This weekend I showed up to a friend’s brunch an hour early. Not by invitation, mind you, but because I fully thought the event started at a different time.
I was mortified.
I tried to excuse myself out of the house, saying I would just go for a walk until the proper time. Thankfully, my host was the extremely gracious and I ended up chatting with them and helping out until the other guests arrived.
When I texted my husband about it, he responded, “OMG. Your actual worst nightmare.” Because he knows me, and he knows I’ll be thinking about this for a long, long time. It’ll be a random night five years from now, and I’ll be lying awake in bed asking, “Do you think Emma secretly hates me because I saw her in sweats before brunch?”
Obviously not (if she did, I probably should rethink her as a friend anyway). But it's really hard for me to stop those thoughts from crowding my mind in the middle of the night.
Little worries and concerns like these can spiral out of control when there’s a little one involved. All of the sudden you’re concerned about whether or not your baby is breathing in the next room when they’re just taking a nap, or obsessing over whether or not that glass of champagne you had when you were pregnant is going to stop your child from becoming a success. And you’re still concerned about that one brunch.
Did you know that according to the American Pregnancy Association, about 10 percent of women experience Postpartum Anxiety, 15 percent of new moms experience Postpartum Depression, and 50 to 75 percent of new moms experience the vaguely named “baby blues?” Because those numbers are staggering.We should be shouting about them constantly. Not to scare people, but to make them aware. This is a thing that happens, and you don’t have to go through it alone.
A therapist I was seeing once told me I should keep an eye on myself were I to get pregnant and have a baby, because I had an increased risk of experiencing one or more of these things. I am surrounded my information about parenting, development, and what it means to be a new parent. And I have wonderful supports, both in and out of the early childhood field, that I can turn to.
But what if you don’t?
We know that trauma and stress can have negative effects on a baby’s development. Not only that, we know that trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression can have serious effects on our own health and wellness. If experiencing stress and anxiety is something relatively common early parenthood,what can you do?
Speak up. Talk about what you are going through with friends and family that you know are going to be caring and nonjudgmental. Not only will you get to share, you may be helping someone else find their own voice about what they are feeling.
Ask for help. This can be from friends and family, or from professionals. Find a professional that can help you through these feelings. Ask your pediatrician or own doctor who they can refer you to, and don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask your partner for help engaging with your children, and take care of yourself.
Try mindfulness activities. A consistent journaling, exercise, and/or meditation routine has been shown to help, and can take five minutes. Start small, and use these techniques in combination with other supports if needed.
Talk about feelings. Don’t get into the nitty gritty with your child, but make sure that you teach them to label and talk about feelings. Show them that it is okay to feel sad, or mad, or happy, or frustrated. Practice what to do when you’re feeling down with them, such as counting to three while taking a deep breath or finding a corner where you can be calm.
Stress and anxiety and depression and, yes, the vaguely titled, aforementioned “baby blues” are very real, common things. Being a parent is hard work, and not always fun.
Make sure to ask for support when you need it. Yes, it can help your little one. Children learn through the context of relationships, so they need you to have a strong, loving relationship with yourself, with your friends, and with them.
You’re worth it, and you deserve all the support and love you need. So when you’re lying awake at night, thinking about how that seemingly perfect mom at the playgroup gave you a dirty look when your baby started crying, or when you are thinking about that one time you showed up to brunch an hour early, know this.
This is not easy stuff, but you are doing it. And that’s awesome.
Need help finding support, or want to know how to interact with your child when you are feeling anxious? Want some guidance on how to build a self-care routine? Reach out to us here and set up an initial FREE phone call.