My eldest daughter was born bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She could hold her head up strong by two weeks old and looked around like she knew the world had something to offer her and she didn’t want to miss it.
It never seemed like we had a newborn stage with her. She was on the go from very early on. I felt her movement early for a first pregnancy, and her kicks and rolls never stopped. Upon first inspection from the pediatrician at a few hours old, he looked at me and told me she was spirited. At first, I felt caught off guard that he had labeled my precious baby so early in her life, but I quickly came to realize he was right. We spent hours rocking her, bouncing her and doing anything to console her. Our sweet baby was either super happy or super angry. She didn’t seem to have a setting that was content and calm. She was a going concern one way or another. Yet somehow, as a new mother, this never seemed to rattle me too much. Sure, there were days that I was overwhelmed and grumpy because I was sleep deprived and caring for a colicky baby, but I was happy and loving motherhood.
I can’t say for certain when the anxiety came creeping into my life. Perhaps, it had been there all along, lying dormant only exposing itself in tiny ways, hardly even recognizable. It really just seemed to appear. But as I look back now, there were signs.
We tried for eighteen months to get pregnant the second time. The first time it was so easy, we never even got to try. But after months of trying for our second, the worry began to creep over me. I wore it like a heavy blanket on my shoulders. One of those itchy wool blankets that are just too hot and uncomfortable no matter the season. Fears began to rise within me and a panic settled in. What if I couldn’t get pregnant again? What if the first time was a fluke? The frustration and the worry had turned me into the worst version of myself. My once rock-solid faith now wavered. I began to question everything and was short, mean and angry towards those I love most – my husband and my daughter. While they both brought me joy and happiness, I felt like I was going to break from the heartache and longing for another baby. Anything would set me off and seem unbearable. I felt foolish for wanting more after being given one incredible, happy, feisty daughter. But I knew deep within me, I was meant to have one more.
Eventually I became pregnant and it took sometime for me to let go of my anger and hurt. I settled into relaxed days with my daughter and tried to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy. The first time, after the morning (all day) sickness subsided, I absolutely loved being pregnant. I had never felt better about my body and I felt happy. I was hoping for those same feelings again the second time but they never kicked in. The morning sickness lasted longer, I lacked energy and I was at the end of my third trimester through one of the hottest summers. I kept blaming my bad mood on the heat, but the reality was I couldn’t shake the feeling of doubt, worry and anxiousness. Weeks later our second daughter was born. Quiet, content and easy.
Why was it that I slipped into an anxiety disorder with such an easy baby, and my second time around? I was a seasoned mom now and my baby was so calm and content. It didn’t make sense. But for whatever reason I spent a year on medication, in counseling and learning to be the mom who can put herself first sometimes.
Taking time for yourself without guilt as a mother isn’t so easy. Every time I left the house for an hour of counseling alone, I felt bad. My husband would come home and send me to the spa for a massage or pedicure, I felt bad (crazy right?). Going for a walk, a work out, any time alone felt undeserved.
You need to be there for your kids! my Mom Guilt would scream at me. I knew in my heart that what my kids really needed was a mom who was healthy and happy. Reluctantly I went, and every time I was restoring myself.
That was the year I was 29. My 30th birthday was looming and I was already in the depths of self-rediscovery. Somehow this milestone birthday only seemed to further stir the desire for passion, hope and a fresh start within me. During that year, I had an incredible team of support. There were so many amazing things, and amazing people, in my life. Yet all the while parts of my life were in such turmoil. I felt scared, judged and misunderstood. It seemed that people were confused that I felt anxious, not depressed, and they felt like my diagnosis now became me. All I felt was relief: what I had been feeling all along finally had a name.
It was here that I learned to let it all go.
I learned to let go of their opinions, their judgments, their lack of understanding. I learned to let go of negative thoughts that controlled me. I learned to let go of worrying about things that never mattered. I learned to let go of who I thought I should be, and finally embrace who I am. I learned to let the house get a little bit messy so that I can play. I learned the importance of taking time for myself. I picked up old hobbies like reading, writing, journaling, and painting. I did things that pleased me and I did what I wanted to do, not what I thought I should do.
Who knows how long it would have taken me to reach the breaking point if I didn’t have this diagnosis? How long would I have kept living my life for everyone around me, instead of for my family of four and for myself? While the anxiety itself was dark, it brought with it so much light. It launched me into a new life of pursuing passions, living with intention and self-realization. It lead me to a new beginning, and a deeper understanding of what is most important.
Michelle Smid is a mom of two little girls and wife to Spencer. She is passionate about creating a community of mothers who are authentic about the emotional roller coaster of motherhood, supporting and accepting each other. Michelle loves to read, have dance parties with her daughters and cook. Michelle is girly, silly and an idealist. She is also the Community Outreach Coordinator of the Good Mother Project.
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