Christmas is less than two weeks away but if you’ve procrastinated getting the new mommy in your life a gift and you’re not sure what to get, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a bunch of things I think all new mothers would enjoy getting! (And they’re all on Amazon, so 2 day shipping!)
I know, this seems like a weird gift. My hair gets super oily after I have a baby (and falls out in clumps, yay!) This shampoo helps so much with the greasiness in those awkward early months. I promise, she will thank you.
Does the thought of putting even more toys in your house make you sick? Me too. I decided Santa would be a little more practical this year. Here’s some cute gifts for kids that are actually somewhat practical. Ok, maybe unicorn headphones don’t seem super practical, but they WILL use them and they’re not just another little trinket that will sink to the bottom of the toy bin and never be seen again. Click on the photos to follow the links!
One year ago today, I began to feel anxious. It was early morning on Thanksgiving. I was just starting to prepare the turkey, cutting open the wrapper when some cold icy/water/turkey juice flew into my eye. I immediately panicked. I took my contact out and flushed my eye with water. It felt sore (mainly from the gallon of water I had just threw into it) but I decided that wasn’t enough so I hopped in the shower. As I stood there, letting the water hit my eyeball for a good ten minutes I started to think. What if I go blind? What if I get an infection? What if I’m not ok?
WHAT IF I’M NOT OK?
This was the root of my fear. I know it seems stupid to be so worried over something so small. I mean, I knew my eye would be fine (trust me, I Googled it.) But this little scare stands out in my mind as a the start of a very big problem.
I don’t usually worry excessively over little things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely been stressed. But I’m usually pretty rational so freaking out over a speck of turkey juice in my eye was out of character. I knew logically that I had rinsed my eye well and most likely if you could go blind from one drop hitting your eyeball a lot of people would go blind on Thanksgiving every year. But that didn’t stop my worrying. I was having a physical reaction as well. My heart was racing along with my mind. I felt dizzy and I couldn’t put a finger on this weird feeling I was having. I had a sense of impending doom even though I was at home with my family and everyone was happy and safe.
Only a couple weeks later I would have this feeling again, but much more intense. I was having a panic attack. Andy was working and I was home alone with the kids. After the worst of it had subsided I put the boys down for a nap and turned on a show for the girls and headed out to the yard to rake leaves. I needed the fresh air and the distraction from my anxious thoughts. Nothing bad had even happened that day to trigger this. Why was this happening?
I continued to have these panic attacks over the next few weeks. I chalked it up to having too much coffee and not getting enough sleep (both were definitely not helping). I stopped drinking caffeine altogether, hoping it would cure me. It helped at first, but then they came back with a vengeance. I started hyperventilating a lot. I was on edge all the time. I cried at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t sleep at night and when I did I had terrifying nightmares that woke me up in a sweat. I felt nauseated a lot and lost my appetite and 25 pounds in a couple of months.
WHAT IF I’M NOT OK?
This question lingered in my head constantly. What if I can’t take care of my babies? What if something happens to me when I’m alone with them? What if I need to be hospitalized? What if I’m dying? The thought of leaving my children for days, weeks, or months was terrifying. It’s hard to say if the physical symptoms were causing these worries or the other way around. Either way, I couldn’t stop the loop by myself.
Getting help is scary when you’re a mom. I’m responsible for other people’s lives so if I admit that something is wrong with me, what does that mean for them? Am I not doing my job well enough? What if there’s something extremely wrong with me and they take me away from my kids? What if they just think there’s something wrong and they take me away from my kids? What if I have to be hospitalized and I can’t see them for months? How will I breastfeed my baby? What if I miss out on his first year of life because I’m not able to take care of him? How will I ever forgive myself? Why is this happening to me? What am I doing wrong?
Eventually it became so unbearable that not getting help wasn’t an option any more. I didn’t want to be alone with the kids. I was terrified that I would have a panic attack and faint and they would be alone. I decided I needed to get help for them. They deserved a mother who was healthy. (Eventually I decided I needed to be healthy for ME too.) I found a therapist who specializes in postpartum issues and eventually started medication.
It wasn’t an easy recovery. I battled my own thoughts every day, which was so unlike me. I usually trust my gut. Now, I second guessed everything. I felt like my brain had turned on me. I learned in therapy that I was having intrusive thoughts, which are thoughts that pop into your head and won’t stop even though you don’t want to have them. Everyone has them, but usually they’re so fleeting that most people don’t really take them seriously and just brush them off. It can be a thought like, what would happen if I hit that car? You don’t want to hit the car. It’s like your brain’s way of alerting you to the danger of hitting another car and making sure you don’t do it. Sometimes the thought has no meaning whatsoever.
New parents are particularly susceptible to having intrusive thoughts. What if the baby stops breathing? What if I drop him by accident? Sometimes intrusive thoughts can come in the form of visualizations which can be incredibly terrifying to experience as mother with a new baby.
I had to learn how to distract myself from upsetting thoughts. Before I started medication, I had them every second of the day. I’m not exaggerating. It was pure hell. It’s like the danger detector in my brain was turned on and couldn’t shut off. I prayed and begged God to stop it. I cried endlessly. I was so confused why this was happening now, after my 4th baby, whom I loved so much and had felt so confident raising. I was prepared for this. I loved being a mom. So why did this happen?
Postpartum depression can feel like a mystery. I used to wonder how mothers knew they had it. Did you feel sad all the time? Sleep a lot? When it happened to me there was no question something was wrong. My body was telling me that I needed help. When my medication finally started to kick in, after about a month (but felt like eternity) I felt relief for the first time in months. The intrusive thoughts went from every second to every couple of minutes. Then they were only every 20 minutes. I was able to sleep better. I got better at distracting myself with games of scrabble on my phone or talking to someone about the weather or a funny story. I understood that I could be competent and symptomatic at the same time. (One of my favorite quotes.) I could have scary thoughts but say to myself, “This is your anxiety. This is not reality. You and the kids are not in danger. You will be ok.”
I WILL BE OK.
This became my mantra. I slowly pieced my life back together. I continued to avoid caffeine. I exercised almost every day. I went to therapy once a week. I read stories from women online who had gone through similar experiences and came out ok. I asked for a lot of help from my family and friends. (The kids and I practically lived at my mom’s house or my mother in law’s house for about two months straight.) I stopped having panic attacks. My heart didn’t race all the time. I started laughing again. I was able to sit still and nurse my baby without feeling restless. I was able to enjoy the little things again.
I am so thankful for my life. I am so thankful that I am in a different place this Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for all the people who listened to me helped me and didn’t call me crazy when I told them how I felt. I am so thankful for therapists who understand postpartum mental health. I am so thankful for medication that can help me feel like myself again. I am not at the beginning of a nightmare. I’ve woken up. I still feel anxiety sometimes but it’s much more manageable now. I love spending time with my children and I appreciate it now more than ever. I’m no longer afraid to be alone with them. I feel like the strong, capable mother I was before only I’m not afraid to ask for help. I know triggers for my anxiety and I avoid them. I wouldn’t stay I’m totally healed but I am in a much better place than I was a year ago. I’m thankful for my mental health and my ability to be with my children and watch them grow.
I was already on the verge of tears as I listened to the phone ring. I had finally called my doctor to make an appointment. I wanted to get blood work done to rule out anything I could. I was still slightly in denial that I had postpartum depression/anxiety. Surely I had something physically wrong with me and that’s why I was feeing so terrible. Hearing I had hyperthyroidism or low blood cell count would have made my suffering acceptable. A diagnosis of mental illness is one of the last things I wanted to hear.
A diagnosis of mental illness is one of the last things I wanted to hear.
A secretary picked up and asked what I needed to be seen for. “I think I have postpartum depression.” My voice cracked. She immediately replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. How old is your baby? Is it your first?” No, I thought. It’s my fourth. I should be a pro. I should be strong enough to handle all of this. After all, I chose to have so many kids. I wanted this. This is all my fault. That’s not what I said, but it’s what I thought as I started sobbing. (By the way, I hardly ever cry so this was very out of character for me.)
“It’s ok,” she said. “I had it too. It was many years ago. My kids are grown adults now but I still remember how hard it was. We didn’t really talk about it then the way we do now. I didn’t get any help from a doctor or a therapist and it was the hardest experience of my life.”
These words were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I still tear up thinking about it, a year later. Her compassion for me as I sat there crying on the phone was so unexpected. She said, “Don’t feel bad about crying. It’s so so hard. But it’s so treatable and you will feel better. We have a lot of mothers come in that need medication and they typically get very good results.”
“Treatable” was such a scary word. I didn’t want “treatment” because that meant there was something wrong with me. Thinking about taking medication was even scarier. But hearing this from someone who not only worked in the medical field and heard people’s medical problems every day, but experienced it herself and sounded so “normal” was such a powerful experience. It gave me so much hope that I would return back to normal and feel like myself again.
I didn’t want “treatment” because that meant there was something wrong with me.
This isn’t the only instance where another woman told me her story about postpartum depression or anxiety. In fact, way more women than I had ever imagined have told me stories of their struggles, many of them older women who’s children are grown adults. I can only imagine how difficult it was for them to go through it without the knowledge and awareness of postpartum mental health that we have today.
As I sobbed while on the phone with that woman, feeling sad and defeated and scared, I also felt sorry for her. I imagined feeling the way I felt for so long without proper treatment and it sounded like hell. It’s why I finally got the courage to call and get help in the first place. I could no longer bear the weight of this crippling mental illness. (Read more about my experience here.)
We can still do better. Postpartum depression is talked about a lot but not enough. It comes up in the medical world, like when you take your baby to the pediatrician and fill out a short survey about their development. There’s a short quiz on the end about how you are feeling. “Are you feeling more sad than usual?” Yes. “Have you been crying more frequently than usual?” Yes, multiple times a day, every day, for weeks. “Are you sleeping or not sleeping more than usual?” Yes, I wake up every hour of every night even when the baby is sleeping. I had taken the quiz after having each of my babies but never really gave it any extra thought until now.
Postpartum depression is written about in parenting magazines and websites, with available hotline numbers at the bottom. It’s awareness, but it’s cold. There’s rarely much emotion behind the story and it sounds so matter of fact. “If you are not feeling like yourself after the first few weeks, make an appointment with your practitioner for help.” Ok, great. Thanks WebMD!
I often thought, “What can my doctor do about it? Don’t I need to see a therapist or psychiatrist or something? How do I even know if I’m calling the right person? Maybe they’ll laugh at me for thinking they can help me. Or they’ll think I’m a terrible mother because I’ve had four kids and don’t know how to cope. Maybe I should just deal with it on my own.” This was the running story in my head.
Mothers are often met with conflicting advice and opinions. The most well-meaning person can say something like, “I’m sure once the baby is sleeping more you’ll feel normal again” or “Maybe your hormones are just out of whack.” I know I’ve made similar comments to myself and others. And then there’s comments from people that just don’t get it at all. “Well, she chose to have so many kids. Of course she feels overwhelmed” or “She shouldn’t have had children so young.” I’ve heard people say hurtful comments like this about other women and have often wondered how many people have said it about me.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what people say. Postpartum depression is a real mental illness that occurs way more often than we think. It can affect anyone and it’s not an indication of how good of a mother you are or aren’t. You can get it after having one baby. You can get it after having your sixth. It doesn’t occur because you are weak, or not good enough, or not strong enough. Just like after getting a diagnosis for strep throat, or a broken bone, you need treatment to get better. You can’t will yourself to mend a broken arm and you can’t will yourself to not be depressed.
You can’t will yourself to mend a broken arm and you can’t will yourself to not be depressed.
Other than acknowledging this in the medical world, we need to hear stories. We need to hear the woman on the other end of the phone say “I know how you feel. It happened to me too.” We need to hear stories of women who had postpartum depression and made it out ok. Most stories the general public hears are tragic ones on the news and they are not a good representation of this illness. They are on the news because the story is uncommon and therefore shocking. In reality, many women have suffered from postpartum depression and never uttered a word to anyone because they were too scared or didn’t have access to treatment options.
So this is why I share my story. Not to scare new mothers or get attention. If anything, I would prefer that everyone think I am a perfect mother and I always know what to do. (Of course that’s not even possible!) I share my story so that maybe another mother will be reading this, thinking “I am not alone. I need to get help.”
You are not alone. You should get help. You will feel better. You are a good mom. Let’s talk about it.
Violet has always loved unicorns, fairies, and magic. I decided to make her birthday party a little more grown-up this year (she is turning 5 after all!) Unfortunately I was a little rushed getting the supplies at the last minute or else I would have just ordered them online (which is SO much easier!) Here are some links to similar products so you can re-make this table top decor!
Violet’s birthday is right before Halloween and the girls LOVE to dress up but she also doesn’t usually want a “Halloween-themed” birthday party. This was a good compromise. The girls wore some costumes they already had. I took a piece of the faux ivy and made Violet a little crown with some of the real flowers!
Apparently when you become a mother you also become the perfect target for unwanted comments or advice. I’ve always gotten comments here and there about how young I look for my age. But once I became a mother, it seemed like any stranger on the street could make really rude and sometimes just weird comments to me. Here are the top 5 comments I do NOT want to hear anymore and I’m sure most mothers with little ones would be happy to never hear again.
When are you due?
Oh man, this one is great. This is the one I get the most often and it’s harder to ignore than I’d like to admit. Yes, my stomach is stretched from having four babies, one somewhat recently. I’ve always been prone to carrying extra weight in my stomach, even before I had kids, and now it’s ten times worse. I don’t feel very good about it. You know, like how you probably have that part of you that you don’t like so much? It’s not fun having a closet full of clothes that don’t fit right. I’m working on it but I’m also kind of busy. So please keep your thoughts to yourself and unless I literally say the words “I’m pregnant” to you, do not assume that I am. (By the way, even if I was pregnant again, why is that your business?) When did it become the norm for women to have perfectly flat stomachs unless they’re pregnant?
Looks like you’ve got your hands full.
I get this one when I’m at the store with the kids, usually from someone who’s watching cluelessly from afar as I try to hold a door open and push my double stroller through it at the same time. I don’t know if you’re trying to point out how much space my family is taking up or how I frazzled I look but neither is helpful.
Are you done having kids?
I know, four kids is basically the same as twenty kids these days. We may as well be the Duggars, right? Just because I’ve had more than the average 1.5 children that most people in the U.S have doesn’t just give you the right to ask me personal questions. Unless I know you well, I don’t feel like discussing details about my family plans.
You look so tired.
Mothers of young children are usually exhausted. Most aren’t getting a full night’s sleep and haven’t gotten one in quite some time. (I don’t think I’ve slept through the night for at least three years. I wish I was kidding.) On top of that, children are relentless and have what can seem like unlimited energy. We know how tired we look because we know how tired we feel. Please keep this one to yourself.
Enjoy every minute!
It’s said with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t make it a nice thing to hear. “I wish my kids were little again. Enjoy it now because it goes by so fast.” I don’t doubt that I will miss this time of my life, with my kids being young. And I do really really love my family and I love watching my children grow.
That being said, taking care of young children is incredibly draining and pretty much impossible to enjoy every minute of. Motherhood can be so physically exhausting, like when you have to carry your screaming, thrashing two year old across a store in one arm while pushing your heavy cart with the other because they keep jumping out and you don’t want them to get hurt or when you are breastfeeding your newborn every thirty minutes and you just want to go to sleep.
Motherhood can also be emotionally difficult, like when you’re trying to reason with a four year old about why they can’t bring their entire stuffed animal collection to pre-school and you’re already running late. Telling us to enjoy every minute of motherhood makes us feel bad when we don’t. And we don’t need any more mom guilt. We just need more support. Speaking of support…
Here’s a few things you SHOULD say to mothers with young children that they might actually like to hear:
Do you need a hand with that?
Hold a door open, pick up a shoe that fell off my baby’s foot, grab a shopping cart, whatever. Instead of commenting on my situation, help me if you see that I am struggling.
I love your haircut! (Or shirt, dress, glasses, whatever!)
Mothers are still humans. It’s nice to get a compliment once in a while or feel noticed for something other than how many kids we have or how pregnant we are (or aren’t!)
You’re doing a great job.
Maybe the mom who’s toddler is having a tantrum in the middle of Costco needs to hear this most of all. Instead of judging a mother if her child is acting up or getting annoyed at her children for being in the way, put yourself in her shoes. I’m sure you would feel embarrassed and frustrated too. Side note: If you don’t have any children and you’re thinking something like, “Just discipline your child. How hard could it be?” Hard. The answer is very hard, almost near impossible at times when they are worked up and just need food/a nap/to cry/a cuddle/etc.
Nothing at all.
You might have heard the phrase from your own mother “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Take it a step further. Even if you don’t think what you want to say to a mother is offensive, it might be to them. We don’t like being told how we look, if we look too old or too young to be a mother, if we have too many or not enough kids, or if our kids are misbehaving (we already know if they are.) And please people stop asking if we’re pregnant because there’s a pretty good chance we’re not and then you’ll just feel stupid.
I’m sure any parent can relate. You start to feel your throat itch. Your head is starting to throb and you feel like you could fall asleep at 6 pm. You think to yourself, “Oh no. Am I getting sick?” A parent’s nightmare. Why? Because it’s so freaking hard to take care of others when you feel bad yourself.
In my last post, I talked about ways you can relieve some of your postpartum anxiety. Although the journey has been difficult, I found ways that are very effective in helping me feel like my “normal” self. That being said, when I get sick…it can throw me off a little. (I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist so this is purely based on my own experiences.)
The new fall season is upon us and back to school brings home more germs. My family has already been through a few illnesses this school year (and it’s just the beginning of October!) I am currently battling what seems to be my second cold in a row and have been feeling my anxiety creep up on me a little. Why? Here’s all the reasons my anxiety increases when I’m sick:
Feeling unwell Without fully understanding the medical reason, I have found that when I am feeling under the weather, my mental state is also not the best. My anxiety might increase a little, sometimes due to the illness itself, like if my throat hurts then I worry I might have strep throat, which makes me worry about having to take care of the kids and the house while I’m sick. Or just the logistics of getting the treatment I need can be stress-inducing. Like trying to figure out who can watch the kids when I go to the doctor or how I’m going to rest. (You know what they say, mothers can’t sick. And it’s kind of true!)
Can’t exercise Exercise has been a huge factor in my recovery from anxiety. It boosts my endorphins and gives me more energy. It helps me feel confident and calm. When I can’t work out, this all declines. It is a gradual decline, but when you have 4 kids and you keep getting illness after illness and don’t work out for weeks, it can feel pretty severe.
Can’t rest Rest is essential for our mental health. And this is one I’m trying to get better at. Really. I’ve never been good at resting. I haven’t watched a full hour of television in months. When I finally have time to myself at night, when the kids go to sleep, I usually do some chores for an hour before going to bed. When I’m sick, I am no different. Also, even when I want to rest it’s very hard to do so unless Andy’s not working (he works late hours) or I have someone else that can watch the kids for me. This, along with the fact that sick people need even more rest than non-sick people makes a recipe for anxiety disaster. Without enough sleep I quickly fall back into my anxious ways.
Everyone’s unhappy Typically if I’m sick, it means my kids are sick, or they just were sick, or they’re about to be sick. You can’t really get away from the germs when you’re living in a house with 6 people. So when I’m feeling my worst physically, my kids are also cranky, tired and usually going stir crazy because they’re missing school or it’s too cold to go outside. This definitely aggravates my anxiety. I have to remember that they are feeling bad too and I have to be patient. Easier said than done.
Relying on bad habits This past week I decided to drink a little more caffeine than usual and sometimes later in the day just to get me through (I’m talking little, like maybe half a cup of iced coffee with milk, but still.) I’ve also been eating pretty badly because I don’t have a lot of energy left for cooking so I rely on packaged snacks, fast food, you name it. I take short cuts when I’m feeling sick, as many people do, but I feel the consequences very quickly. Caffeine just makes me more anxious and eating badly can make me feel sicker than I already feel.
My greatest fear Last but not least, getting sick reminds me of a deep fear I have of not being able to take care of my children. I don’t mean I’m scared of getting a break (I daydream about having a whole day of alone time) but a deeper, ongoing anxiety about not being a fit mother.
This began when my anxiety was at its worst about a year ago. My anxiety made me literally tremble. I couldn’t eat or sleep. Sleep deprivation made my mind foggy. I had little motivation to even take care of my basic needs, like showering, but I did it anyway because I wanted to look ok on the outside. This then led me to think things like, “What if I just keep getting worse? What if I get so bad I have to go to a hospital? What if I’m taken away from my kids? What if I never feel normal again?”
What I didn’t know at the time was that anxiety can make people feel crazy sometimes but I wasn’t actually crazy. I was still doing a really good job as a mother and a wife but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I felt sick all the time. So now when I get sick with a cold or fever, I have flash backs to my anxiety-ridden self and fear the worst.
Luckily I am in a better place than I was a year ago, and my anxiety is manageable even when I’m sick. But it takes a lot of mindfulness for me to be nice to myself. I have to allow myself feel run down rather than beating myself up for not getting enough done, not doing enough with the kids, not cooking enough, etc. Just being mindful of the fact that my anxiety gets a little bit worse when I’m sick is helpful because I know that once I get better I will most likely feel better mentally too.
Do you find that your mental health feels the affects when you get sick? What do you do to cope with it?
One year ago, recovery from anxiety seemed impossible. Anxiety had taken over every aspect of my life. I was scared, exhausted, angry, and completely overwhelmed. I felt physically sick. I had no appetite. My mind raced with fears and scary thoughts all day. I had a general sense that something bad was about to happen all. the. time. Every night I prayed I would wake up feeling better, only to wake up multiple times a night, feeling like I had been punched in the gut and my heart racing. I just wanted to get out of my head, even for a few minutes, to feel relief.
The funny thing is, my anxiety didn’t really revolve around the new baby I had just given birth to five months prior. Honestly, I felt like a baby pro. I knew what to expect at the hospital, I had breastfeeding down pat, I had my baby swing set up and all of the clothes washed. I was so excited to meet our little boy and really had no fear about adding another baby to the family. It also helped that Teddy was a relatively easy-going baby and slept a good amount on his own.
On the outside, I looked pretty normal. (See top photo, where I was in the thick of my postpartum anxiety and looked like a normal tired mom to the outside world.) I was still showering (when I could) and combing my hair, tried to dress somewhat presentably (without too much spit up and food on my shirt) and I continued all my regular activities. After talking to my therapist I learned that it is really common for mothers with PPD/A to look completely normal on the outside. It is so ingrained in us to hold it together in order to take care of everyone else and part of that is keeping up our appearance so that other people think we are ok. Even though that can be so far from the truth.
If you had asked me what I was worried about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Logically I knew everything was going ok. Sure, our house was chaotic but we were all healthy and happy for the most part. It was more of a feeling that something was wrong or was about to go wrong. I couldn’t sit still because it made me want to jump out of my skin. The only time I felt somewhat more relaxed was when I would lay down and breastfeed Teddy and even then I had to distract myself to not feel really scared.
I knew I needed to get help but when it came down to it, I didn’t want it to be a thing.
I knew I needed to get help but when it came down to it, I didn’t want it to be a thing. In my mind, I was way too busy with my four kids to deal with a real issue. My oldest was starting kindergarten that year, we were moving back into a renovated house (there was a lot of cleaning and unpacking to do) shortly after Teddy was born, and then of course there was the daily chaos with four kids, only aggravated by my husband’s unpredictable work schedule and long hours. I was so busy taking care of everyone else, I didn’t even want to take the time to get better.
Eventually it all caught up with me and I had to do something about it. I felt like I could no longer function normally every day and I needed help. My anxiety had gotten so bad that I started having panic attacks every time I left the house. But I knew that I had to do something in order to take care of my children. I started getting help not for myself, but for them.
I started getting help not for myself, but for them.
Fast forward to today and I actually feel like myself again. I still have moments here and there of feeling anxious but nothing even close to how it was before I got help. I can function totally normally now. I ake care of the kids, run errands, and do whatever needs to get done for the family. So you may be wondering, what happened? What did you do to recover?
I am not a professional. If you are experiencing symptoms of PPD or PPA and you have not gotten professional help, please do so. I promise you it will be so worth it, even if it is really scary at first.
Here are all the ways I attempted to get over my PPD/A, including ways that worked and some ways that did not. I hope that some of it may help other women who are looking for answers. It is not an easy process and usually not a quick one, but I promise you, you will feel like yourself again. You can live without anxiety running your life and be the mother you want to be. You will enjoy life again and have more energy to take care of yourself and your family.
My very first attempt to stop my anxious feelings was to start a bed time routine. I have always been a night owl, which was great when I was singing in bands that gigged until 2 am but not so great when I became a mom and had to start waking up at 7 am every day. I knew I needed to change my habits at night so that I felt more relaxed and hopefully more sleepy at a reasonable hour.
I bought this aroma diffuser and tried out a few different scents to use in my bedroom near my bed. (Lavender is my favorite.) Sometimes just the distraction of the pleasant scent did help calm me a little, but overall I would say it did not do much. I do however still use the aroma diffuser a night light every night because it’s the perfect amount of light for when the kids come in or when I’m feeding the baby and I need a small amount of light to see what I’m doing.
Cut out caffeine
I absolutely love coffee. I love the smell, the beautiful creamy tan color, the amazing taste, and like most people who drink coffee, the caffeine. But when I started having panic attacks I knew I was going to have to stop drinking it. It just made me feel so much worse. I gave up diet soda too. I was already jittery and on edge so caffeine was not helping. Sometimes I think it might have even triggered the panic attacks.
Within a few days of stopping my caffeine habit I felt a little better. I was not as jumpy and nervous. I did however have some bad withdrawal headaches for a week or so but it was worth it in the end. My sleep improved dramatically when I wasn’t all wired.
I am finally now starting to drink caffeine again here and there. I’d like to say I’ve given it up for good but I missed it a lot and it’s really nice to have a warm cup in the morning or an iced coffee on a hot day. I limit it to one cup in the morning and I find that I am ok.
Ask other women
You would be amazed at how many women have had PPD/A. It is still a taboo topic in society but it shouldn’t be. Now that I have gone through it myself I feel obligated to talk about it so that other women struggling (or women who have struggled in the past) do not have to feel alone.
Talking to other women helped me so much. It made me sad that so many women go through this but it also gave me a lot of hope. There are so many amazing strong women in my life and to know that some of them could go through this and come out just as strong–if not stronger– than they were before was so inspiring. Don’t bottle up your feelings if you’re feeling bad. I think you will find that talking about it will help normalize your feelings and hopefully aid you in your recovery.
Talking to other women helped me so much.
Turn off the news
This is was a BIG one for me. I’m not much of a TV person but I used to look at the news on my phone all the time. I’d get constant updates and every day see stories of terrible, horrific, violent events that had taken place. This was terrible for my mental health. When I became a mother, my tolerance for sad or scary stories dropped dramatically, even before my anxiety started. I don’t want to completely opt out of world news and not know what’s going on, but I had to take a temporary break for my sanity. And I have to say, I don’t really miss it. I still hear about big things, usually from social media, and that’s really all I need right now.
The news can be particularly hard to watch when you’re dealing with PPD/A because there’s always scary stories about mothers. Postpartum mental health pops up in the news a lot, but unfortunately, it’s mostly just when something really tragic happens. This skews our beliefs about mental health and the statistics. I used to think women with PPD did not have much hope because all I ever heard about was the worst of the worst. Now I know that there’s actually tons of women who have gone through it silently and are totally fine now. Like, way, way more than you would think. We don’t hear all the happy endings on the news because to the outside world they’re boring. “Mother of 4, starts eating better, sleeping more, exercising, and therapy to feel better” doesn’t really catch much attention. Remember that.
The news can be particularly hard to watch when you’re dealing with PPD/A because there’s always scary stories about mothers.
This was another huge help in my recovery but also one of the hardest to implement (and still is to this day.) I’ve always enjoyed various forms of exercise but when I became a mother it quickly took a back seat to other important daily tasks. As any mother knows, it can be impossible to work out with your children there. Then, even if you do get a chance to do something for yourself, exercise doesn’t always make the top priorities list that day. I had to MAKE time to exercise, usually at home, while the boys napped or if Andy happened to be home. It wasn’t easy but I immediately felt the benefits from it. The natural endorphin rush I got from working out felt great and it made me more tired at night so my sleep improved.
At one point, I was working out almost every single day because I got into a good routine. I have to admit I’ve become more relaxed since then and usually only work out a couple times a week. I’d love to do more but it’s been tough since Andy started a new job and isn’t home as much. But it taught me how important it was to take the time to take care of my body and now I have another tool to help me relax if I’m ever feeling anxious again.
Go to your doctor
It’s always a good idea to go to the doctor when you feel like something’s wrong. I put this off for a couple of months, hoping that my anxiety would resolve itself and I wouldn’t have to. Once again, it felt like just another chore to check off the list.
After I finally made the call I went into my doctor’s office and had some blood work done just to rule out any kind of complication. Everything came back normal, which honestly made me a little angry at first–I wanted an answer! My body felt so alien to me with the lack of appetite and insomnia. Surely something was physically wrong with me–(no, it wasn’t anything other PPD/A which actually is very physical!)
I strongly urge you to call your doctor OR OBGYN if you are feeling anxious or depressed. They can prescribe you medication and help you find resources like good therapists. Which leads me to my next stepping stone in my recovery…
Find a therapist
If you do ONE of the things I’ve talked about today, please do this one. My therapist is THE reason I am so much better today. She listened and took me seriously and helped me understand what was happening to me. Just normalizing it–knowing she heard hundreds of stores like mine–helped me feel better. I knew I was good hands and the burden was no longer just on me.
I STRONGLY suggest you find a therapist that specializes in PPD/A. They have knowledge that is very specific to this disorder. They will be able to help you so much better than someone who does not.
I do want to point it out that I started an antidepressant pretty soon after I started seeing my therapist. Medication is not for everyone and you need to discuss it with your doctor. However, for me, it changed my life for the better. I did not want to take it at first. I was scared that it would change who I was, or make me go crazy. I did have some unpleasant reactions at first but after a few weeks I could feel myself slowly feeling better and better.
Once I had come to accept the fact that I had PPD/A thanks to help from my therapist, I learned something so incredibly crucial to my recovery. I had been torturing myself without even realizing it for the past few months. Whenever I felt anxious or had a panic attack, I would get totally absorbed by the bad feelings. I thought I had to keep thinking about why it was happening, or how I could stop it, or what I was doing wrong to cause it and that way I could find a solution and rid myself of the problem. I would overanalyze until my heard hurt. Unfortunately, this only made my anxiety worse.
Now, I’m not saying you should just ignore your feelings. Quite the opposite really. If you’re having panic attacks every day your body is probably trying to tell you something. But you DON’T have to obsess over it all day every day. You need to DISTRACT yourself and DO things that help you feel better (like cut out caffeine, exercise, etc.)
This felt really counterintuitive to me at first. I thought that ignoring your feelings meant you were in denial and that was bad. Once my therapist gave me “permission” to stop trying to find a solution to why I felt so bad, I could distract myself with games on my phone, HGTV, books (nothing upsetting), phone calls with people I felt close to, literally anything that got my mind off of how scared I felt. It wasn’t always easy to stop thinking about my anxiety or whatever I was worried about but I basically had to train my brain to relax. At first I only got a couple minutes of relief before feeling bad again, but that eventually became 10 minutes, then 20, then 30 and so on.
You don’t have to beat yourself up about how bad you’re feeling or solve the mystery on your own.
You don’t have to beat yourself up about how bad you’re feeing or solve the mystery on your own. Sometimes you just have to say to yourself, “I know I’m feeling scared now but this is just my anxiety and I am going to do (pick activity) instead of obsessing over it.” Then DO it.
Avoid stressful situations
This one is kind of a no-brainer. But over-achieving people (which many moms are) or anyone who is a people-pleaser can have a hard time actually saying no. I had to learn to say no to a lot of things. There was a lot of stuff I wanted to do because I usually love being busy and having a lot going on, but I said no because I knew I couldn’t handle it just yet.
Look to the future
One of the most helpful things my therapist said to me was something like this: “Eventually you will start to have some ‘good’ days. And then you’ll start having more ‘good’ days than ‘bad’ days. And gradually you will feel normal again and you will NEVER go back to being as anxious as you are right now.”
I wanted this to be true so badly. But I didn’t believe her. I thought “I must be broken and will never be fixed. I will never feel like myself again.” I started keeping track of every day and whether it was a “good” or “bad” day. For a while it was mostly bad days. But it gradually started to shift. My bad days were filled with that feeling of “doom”, my heart would race a lot, maybe I’d even have a panic attack. Good days were when I felt more like myself. When I had minutes or maybe even hours of not thinking about how bad I felt. When my body wasn’t in fight or flight mode.
It’s easy to feel like things will never get better when you’re feeling anxious. But if you write down how you’re doing each day you can look back and say, “Ok, I did have two good days last week. Even if today is bad I will probably have a good day tomorrow.” And you know what? It’s true. Good days WILL come again.
It has been less than a year since my anxiety began but it feels like it’s been eternity. I am such a different person than I was a year ago. I’ve learned how to be more mindful, take care of myself a bit more, be nicer to myself, get more rest, and then I have more patience with my kids. I no longer spend my days worrying.
I hope my experience can help another mother who is struggling and looking for answers. Have YOU recovered from Postpartum anxiety? What did recovery look like for you?
It feels like I just took this selfie yesterday. My face was still puffy from pregnancy hormones and getting no sleep. (Ok, the no sleep thing is still kind of happening.) That feeling of just having a baby…the fogginess, exhaustion, and physical pain, mixed with joy and gratitude for the new beautiful tiny baby is such a unique experience–it’s different from anything else I’ve experienced in my life.
We were still living with my in-laws while our home was being renovated. Andy (my husband) was working his crazy summer schedule as a musician, gone for days at a time. Needless to say, having 4 kids under the age of 6 was hard. It is hard.
Of course I had been warned before having my first child. “You’ll never sleep again”, “Enjoy time with your husband now while you can” and other somewhat unhelpful advice. Sure, I knew children are demanding and can be difficult at times. Babies are unpredictable, hard to soothe and up all hours of the day and night. Toddlers have endless energy and poor communication skills and are prone to temper tantrums. We’ve all heard about these things but why doesn’t anyone talk about the practical day-to-day demands of parenting?
I want to talk about some of the details of raising small children, including WHY it’s so challenging, and offer some practical advice from my own experiences. If you are expecting a child, or are planning on becoming a parent, or maybe trying to decide whether to have another, you’ve come to the right place.
Leaving the house is a challenge
When I first had Lila, my oldest, I thought getting ready to go out was so hard. I would pack the diaper bag, feed her, change her diaper and her outfit, just to have her throw up on herself and poop again, before I even got out the door. Then when she was a little older and I had another baby, Violet, there were different challenges. (The girls are only 15 months apart. You can read more about our family here.) Making sure I had packed enough snacks, a change of clothes in case of accidents, the diaper bag, and they were both clothed, changed, fed, and somewhat happy before we left the house felt almost impossible at first. Fast forward to the present and I am happy to say I am an expert when it comes to getting my 4 kids ready to go. It no longer feels impossible, although it can still be a struggle.
I always try to give myself about 30 minutes before we have to go to get the kids ready. (This does not include getting myself ready.) I collect whatever I need before even starting to get the kids ready, whether it’s food we need to bring somewhere or birthday gifts for a party, beach gear, you name it. I put anything I need on our table by the door so I can’t miss it. If it’s especially cold or hot outside I will start the car to warm it up/cool it off. I get the two older kids ready first, making sure they’re dressed, get their shoes on, comb their hair, etc. Then I will change Henry and make sure he’s changed and dressed with shoes on. I save Teddy for last, changing his diaper and shoes. I put the kids in the car, making sure they are strapped in.
Henry, my 3 year old, tends to leak on long car rides. I put him in one pull up and a big regular diaper over that, plus a “starter” outfit just for the car that I can change him out of once we’ve reached our destination because there’s an 85% he’ll be soaked by the time we’ve reached our destination.
Always have back up clothes for EVERY CHILD in the car (and possibly yourself if you’ve got a newborn that likes to throw up a lot) as well as extra diapers, wipes, and band aids.
Teach your older kids how to strap themselves in and get themselves out. I dare to say this is life changing.
Going to the store will be a chore
Gone are the days of running into the store for a carton of milk. Once you have a baby, it’s not so easy to just run into the store. First of all, you have to time it right. Naps are crucial for babies and toddlers and you will not want to drive all the way to the store just to find a sleeping 2 year old when you get there. (When they’re still a baby they can stay in the car seat and go in the stroller if they can sleep through the noise.)
Some stores have more kid-friendly carts than others. I personally like Aldi, Costco, and Target the best because I can actually fit at least two kids in the carts. Parking lots are another thing you will develop a preference for once you become a mother. If I have to park a mile away and the carts are never available in the lot and people are speeding at 50 miles per hour on a regular basis, you can bet I’m not shopping there.
When I go shopping with all 4 kids (which is kind of rare these days) I have a system. I scope out the cart situation before I get the kids out of the car. If there’s one available nearby I grab that, then I let the older kids out of the car first (they can undo their own booster seats now) then I get Henry out and put him in the cart, then Teddy after him. (Teddy is the most likely to try to jump out of the cart if I turn around for a second so he gets out last.) If there’s no cart in the parking lot I have the girls and Henry hold hands and I hold the baby until we get in the store.
Once we’re in the store, short and sweet is the name of the game. Kids are like ticking time bombs in a store. They want to climb out of the cart (the belts rarely ever keep them strapped in for very long), they want to grab everything off the shelves, they want to whine for everything they can’t have, and they want to fight with each other in the middle of the aisles.
I like to do all of my errands in the morning, right after the kids have had breakfast. That gives me enough time before the boys need to nap. I also find they are in better moods in the beginning of the day. Once they’re cranky and tired shopping becomes horrendous. Plus, stores are usually less crowded in the morning which makes it easier to navigate with the gang.
Avoid going past the toy aisle for obvious reasons.
Make a list of what you need before you go. Trying to remember every ingredient you need to make dinner while watching the kids is almost impossible.
Shop online. Amazon Prime is amazing. Lila needs a birthday gift for a party this coming weekend? Prime. Need more socks for the boys? Prime. There’s not much you cannot get on Amazon prime these days. And grocery delivery is freaking awesome. I did this a lot when Teddy was still a baby. I’ve used Shipt and Instacart and liked them both.
Imagine trying to breastfeed your fussy newborn while your toddler pulls tissue after tissue out of a box, letting them fly up above her head and land gracefully all over the nursery floor. That was what I was doing one night after Violet was born. Out of total desperation, I closed the door, handed Lila a tissue box and said go to town so I could sit with my baby in peace. (Toys are not as exciting as something as taboo as a tissue box.) When you have a newborn AND older children, you do what you gotta do.
Breastfeeding is hard enough with your first baby. But that’s a post for another day. Breastfeeding while you have other children at home can be particularly challenging. Most babies want their mothers’ total attention in the first few months and they need a lot of quiet time to nurse and nap. This can feel almost impossible with other children in the house who love to yell, cry, beg, and fight for their mothers’ attention.
I don’t have much practical advice for this stage besides do what you can to distract your older child or children (dare I say screen time?), ask for help from family and friends, and know that this phase will not last forever. As exhausting as it can be, breastfeeding has overall been a great experience for me because it’s allowed me to bond with my babies. It’s also the primary way I have soothed my babies and actually gotten some sleep. Which leads me to my next point…
Bedtime and the struggle for sleep
I’m sure you’ve heard about how hard it is to get sleep after you have a baby. But maybe you’re wondering why.
Babies are not programmed to wake up in the morning and sleep all night. They basically eat, sleep, repeat for the first few months of their lives. They don’t really care if it’s 2 am and you’re exhausted. If they’re hungry, they’re hungry! Plus, there’s all kinds of things that can make babies fussy. They might have reflux or have a cold that makes it hard for them to eat, or they might have colic.
As babies get older they sleep more but it’s definitely not easy. They start teething and wake up in pain at night, or maybe they want to nurse for comfort and the second you try to walk away they wake up. (That’s what all of my babies did, anyway!)
Then there’s room sharing for multiple kids. Getting babies and kids of different ages asleep in the same room is a huge feat. At one point we had 3 kids in the same room. I had to tuck the girls in their bunk bed and then sit down next to Henry’s crib and sing to him until they all fell asleep. Sounds wonderfully cozy right? Well, most nights the girls were getting out of their beds every other minute, making excuses to go to the bathroom or get some water, sometimes waking Henry up just after he had finally nodded off and I had to start all over again. It was brutal.
After having 4 babies I can actually say that I have found the best method that works for us at bed time. It finally clicked after I was diagnosed with Postpartum anxiety (which you can read more about here.) Basically, I had to take care of myself better which meant loosen up on some things that I had been latching on to as universal parenting truths. I thought that if my baby didn’t sleep in his crib all night I was a terrible mother. I felt ashamed to admit that I co-slept with all of my babies, or that I nursed them all in bed for the first 8 months of their lives.
After feeling terribly sick and exhausted from my daily anxiety, I realized that I was trying to push something that wasn’t a good fit and ultimately turned me into a monster at night because I was so incredibly stressed out from trying to get everyone to sleep in their beds at an exact time.
We decided to skip the crib for Teddy completely and put him in a twin sized bed. (We use this bed rail to make sure he doesn’t fall.) This way, I can lay down and nurse him to sleep and then go to sleep in my own bed. It might sound a little crazy, but it’s what works for us and I get way more sleep because of it.
It’s not for every baby, but most LOVE to sleep in swings like this one. 3 of my 4 babies slept in them for the first 4 months or so.
I’m also a huge fan of swaddling babies in these. They’re so easy to use and I found that my babies always slept better when they were all wrapped up.
Bed time is not a one size fits all. What works for other families might not work for you and that’s ok.
Do what you need to get sleep. Sleep has such a huge effect on our mental health, which I learned the hard way. If co-sleeping works for you and you get more sleep, do it. That may not be the most popular advice but I truly believe it is natural for mothers to sleep next to their babies.
Routines are really helpful for everyone, even adults. We need to signal to our bodies that it’s bed time. I try to give my kids a bath or shower, have them brush their teeth, and then go upstairs and read a bit before bed every night. The more you normalize the routine the more they will accept that it is bedtime and it’s time to go to sleep.
Try to stay calm at night. (Easier said than done, I know.) This is another thing I’ve learned the hard way. It’s so easy to get frustrated and angry at night when your kids won’t go to bed. The thing is, they’re tired too. Emotions can run high and before you know it you’re both in tears. It’s not easy, but I’ve found that when I stay calm they settle down so much faster.
It’s a 24/7 job with no days off
Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Raising little kids is the most grueling, challenging, back-breaking work I’ve ever done. As a stay at home mom, I don’t get a lunch break or even a bathroom break. (I very rarely get to use the bathroom completely by myself. I’ve even started putting Teddy in the shower with me!)
Even when you are not with your children, your job isn’t over. Most mothers are taking care of some aspect of their children’s lives even when they are not with them…making appointments, hiring a sitter, making plans, or just worrying about them. (I know worrying is unnecessary and not a job but I’m just being honest here.)
I love getting to stay home with my children but I’m human. There’s many times I wish I could hit pause and sit back and watch some TV by myself or get some chores done without the kids in the way or even write for my blog! (I hear Henry waking upstairs as we speak. It’s taken me four days to finish writing this post because it’s very hard to find time when I am not with the kids or too exhausted to do anything!) I do have a ton of help from my family and I am so grateful for that. I encourage all moms to accept help from family or friends when they can.
I know how hard it is to make time for yourself when you have little kids, but make it a priority. I struggle with this a lot myself but I find that when I do make the time I am much more patient with my kids and can enjoy the time with them more too.
Take shortcuts where you can. There’s no medals for doing everything perfectly or everything looking a certain way. For example, if I know we’re just going to my parent’s house for dinner and the kids don’t want to put their shoes on, who cares? I don’t start a fight over something that doesn’t really matter. (If you’re wondering how hard it can be to get shoes on kids try doing it four times in a row and let me know how it goes.) Some may say I’m not disciplining enough but I say I’m letting them be kids. I put my foot down when it matters. (Lila has never gone to school barefoot!)
Don’t overdo it. My kids are not signed up for a million activities. We actually just booked our first vacation since Lila was born. We don’t plan a ton of things to do with the kids, partly because of Andy’s work schedule but also because we keep very busy seeing family. I don’t like feeling overwhelmed with stuff to do besides keeping everyone fed and happy.
Is any of this new information for you? What do you wish someone told you before you had kids? What practical advice would you share to new parents?
Who doesn’t like making a little extra money now and then? I know I especially enjoy making money doing things I would already have been doing WITH my children present. (Which they usually are because I am a stay at home mom.) You probably have some questions. Is this really possible? What does it entail? Is it time consuming?
The good news is, it can be as time consuming and as profitable as you want. Here are some apps that I use regularly to make a little bit of money on the side.
Target’s Cartwheel App
If you are a fan of Target you probably already have the Cartwheel app. It allows you to basically “clip” coupons (browse for products and click on the ones you plan on buying which are then saved to your list) on your phone before you shop. Then you pull up the app on your phone at checkout and the cashier scans the barcode and you save some money. It’s very straightforward and easy to use and some of the deals are really good!
This is another app that allows you to “clip” coupons before you shop. Then after your purchase has been made, you scan your receipt and get money back. You can get some really good deals if you use this on top of the Cartwheel app. For instance, one time recently I needed to buy some body wash. This particular body wash was already on sale in store at Target. If you bought 4 you got a $10 Target gift card. On top of that, it was 20% off on the Cartwheel app. Then on Ibotta, this same product happened to be $1 off each bottle. So I ended up paying about $2.99 for each bottle which is pretty good. Use my referral link to get started!
This app is a no brainer. You literally take pictures of almost ANY receipt and get points. The points can then be used to buy gift cards to various stores. It’s super easy and it takes literally a few seconds, so why not? You can even set it up so it gets your e-receipts from online purchases.
Another app you don’t even have to think about. You link it up with your card and make purchases as you normally would. (Only thing you might have to remember is use your debit card like a credit card.) It then gives you cash back on every qualifying purchase. Once you reach $15 you can withdraw it. And believe me, it doesn’t take long.
This app takes a little more work, but not much. There’s a few different ways to earn “kicks” which turn into cash. Some times you earn kicks just from walking into a store. You can also scan items in the store (no purchase necessary.) Then you can also earn kicks from buying specific items. On top of that, there are certain stores that give you kicks when you make purchases with a linked card.
This app is pretty cool. It sells gift cards to stores at a discount. For example, I have bought a $50 gift card for Groupon for $42. Not huge savings I know, but after a while it adds up. You can use the gift card as soon as you buy it! And the list of qualified stores is long. Click this to get started!
Ok, this is a whole other ball game when it comes to money-making apps. There are multiple ways to make cash on Swagbucks. You can take surveys on your phone or computer that earn “swagbucks” or “SB” which turn into cash or gift cards. It can be a bit time consuming, depending on the survey, but definitely profitable. You can also take a daily polls, watch videos, play games, even search for things online and they all earn SB. They also have a live trivia game at 8 pm Monday-Thursday that can earn you some SB, even if you don’t win. If you have some downtime and don’t mind being on your phone a lot, Swagbucks is for you. Use this link to get started now!
I was excited when I found out about this site. You get paid to try out different websites and review them. There will be specific tasks to do while you verbally answer questions about your experience. Each site pays $10 (some pay more) directly to your Paypal account. I leave the site up on my laptop when I have some down time (usually after the kids are asleep because it needs to be quiet) and it makes a “ding” sound when there are tests available. You might not qualify for every test, depending on who they’re looking for, so the payout is kind of unpredictable but it’s nice extra money.
If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a big fan of getting paid for doing things I already planned on doing. This app counts your steps and pays you in “Sweatcoins” which you can use to buy various prizes. I always makes sure this app is open when I walk to drop off/pick up my daughter from school.
If you’re anything like me, you love getting rid of clutter. With 4 kids in the house, clutter is nearly impossible to completely avoid. As I mentioned in an earlier post that you can read here we live in a pretty small house without much storage. So once the kids grow out of clothes I either give them away or sell them on Thred Up. It’s so convenient for moms like me. All you do is download the app, order a bag and it comes in them mail (for free.) Then you fill the bag with whatever you want to sell or get rid of. (There is a chance they will not want to sell everything you put in there, which in that case they can either send it back to you or just donate it for you.) Then you bring the bag to your local post office and mail it back for free. You can keep track of everything you’re selling on the app. Click here to get started!
I hope this helps you start earning a little bit of cash while you’re taking care of your family. Do you do anything else to make money while you’re with your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas!