5 Simple Ways to Help Make Postpartum Stress Better
I’ll never forget the day my husband asked me if I wanted to kill myself. Our baby was five months old and I was suffering from postpartum stress. My husband was gearing up for deployment and was gone frequently. I felt like I was drowning as I adjusted to my new life as a stay-at-home mom, something I never envisioned myself doing because I always saw myself as career-oriented. We lived in a new place far from my family. And, I had found a lump in my breast and was waiting to be examined. We were driving home from grocery shopping, and I had a panic attack in the car—something that I had never experienced. I felt like I was going crazy while trying to pretend that everything was under control. When my husband asked me such a serious question, I could no longer deny that I needed to take action and care for myself by seeking help. That day, I hit a low but I had been spiraling downward for months.
A NEW MOM THAT’S MORE THAN JUST TIRED
When our daughter was two months old, I attended a routine postpartum appointment and I could not stop bawling. At times, I could not even speak through the tears. It was not a normal response to the appointment and the midwife responded by advising me to “take some sleeping aids and leave baby with your husband—you’re just tired.” As a breastfeeding mother experiencing a lot of anxiety, I never considered taking that advice. I felt like something was off, but surely I was imagining it and needed to suck it up if this midwife thought I was just tired. So, I tried to push aside my emotions, rest, and smile through it. But, I felt ashamed of myself—that I was failing at motherhood. I felt that I was dragging my family down and that they would be better off if I just left.
After my reality check from my husband, I immediately called my primary care provider to schedule an appointment. My husband took time off of work to attend the appointment with me. The corpsman I met with initially, a young man fresh out of medical school and brand new to the Navy, listened to me as I explained how overwhelmed, anxious, and terrified I was all of the time. I explained that while I was open to medication for treatment, I was scared I would be medicated and forgotten instead of receiving help with the underlying issues. I was dubious as this man sat in front of me and listened to me talk about things that even my midwife didn’t take seriously. But he validated my feelings and reassured me. I then met with a nurse who ordered some blood work to be sure that my body was functioning properly. She had been briefed on the conversation between the corpsman and I, and after speaking with me, she felt we could forgo medication and try out other methods first.
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO HELP MAKE POSTPARTUM STRESS BETTER
· Guided meditation before bed
· Breathing technique to use when overwhelmed: inhale deeply for three seconds, hold the breath for three seconds, exhale for three seconds, and complete the sequence three times.
· Go out in nature
She recommended journaling, guided meditation before bed, and yoga. She also taught me the simple breathing technique above to use whenever I began to feel overwhelmed. I still use this breathing technique frequently. It helps in any stressful moment.
I left the appointment feeling hopeful and immediately began to implement the things that had been recommended. I find nature to be very calming, so I transformed our patio into a peaceful escape with plants so I could conveniently get my nature fix right at home. I began gratitude journaling and using the app Down Dog to complete a few minutes of yoga each day. I found guided meditations on YouTube and completed it before bed while lying on my back with my legs up the wall. These actions felt like a lot of work at first and they were not an immediate cure-all, but I saw huge improvements over time.
WHEN SELF-CARE IS MORE THAN A BUBBLE BATH AND A NAP
I am grateful for my husband asking the hard questions and for the medical professionals who heard me and worked with me to find a positive resolution. Two years later, I feel amazing as I prepare to welcome my second baby any day now. This time around, I know that if I am not feeling like myself, it is critical for me to visit my doctor right away so that I can care for myself and receive the support I need before things escalate to such a dark place. As a mother, I cannot care for my family if I am not caring for myself. And sometimes, that care looks like meeting with medical professionals, being open to medication, yoga, meditation, etc. instead of a bubble bath and a nap, although those are quite relaxing.
Jenni Lawhorn is a proud Navy spouse and mother to a two-year-old and a newborn. She enjoys soaking up the sun on the beach with her family, tending to her succulent garden, and reading when she isn't busy chasing her toddler. Originally from Montana, she calls Southern California home for now—until the Navy sends her family on the next adventure.