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New Mom: Postpartum anxiety update, a year later

Posted July 14, 2011 8:16 p.m. EDT

I've been struggling with keeping up with my blog these days. Starting a business and chasing a toddler are both very big tasks. And honestly, I'm really into parenthood these days. I can't really find the time to break away from Asher (and, well, work) to write the meaningful posts I have been writing in my mind the last several months.

These days, I get so darn excited to see Asher's face in the morning, even if it's 5 a.m. I take pictures of each little move he makes, and I treasure each one of them. I rejoice when he learns a new word. I figure out how to handle his mini tantrums. I smile with pride every time he signs "more" or "all done" for me. I love our bedtime rituals. I love saying his prayers with him and singing "Raindrops on Roses" as he snuggles in my arms. I love playing outdoors with him, watching him discover grass and dirt and leaves.

I am loving it all so much. And lately, I've realized what a stark contrast this is to this same time last year. At the time, back then, I thought I was just sleep-deprived and a little anxious. Like all new moms are, right?

Now, the more I enjoy the good and even the not-so-good moments, too, I realize how much I didn't enjoy while Asher was a newborn and infant. And I feel horrible thinking that, but it's the truth.

Today, I took Asher to the mall for a few items. I strolled him around. He took in all that was around him, kicking his feet off the end of the stroller. And all of a sudden this feeling came over me. I literally felt, and I mean truly felt, a moment of the panic from last year's trips to the mall with Asher. To these same stores.

It's hard to explain, really. Going anywhere at the time was such a struggle for me. My mom and dad would come up and suggest going to the mall. My anxiety was through the roof. Asher would scream his way around the stores and I would crumble inside. I remember getting my brows done, hearing Asher screaming midway through the mall and feeling panic the entire time. I remember people leaning into the stroller and my panic then, too. I remember the anxiety simply pulling into the parking lot. The ordeal it was to take my colicky baby out in public. The germs and the things I couldn't control, and the things I could. Everything was a stressor. My heart beats faster now just thinking about it.

Fast forward to today. I had my sanitizer strapped to the stroller, as always. I let Asher play with the items as I picked them out. I felt so relaxed and at peace. Just me and my kid, strolling through the mall. What a difference a year makes.

When I recall my maternity leave or see something that reminds me of that time in my life, I have that same feeling of dread and worry. I remember being a zombie, splitting up overnight duties with Rusty (even though he had to go to work all day, too) because I mentally and physically and emotionally couldn't handle it alone. I realize now from the moment I gave birth, my anxiety was right there. At the time, I wrote it off. Thought it'd get better. But it didn't. It got worse. So much worse.

At the hospital I remember thinking, how on earth am I going to sleep when I take him home? I felt like Asher was safe there with the nurses and the nursery. At home, what if no one watched over him like I would? What if I slept and miss something? What if I do something wrong and something bad happens? The worry paralyzed me. It affected my marriage. It affected my well-being. And it affected my ability to be a good mom.

That first night at home was awful. Yes, there was the adjusting of having a newborn. But, I'm not kidding when I tell you I didn't sleep once for a single minute in at least a 24-hour period. I was on major pain meds from my c-section and still, I didn't sleep a wink. I cried my eyes out when Asher cried. I had panic attacks. I had him in his bouncer in bed with me and I couldn't sleep. I was afraid he'd stop breathing. Or I'd miss a warning sign of something wrong. Or I'd do something that was a SIDS trigger.

I didn't enjoy my maternity leave. Not at all. It was three months of a really tough struggle. During the day, when Asher would nap (which wasn't often), I would put his swing within arms reach of me on the couch. And I'd stare at him. I'd check him a thousand times. I just couldn't rest. And I didn't rest. And it took its toll on me. When I think of that time, my heart breaks. I feel like I missed out on so much. I feel like Asher being a challenge of an infant plus my post partum issues together created the perfect storm. I missed out on the sweet newborn moments. They were there, I'm sure. But I was blinded by my 24/7 anxiety.

And now, Asher's asleep in his crib upstairs, and I'm downstairs typing. That would have never happened early on. We have our routine now, and we usually can stick to it. He's adventuresome. He's an organizer. He's super smart. He's still not the best sleeper, but we cope.

And, he loves his momma. I'm thankful that he won't remember my breakdowns those first six months. But, one day he'll read this blog and realize the challenges I faced. And I want him to know he was worth every bit of it, and I promise to do everything in my power to be the best mother I can be and keep my anxiety under control. He deserves the very best of me. And so does Rusty.

And you know, I am thankful that through the dense fog of my anxiety, and with the help of my husband, family and friends, I still managed to raise a flipping awesome kid. I'm still on my medication; we've had to up my dosage multiple times. But we're keeping my OCD pretty much under control. We even took a vacation! We travel! We eat out all the time! We play at the pool and on playgrounds! We had a big birthday party! And I enjoyed each of these moments, keeping my anxiety (pretty much) at bay. I still have my moments. He's certainly all over the place now. An active toddler. So, there's no chance of putting him in a bubble now.

I don't think words can explain the sorrow I had in my heart the first part of Asher's life. I just know it was more powerful than even I realized at the time. When memories hit, I catch my breath. I feel the dread and the anxiety. My heart races for a split second. Then, I realize everything is so much better now. I'm a better mom and I'm a better wife. Hopefully I'm a better daughter and sister. And I'm working on being a better friend and a better Christian.

I often think about what it will be like to have another newborn in our home. How will my anxiety be that time around? Do I have it in me to tackle that again? It terrifies me. But feeling the sheer joy of motherhood these days, I realize that's what it's all about. This is more like what I should have felt at this time last year. This is how loving your child should feel. And I'm so, so, so glad I feel that now.

Kira is the mom of one-year-old Asher. She also recently started her own company Krobe Interactive, offering website services. Find her here on Go Ask Mom from time to time. Find her all the time on her blog, Grits, Grins and Gripes.