Postpartum Anxiety: The Little Sister of PPD

IMG 691aImagine this:

You get home from the hospital and you are SO in love with your beautiful, precious new baby. You can’t help but cuddle him and kiss him and love every single moment with him. Until, after cuddling him for a few moments, your heart begins to beat furiously with fear that you are smothering him instead and that you may hurt that precious little life.

Perhaps you spend half of your night awake, but not because you have a baby that wakes frequently, but rather, you can’t turn your brain off from the worrisome thoughts that your baby will stop breathing as a result of SIDS. You stare at the monitor for hours and get up at least twenty times to check on your little peanut to make sure he is still breathing.

For the first 10 months of my son’s life, these feelings were my normal.

I spent a good portion of my time as a new mother crippled by dread that something (or someone) in the world was out to get my new baby boy, including the fear that I would be the cause of it. It was four months into my new role as mother that I discovered I had postpartum anxiety (PPA).

When I got home from the hospital, I had the form that they give you, along with the discussion with my nurse about Postpartum Depression and the symptoms, except, none of mine matched those on the form. Originally, I chalked up my “off” feelings to the new life change, being exhausted and my general tendency to worry. Looking back, I realize the beginning signs were there, but I had no idea at the time.

At first, the symptoms were subtle. I found myself doing things like washing and sterilizing bottles multiple times to make sure they were extra clean. My rationalization was making sure that I wasn’t leaving him open to strange illness or bacteria. With every diaper change, I would sanitize my hands and then wash them vigorously to avoid spreading sickness around the house, with a fear that I would fall ill and not be able to care for my precious gift, my baby boy.

I didn’t realize I really had a problem until about a month after I went back to work. I am sure the adjustment of going back to work with this change in life is what set the anxiety into overdrive. Not only was I adding another level of stress into my life with work, I was also leaving my son in the care of another individual. In retrospect, I am so thankful that my mother was providing child care. If I would have had to leave him with strangers, I’m more than positive I would have wound up over the edge. I spent every day worrying about how he ate, how he was feeling, and whether or not he was dressed properly and was sleeping well. Because Andrew was at home with my mom, I felt more secure knowing that she was caring for him and I could call her several times a day to check in on him. As soon as I got home every night, the anxiety would kick back into gear. In fact, it often set in as soon as I picked him up! Every time I got in the car with him, my heart would race out of panic that someone would hit us and we would get in a tragic accident. Or, even worse, I had an irrational fear that I would be car jacked, leading me to always leave my phone at the emergency call screen, just in case.

img 511aIt was during the holidays when I realized that something was not right. I was not enjoying the experience of my favorite time of the year with my baby’s FIRST holiday season. Instead of being excited about celebrating Andrew’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas, I felt numb and paralyzed because I had so many anxious thoughts taking over my head. All of the things that typically brought me joy during the holidays instead brought on panic and anxiety. I spent the days prior to Christmas disinfecting all of his new toys because he was in the phase of putting everything in his mouth; this also included being scared that he would eat needles off the tree and choke. Because it was cold and flu season, I spent a lot of time washing my hands frequently or wiping things down to avoid all of us getting sick.

Except I was sick all the time. Not only was I anxious and overwhelmed, but the anxiety had taken its toll on my body. I spent a lot of time feeling too nauseated to eat, and my heart raced so much that I often felt out of breath. Insomnia took over and made it all worse. My son was sleeping through the night, but I wasn’t. I would fall asleep and then 2 hours later wake up with horrible thoughts racing through my head. I would spend my days exhausted both mentally and physically, and for nearly 75% of every day, I spent time worrying and stressing out about things that could hurt my child.

Right after Thanksgiving, as I sat in my den and watched Andrew play, I started to cry uncontrollably because I wasn’t enjoying motherhood as much as I had thought I would (or should). It dawned on me that I was my own worst enemy, and I needed to get help, and fast. My husband couldn’t have agreed more. He was so patient with me as I went on my path to recovery. He put up with my fears and my coping mechanisms to help me through. He let me talk, and he listened patiently to me and encouraged me to talk to someone to get a little help and a diagnosis. It was through talking with a therapist that we discovered I had a case of anxiety brought on by new motherhood, or the lesser known sister of Postpartum DepressionPostpartum Anxiety (PPA).

IMG 165aRelief didn’t come automatically, though. I was prescribed medication by my doctor, but it didn’t really help. In fact, the medication made my symptoms worse to be quite honest. Rather than continue on the medication, I looked for support online and from my family. Meditation, behavioral therapy and prayer were a big part of my recovery, along with finding online blogs of others who had been down that same path. I found much comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone.

The support of Scott and my family helped me slowly started to heal. My husband stood by my side, no matter how deeply I sank into my pit of anxiety. Somehow, through his love, patience, support and kindness, he helped to pull me out of that dark abyss, along with the kindness of friendships I developed from others who had faced the same struggle. Of course, my other main motivator to getting well, Andrew, cheered me on as well with each toothless, gummy smile and giggle. Seeing him start to really enjoy his life experiences really helped me along with a drive to recover.

While I was on this path, I still had fears that would adjust with whatever Andrew’s next milestone was. As soon as he was sitting up, I would circle him with pillows with fear that he would bang his head on the floor and get severely injured. When he started eating table food, every new food would have me worked up because I was paranoid that he was going to have a severe allergic reaction with fatal consequences. However, as time passed, and Andrew crossed each milestone (and survived!), my fears would start to fade and I would move on. I learned that worrying my life away was keeping me from enjoying the very gift I treasured, and I didn’t want to continue on that way. I continued to fight hard to get back to enjoying my life as a mother and wife.

photo (35)Now that Andrew is approaching his second birthday, I can proudly say that I have said good bye to the PPA demon. I still have worrisome moments (don’t we all? I mean, we are moms, after all!), but I can say that with each passing day, the worry and anxiety are much less a part of my life. Of course, I will still have moments where I will get anxious, like when my son gets hurt or when he starts school. However, for the most part, life has improved drastically. I’m enjoying each moment of motherhood and life with my little dirty handed, tractor-spotting, curious little boy, and I am so grateful that I dug myself out of the hole so that I could enjoy these moments.

Please know that it took me almost a year to share this very personal struggle with you. I finally decided to open up in hopes that I, too, can help at least one person who may be dealing with this illness that is often not recognized.

If you are struggling with Postpartum Anxiety, please know you are NOT alone and you shouldn’t feel judged. There are several resources (such as Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International) available that can help you cope with such a difficult struggle and your doctor can help you also get on a path to feeling well. Also, please, if you need an ear or someone to relate, please feel free to send me an email because I know that having just ONE person to listen can make a world of difference. You can reach me at andie {at} neworleansmomsblog {dot} com

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to substitute medical advice. If you or someone you love is struggling with this, please contact a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.


  1. Aw Andie- I know this feeling all too well! I am so happy that you got help and are now doing great! I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming and waking my husband up because I thought I fell asleep with the baby in the bed and then I would stay up to make sure she’s breathing :/ checking every 5 minutes. It was a horrible horrible feeling. Having Tay now without PPA is such a different experience. It’s been so nice to actually just enjoy being a parent and now be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.

    • Kat, when you shared your experience and Sarah also shared hers at her blog, y’all helped me so much- I am hoping I can help someone else.

      I know exactly what you mean about those moments… it’s scary stuff, and at the time, I had no idea that there was something wrong, ya know? I am so glad you are not having PPA with Tay, I bet that is such a relief!

      Thanks for commenting, it means so much!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story and opening up here. I know that this is going to touch and help so many women – you are so brave to share.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I know how hard it is to go public with anything that isn’t normal and happy. I can relate to many of the things you posted. :hugs:

  4. Thanks for sharing! Moms with anxiety often feel like their children are losing too. When you work yourself up to feeling sick and your child misses out on a party or going to the park it’s hard not to feel guilty. But knowing it isn’t your fault, it’s the anxiety, helps relieve some of that guilt. That mommy guilt is what made me do something about my anxiety. Quality of life for my kids. Hugs!!!

    • thank you so much Stephanie for your kind comment! What you said is so true- it is a big reason why I wanted to get over my anxiety so that Andrew could enjoy life too!

  5. thanks so much for sharing your experience in this transparent and honest way! it IS a very real thing to many mothers and it is overlooked and underdiscussed. thank you for sharing your heart and bless you for being such an amazing mama!

    • thank you so much Sarah! This means so much! I was honestly scared that I would get a negative reaction, but the support I am getting is so great!

  6. Andie- thank you for sharing your story! You have come out on top of what seems to be debilitating anxiety and are an awesome mom! Hats off to you. Your story is inspirational and by opening up here on the blog you will touch so many lives.

  7. I could have written your story word for word, other than my anxiety was around me being sick so I wouldn’t be around to see my son grow up. My son is almost 2 now and I am much better, but not healed. I know all of the feelings you described and feel for you. I wish I had known more about PPA so I would have been better equipped to deal with it. Thank you for sharing your story, you are very courageous. While I don’t wish this on anyone, it helps to know we are not alone.

    • I feel for you as well because I know how hard it can be, Sara. Please feel free to email me if you ever need an ear or even a hug! You are very right, though… just knowing you aren’t alone is a big help!

  8. Andie,

    What an accomplishment! I too suffer from motherhood anxiety and overall parent anxiety. It was refreshing to read your post. Thank you for your bravery!


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