The other day I had an incredible Instagram DM exchange with a mom friend about the level of anxiety and guilt that we live with now as moms. It was truly life giving– you know, as much as a DM exchange can be, and I’m so glad we talked about it. We don’t talk about this stuff enough, and in my current season where Instagram DMs are the most interaction I get with friends, I am here for it. Because, mom life.
Freaking mom life. SO MANY THINGS TO WORRY AND FEEL BAD ABOUT. During our DM exchange I fondly (sarcasm) remembered my really intense postpartum anxiety with my son. I literally just always assumed I’d find everyone dead. I spend most of his first sixth months of life checking for breathing signs from everyone– him, my husband, our dogs. I’d check my own pulse constantly. I was always mentally and emotionally preparing for the phone call, the car accident, the discovery. It was a hard time to be alive for me.
One time, I called the police because I legitimately thought someone was in our house. It was our dogs. Our dogs were in our house. But at the time, I was literally in my son’s nursery, with the door locked and my husband’s concealed carry waiting for the police to come just to make sure it was safe for us to go downstairs and make lunch.
I realized that before baby, I had already been living with a pretty high level of the anxiety but it has been going on for so long (my whole life?) that I had no idea. Around nine months postpartum I decided to go on Zoloft and it was the best decision I have made thus far in my mom career. Within a week, the anxious fog had lifted and I recognized a new baseline that would change everything.
The second time postpartum, I didn’t even give anxiety a chance. The first two weeks were hard–– you know, as they are. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had broken my tailbone in delivery and the pain was unreal and untouched by Ibuprofen. My Depends (adult diapers, if you’re not familiar) were giving me a rash on my butt and I just assumed that the rash coupled with my intense tail pain meant that I had postpartum shingles. Totally normal, right? After days of being very angry with God for giving me postpartum shingles and worrying incessantly about my newborn that didn’t poop and that had an upcoming cardiology appointment as a follow up to her last ultrasound, freaking the EFF OUT about my breastmilk supply and that being the reason for all of the things, I filled the Zoloft prescription and didn’t look back. I looked around one time and realized that this was time I didn’t get back. I didn’t want to spend it stuck in the dark and twisty– I wanted to enjoy it. I had to fight for it, fight for peace and fight for grace.
Right now my four year old has a low fever, his head hurts and he threw up last night. This is our second go with a stomach bug in a month, and the fifth and sixth time he’s thrown up in 2019. His little sister who has napped as many times as he’s puked this year is upstairs going on hour two. Germs are winning at our house for the second winter in a row. And you know what I know now that I didn’t know last winter? NONE OF THIS IS MY FAULT.
We go to church. We go to the children’s museum. We go to preschool. We wash our hands. We vaccinate. We use essential oils. We take vitamins. We take elderberry. We eat sugar. We eat vegetables. Moral of the story: we are alive. Germs are alive. We gotta keep living.
I used to feel so much pressure to keep my family well. Everytime we had a bug or a cough, I felt like I should have done something different. I shouldn’t have vaccinated, I should have used more oils. I should have given them the flu shot. It just spirals and goes on and on with the things I should or shouldn’t have done, but the reality is, the only thing I can do is my best. And that’s what I’m freaking doing everyday.
Last winter was rough. I’m a chronic sufferer of widespread eczema, and a year ago I was still breastfeeding my youngest and fighting a whole body flare. I was facing the decision to stop exclusively breastfeeding my last biological baby in favor of my own treatment, but potentially putting her at risk of all kinds of germs that breastmilk would help protect her from. I just remember feeling stuck in an impossible decision. My eczema was really bad, it was affecting my nerves and I wasn’t able to use my arms and hands well (read: hold baby, change diapers, care for toddler or self) but BREASTMILK! What was the right choice? Turns out: neither.
I ended up weaning mid-February (cough cough: FLU SEASON) and then we got hit with a stomach bug– the baby was patient zero. 8 ounce bottles of formula came right back up and I was literally drenched with my decision to wean. Certainly I had given her this sickness by weaning? Then we all got it, and I tried to nurse her with whatever milk I had left (was it safe with the medication I was on?) in between my own puking, and holding my son’s head in a puke bucket. Then not long after, she had a cold which blossomed into a double ear infection, which turned into either an allergic reaction to her antibiotic or Roseola.
The weight of the mom guilt was tangible. It was hard to breathe, it was hard to laugh, it was hard to be awake. So, I increased my Zoloft to 75mg, joined the YMCA to get some self care/exercise time in and started learning to walk with my head held high and not let the anxiety and guilt win.
I’m still learning how to keep that head high. Today, the mom mission was: how do I sanitize toys? So clearly, we have germs here (see the word puke above MORE THAN ONCE) and I try to keep our house free from “toxic” chemicals like bleach. Well…. bleach is toxic because it kills things, namely germs. So what’s the right choice? Neither is more right than the other. The right one is the one I choose for us.