to help a person who is suffering from anxiety, or an anxiety attack

     1.  Validate This is, by far, the most important thing that a person with anxiety can hear.It’s not up to you to fix the problem, but to validate their feelings.“I understand, this is a really hard thing you’re dealing with”.“Your baby is obviously sending you signals and it’s amazing that you’re working so hard to pick them up”. “Being a new mom is really hard, you’re doing a great job keeping everything together

     2.  Reassure This looks like number 1, but it’s not as focused on the actual topic of panic.This is a general reassurance that everything is safe.
“It’s ok to feel this way”
“We have all had feelings like this”
“you are more normal than you think”
“You are safe with me”
“You can let this out”
“Let’s talk more about that, I want to hear it

     3.  Physically Comfort Offer a hug, hand holding, or just a glass of water.  This may be not touching, but getting your loved one to a comfy chair, or turning the lights down.  Provide safe space for this person.  If holding the baby or getting help to remove the baby to another safe space is necessary, provide that.  This is a doula-esque role.  Allow this person to do what they need to do, and not have to think about anything outside of themselves.

     4.  Support the Turn Around When it’s time to stop, when the reality of “life is ok” comes back, allow that person to come back without drawing attention to the drastic nature of their panic.“Wow, you really were freaking out” is not something that will help to build back the foundation of this person, your partner, your friend.Instead, just be silent until you really get a feel for what this person needs.  Attune to them.
Are they laughing?
Are they embarrassed?
What can you say to help them rebound in a gradual way?

     5.  Know When it’s Time to Call for Backup I am not a doctor or a psychologist.  There are incidences of postpartum depression and anxiety that require medical attention.Know when it’s too much for you.  Call a mother, a spouse, a sibling.  If necessary, call for medical help.  This person’s anger or backlash will be nothing compared to your conscience if something were to happen.

Anxiety can be debilitating.It can keep new mothers in their homes, crying by themselves during naptime.It can keep new parents from being functional, or taking a break.It is difficult.

The lesson here is that you MUST meet the anxious person where THEY are, not where you think they should be.

Keep that in mind, and you’ve just become an ally. –postpartum doulas

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