For most of my adult life I have struggled on-and-off with anxiety, but nothing prepared me for the emotional roller coaster that I would experience while going through infertility and IVF. The question “Will I ever be a mom?” was a mainstay in my mind for over a year until I got pregnant with my twins. Then, during my first trimester, my anxiety turned to fear that my pregnancy was too good to be true and that it was all going to be ripped away from me. I felt better once I hit the 12-week mark, but only until my first pre-term labor scare at 27 weeks. At that point, I was faced with the all-too-real worry of my babies being born early and having to spend months in the NICU. Can you sense a trend here? My entire journey to motherhood was fraught with anxiety and for good reason.
One of my many fears during pregnancy was that I would end up with postpartum depression. Fun fact: women who conceive via assisted reproductive technologies are more susceptible to PPD and so are moms of multiples, so right off the bat I checked off a bunch of the boxes that put me at an increased risk. As it turned out, while I was on the lookout for postpartum depression I got hit with postpartum anxiety instead.
No one tells you this, but when you’re home alone with two newborn babies that don’t do much more than eat, sleep, and poop, you’re in your own head a lot. You start asking yourself, “Am I doing this right?” When you’re a first time mom it’s only natural to question yourself, but when my twins were about 9 weeks old I started doubting my ability as a mom more than ever before. This time, though, it didn’t feel natural. In the span of one day I went from thinking, “Am I holding each one of them enough?” to “What if something happens to them on my watch?” My thoughts quickly turned obsessive, to the point where I was afraid to be alone with my own kids. It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my life, and I couldn’t even pinpoint why.
Thankfully, I recognized something was very wrong and got help right away thanks to my kids’ pediatrician, who pointed me in the right direction when it seemed like no one else was willing to, and my therapist, who assured me that postpartum anxiety (not just depression) is in fact real and common. After a few weeks of therapy and medication, the fog lifted and I finally felt like myself again.
New moms, I don’t tell this story to scare you, but rather to bring awareness to something that so many of us experience and yet so few talk openly about. Often times as a new mom, especially after a long battle with infertility, you feel like you have to be happy all of the time, but that’s not always reality and there’s no need to suffer in silence. Seek help if you need it, and be the hero your children need. You will thank yourself for it later.