Being a new mum is scary. You are now responsible for a little person. You are responsible for teaching them right from wrong, how to be kind, when they need to stand up for themselves and when they should just walk way. Now that you’re a mum, you are expected to know everything, whether you have experience in it or not. You need to have all the answers.
You’re supposed to just know.
You have to be this perfect image of a mum. You’re never to lose your cool. You sleep when the baby sleeps. The house is, of course, spotless. Dinner is on the table at 5:00 pm. This is what I thought was supposed to happen. The first 24 hours of having my daughter home were the most terrifying 24 hours and I was scared beyond all belief.
When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I was a nervous wreck. All of the “what if’s?” entered my mind at once. What if I change her diaper wrong? What if I can’t get her to stop crying? What if I drop her? What if she hates me? What if, what if, what if… I couldn’t get them to stop.
I remember it like it was yesterday (it was 3 years ago now), she had fallen asleep, so we put her in her crib. That’s what it was there for, right? Do we use blankets? Or do we just swaddle her? Will she be warm enough? Do I sit in the room while she sleeps? I was exhausted, I had just given birth, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. My husband made us some lunch and I sat on the deck and tried to enjoy the warm June breeze. But I couldn’t. I felt ill. Why did I feel this feeling? What was this? Did all mums feel this way?
My husband came back out with food and I felt panicked. No one was asking anything of me but I felt like the weight of the world was crushing me. My chest was tight. I could hardly breathe. I needed to get out of the house but I didn’t want to be alone. I was so overwhelmed, but why? What was happening to me? My mind was spinning. This must be a normal response to having a baby because I have never felt this before.
“Sweetheart, are you OK?” asked my husband. I burst into tears. I described to my husband what I was feeling.
I was having a panic attack.
It got worst as the weeks went on. I didn’t want to leave the house because something might happen. I didn’t like being in situations that I couldn’t control. I didn’t want people around because they might say words to me. I was offended anytime anyone said to me, “How are you feeling?”
Why? Why would you ask that? What did you hear? Who told you I wasn’t holding it all together?
I was very defensive and lashing out at my friends and family. I didn’t want to tell anyone what was happening to me, what I was experiencing because I had made up this horrible scenario in my head that someone was going to take my daughter away from me, all because I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was a mum who was supposed to know everything and I didn’t know what was happening to me.
I felt like I was failing already.
It was just before my daughter’s second birthday that I found out I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. I thought what was happening to me, what I was experiencing, was supposed to happen. I didn’t realize that not everyone went through this, yet I felt I had to hide it and never talk about it. Once I figured out that I was experiencing was postpartum anxiety, I got help. Not right away because I am stubborn. Then I realized that it wasn’t just me anymore, I was a mum. My life wasn’t my own anymore. I started seeing a professional to gain the tools I needed to deal with anxiety/panic attacks, to keep them at bay and if they did happen, know how to control them. I started doing yoga. I started talking about my anxiety, I researched it to understand it more. I started facing my fears and it helped.
I learned it’s okay to not know everything, every day is a learning process.
Some days the kids are my teachers and I am the student. I can’t have all the answers and I won’t. I am going to mess up and that is okay.
I am very proud to say that I now have two beautiful children and I haven’t had an anxiety attack in 9 months. Some people are very private about anxiety, but for me, it helps to talk about it. I like knowing that I am not the only one out there experiencing this.
I like knowing that I’m never alone and neither are you.
Ashley Torchia is known for her bizarre love of running, and overuse of exclamation marks in her writing. Her writing has a humanizing mix of self-deprecation humour and the bravery to tackle difficult issues that not everyone is comfortable with. The unique perspective gives her readers support on topics they may not yet be ready to deal with, starting a dialog. Her blog is a great source of laughs with an open and honest approach that is easy to relate to. When she’s not working on her blog or reading the same page of her book over and over, she is playing dress up or going on adventures with her two kids. Ashley documents her parenting ups and downs over at The Confessions of a Working Mum. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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