If you’re reading this, you probably read my previous post about my struggle with postpartum anxiety, but if you missed it, you can read it here.
So with this second post, I decided to speak from a personal place (as with all my posts) because it’s all I can actually speak to. However, I’m acutely aware that what worked as preventative measures for me could very well be different than what works for others, and what worked for others wouldn’t have necessarily worked for me. But the bottom line is that we do SOMETHING about postpartum issues. Talking about it (or blogging) is a start. So, with that, here’s what happened next and the things I did differently with my second baby.
When I found out I was pregnant a second time, I decided I was going to take preventative, proactive measures as much as I could to pave a better way for myself and my baby. I talked to other mothers and what they found helped them, I took to Google to see what I could find out, and learned a bit more about Postpartum Anxiety. Since I love lists so much, I’ll list what I did and why.
- I acknowledged things that were anxiety triggers and eliminated the issues that I could eliminate. For example, I decided to do another c-section the second time around because I knew what I was in for. I could schedule the birth so I wouldn’t have anxiety about when he was going to come or if my water would break in public, or if I would have difficulty doing a VBAC. It gave me peace to know what was going to happen since I had lived through it before. (My second little dude ended up being 11 pounds so I would have ended up getting a c-section anyways, so it was the right decision for me. Yes, I said 11. Yes, the last month of pregnancy was less than spectacular carrying him around haha!) Also, I asked for dilaudid instead of morphine after the c-section since morphine caused me to throw up for 6 hours and interfered with my bonding time with my first born. I hired someone to come clean my house the first few months since this was a big anxiety trigger and man, that was worth every penny. It not only relieved stress on my part, but my husband’s as well. My mom came to stay with us for 2 weeks to help with the baby and allow me to sleep as much as I could (she did this the first time too but it was still a huge help and stress reliever to have her there the second time too). Another great idea is to prep freezer meals that you can easily toss in the crock pot or oven so you don’t have to worry about figuring out dinner or in my case picking up food every night. My church also has an e-care team that provided meals for us every other day for 2 weeks. SUCH a HUGE blessing.
- I encapsulated my placenta. Haha! Aren’t you glad I didn’t start off with that one? So, I have to be honest here, I remember sending my sisters a screenshot of an article of a woman who ate her placenta, and I was HORRIFIED. Literally, I died. I’m like, “What is WRONG with people??” Well, as I did my research, I found that your placenta is full of nutrients and hormones (obviously, since it was what fed and protected your baby). By dehydrating it, grinding it up, putting it in capsules, and taking them every day like vitamins, you’re replacing those nutrients and hormones that your body lost after birth. It helps you bounce back faster and helps PREVENT postpartum issues. I still wasn’t convinced but I talked to my friend Brandee who had done it, and she suggested a doula nearby that does the encapsulation for you. I never once had to see my placenta, and was just handed a bag of pills that I just convinced myself were vitamins. How did that work you ask? We asked my doctor to keep my placenta, he put it in a bucket over ice in the operating room and handed it to my husband, my husband put it in the fridge at home, the doula came to my house that day and did the dehydrating that day, and grinding the next day, then gave me my ziplock bag of pills which you can keep in your freezer indefinitely. I’d do it again in a heartbeat hands down. Hands down! I felt like a new woman right away, and you can tell an immediate difference after taking them. They aren’t miracle pills, but man oh man I know I’d be a different person today if I hadn’t done it. I still have them and take them every so often if I’m feeling a bit off, but I’m seven months postpartum right now, and I can safely say that I’ve felt amazing since 7 days postpartum.
- I breastfed my second baby. We formula fed my first baby for a slew of reasons which was definitely the right choice for us at the time, but after reading up on breastfeeding, I decided to breastfeed my second baby. There are MANY benefits to breastfeeding but what caught my attention was reading that the brain releases fewer stress hormones, your brain releases oxytocin which lowers your anxiety and helps with attachment, your brain releases dopamine which I REALLY could have used the first time around, and naturally it facilitates bonding with your baby (which was an issue and an anxiety trigger the first time). We decided to give breastfeeding a try. Now with that being said, my baby was 11 pounds and really loved to eat (4-6 ounces to be exact) but I naturally didn’t produce that much (1-2 ounces to be exact), which meant we had to supplement. (Yes, I’m aware this is controversial. I was told the reason I wasn’t producing enough was because I didn’t have baby at the breast enough. Guys, he was eating 6 ounces a feeding or more. I would have been breastfeeding 24 hours a day to keep up.) I told myself right off the bat that I wasn’t going to make this an anxiety thing. The baby was going to get fed one way or another, I’ll do my best, and I’ll breastfeed as much as I can, but I REFUSE to allow this to steal my joy and I REFUSE to let others dictate how I perceived I was doing as a mother. Haha! Guys, I had felt like I had been to Hell and back after my first, and to say I was determined to have peace about every aspect the second time around was an understatement. (Also, I highly recommend speaking with a board-certified lactation consultant if you have any issues breastfeeding). But I look back with fondness on my time breastfeeding my baby and just overall feelings of complete PEACE. I felt bonded with my baby right away. I definitely felt the benefits and I was able to breastfeed for several months (instead of a solid week like I assumed was how long I’d last). And I know the baby has reaped the benefits. This kid never gets sick. Seriously, he’s as healthy as a horse. And that is a win in my book.
- I cleaned up my diet. When I was breastfeeding, I was eating cookies like nobody’s business and I was losing weight, but when I stopped breastfeeding, I gained 10 lbs in 2 weeks. Plus, my body felt like it had been run over by a Mack truck after both pregnancies, my sciatica was not going away, and my pretty bikini bod was long gone (maybe it was the cookies?) which was a trigger of my anxiety. So, I stopped eating sugar, gluten, and most dairy (I wrote a previous post on this as well about healthy living if you want to know more about it). I noticed that after about 3 days of eating healthier, my mood began to stabilize even more, I was proud of myself for sticking to it, my weight started to drop and my sciatica was no longer a problem. It’s like my body was getting the nutrients it needed to run like a well-oiled machine, finally. To this day, I still eat this way and plan to continue because I feel so great.
- I started to exercise again. Your brain releases endorphins when you exercise which is another way to combat anxiety. I’d like to say that I got on the exercise train right away after I had my baby this year, but alas, it took me a few months to work up the courage. I started with eating healthier first before diving into exercise, mainly because I didn’t want to vomit cookies when I decided to do a jumping jack. My sister and I started with doing two days of boot camp class a week, we eventually worked our way up to three days a week, and just this week (4 months later) I upped to 5 days a week (I did this so I can get to a better weight for my frame). The first few times I had to sit out of certain exercises, my body went into shock, I was SO sore and I had to visit the chiropractor a few times because my body was just so out of whack. But it started to get easier, and easier to finish the reps, or do all the exercises. I feel stronger and I feel my muscles getting stronger, peeking out from under my jiggles. I’ve got a ways to go but I’m proud I’ve made strides to better myself, which helps eliminate my anxiety with my body image. Starting off slow really helped me not to get overwhelmed and quit right away.
- We have a babysitter come once a month for date night. It’s important to connect with your spouse without the littles demanding all your attention. This one has been nice just to get out and feel like an adult, even though our conversations tend to always circle back to how cute the kids are or funny things they did or said.
- I allow my husband to watch the kids if I need a nap, need to chill and take a bath, or go get my nails done. By “allow”, I mean I don’t feel guilty. I need time to recharge some days. I think a lot of moms feel guilty about this, but we shouldn’t. We’re still recovering from childbirth even after a year or two, and if we need time to chill, then by all means, let’s do it.
- I take iron, magnesium, and my prenatal pills. I tend to be borderline anemic and I can tell when my iron is low because my brain gets foggy and I’m SUPER tired all the time. My nurse practitioner told me about Easy Iron pills which are non-constipating iron pills (you can find them on amazon or most grocery stores). I pop a few of those a week and that helps me feel way more energized. I also take magnesium to help with muscle pain (since I’m working out more now) and sleeping, and most doctors suggest taking your prenatal pills until they are gone even after you’ve had your baby. This just helps replenish nutrients you may have so generously given to your little babe.
- And lastly, I try acknowledging my triggers and when my thoughts become irrational, and I pray over them. When I get anxiety about something, I feel uncomfortable, so the easy thing for me is to seek comfort by doing things that take my mind off it or I go eat a snack, but that’s not a healthy way to deal with it. When I realize what I’m doing, I try to sit down and talk it out with God. Here recently, it was something as small as not knowing how to design a t-shirt idea. I was getting anxious and walked around the house, then realized, “What am I doing? I’m just wasting time.” So I sat down to pray over it and there He was just waiting for me to ask Him for help. How simple was that? What a relief it is to just be able to lay it at the cross, and feel complete peace replace those feelings of anxiety.
I hope you all found this helpful and are able to glean bits and pieces for your own personal use. Let me know if there are any things you’ve found that helped you! I’d love to hear from you guys!
Hey Whit, I know it was a while ago now, but I read your blog on going through Postpartum Anxiety with your first. You are definitely not alone. After reading both I realized you and I have a lot in common. My first was tough, although delivery was different, I went home and couldn’t leave. I had dreams that I left home in my car with the baby, was in a horrible accident, the baby and car seat were ejected and the emergency personnel never found my son because I was in a coma. I was fearful in literally every situation – Target runs made my heart race and I would become beat red and almost dizzy. I thought he would be taken or maybe he’d somehow slip out of his carrier and get hurt. I only attempted one trip out on my own. I, like you, am extremely stubborn. I didn’t want anyone knowing I was having a hard time and I could beat it on my own, I didn’t need help (or so I thought). I ended up talking to my midwife who got me in contact with a woman who had gone through this a year prior. My midwife knew I wanted to avoid medication so she told me we would try everything before prescribing anything. Long story short, with my second I prepared. I was ready and tried to avoid triggers or at least prepare for them. The encapsulation was what I wanted to do, but the only person in our area that did it was no longer offering her services and that made me nervous. But aside from all of that my preparation this time around made a big difference. I’m still a bit anxious about going out alone, but I always have a plan in place and that seems to help the anxiety a bit. Thank you for sharing your story! It’s nice to know you’re not the only one.
Great post Whitney. I know your honesty is going to help so many of your customers.