My Postpartum Anxiety Journey
Hello! Before I start, I’d love to share a little bit about myself. My name is Iris and I’m the founder of The Fourth, an online maternity and nursing clothing store. I’m a wife to the most supportive husband and the mother of three beautiful girls, raising them in the city of Edmonton.
My journey with postpartum anxiety (PPA) is something I never thought I’d share. Slowly, overcoming my fear of talking about my mental health, I began to share with close friends and family about what I was going through. The more moms I spoke with, the more I learned about my PPA and how I was coping with it. I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in my diagnosis when other moms opened up to me and shared about their own experiences. I believe maternal mental health is important and our stories need to be heard. So here’s my story.
When I was a first time mom, I learned so much about stress – mom stress! There were so many worries, too many new things to learn and figure out. Like the first time Isabella, my first, rolled over in her sleep and slept on her belly! Was I supposed to roll her onto her back? What if I woke her up and she wouldn’t sleep again? Could I just leave her? Would she be able to breathe all night if I left her on her belly? All those questions… Focusing on raising a tiny human, I barely had time to take care of myself.
I never thought I had postpartum depression, baby blues, or anything like that. To me, it was all a “normal” part of being a mom. My coping methods were working fine even after I had my second daughter. Yes, there were some bad days, but for the most part, life was good.
On my third maternity leave, I had some really bad days. I remember yelling at the girls for something they’d done and my husband knew something was different. He quickly took the girls out of the house, so I could have a break. No, I never had any intention of hurting them. But I had lost control with my words and definitely my volume control! I thought this is not normal. This is not me.
I made an appointment to see my medical doctor and told him I just couldn’t cope anymore. I knew it wasn’t depression, but other than stress from being a mom, I had no idea how to handle it or what to do. He asked if I’d heard of postpartum anxiety before and talked about how I could get help. He recommended I try talking to a psychologist first, but it would be a few months wait. I knew I couldn’t take this anymore and wait a few months, so I made an appointment with a counsellor.
That first session with the counsellor was revealing to me about how I lost my identity. She asked, what did I like to do? I couldn’t answer her. Somehow, I’d forgotten about myself, what I loved, what brought me joy. Next, my counsellor asked, what did I do for self-care? Nothing. I had gone from an AM/PM skincare routine to not even wearing a daily moisturizer. After having three kids, I was no longer who I used to be.
It seemed impossible to change and do something for myself. I didn’t even want to think about changing! Somehow living the way life was (as bad as it was) seemed easier than doing anything to get myself out of it. Honestly, the most challenging part was changing my mindset and my thoughts.
I can’t change me in one day, but I can do one small thing for myself to start. The one small thing was splurging on skincare at Sephora. I made my morning skincare routine something I looked forward to. And I loved that feeling of hydrated skin! Starting each day like that made me feel better. It gave me something to look forward to, something to wake up to. Because I’d rather wake up to SK-II than crying or “What’s for breakfast?”
My morning routine started expanding. I made more time for me. Two things I love? Drinking a good cup of coffee and reading books. As much as I love my sleep, I knew I needed to do more for myself. I started waking up before the kids and making a coffee in the peace and quiet of the morning. I savoured drinking the whole cup of coffee without a single interruption! And I started to go through the list of books I’ve always wanted to read. Romantic comedies that made me burst out laughing, parenting books that taught me how to understand kids and make parenting easier, and the Bible… There were so many truths I needed to hear. I am loved. I am wonderfully and beautifully made. Words I need repeated to me every single day.
Then came the biggest adventure yet. I started my business. This was something I thought I’d regret if I never tried. The Fourth has become one of the best blessings to come out of my PPA. I was able to get away for a five day trip with a friend to source suppliers. FIVE DAYS. NO KIDS. I slept in for five glorious days. It was the refresh I needed.
Because of what I was going through with PPA and starting The Fourth, I started connecting with moms. I’ve always been the shy one, never the one to speak in a group. But I started reaching out to women around me. It started off with asking how they were doing and somehow I started sharing about my PPA. At first, it was something I didn’t want to talk about. There’s so much stigma around it and I didn’t know how to talk about it without just putting a label on myself. As I started opening up, I realized that my friends were going through the same thing. I wasn’t alone in this. Knowing we’re in this together allowed me to share more with others.
There are times when I still have trouble coping with my PPA, but I’m getting better. My friends and the community of moms around me have helped. Life is so much easier when there are friends to support and encourage me. And strangely, talking about it has been therapeutic.
I’ve learned PPA is not something that defines me.
What defines me?
I am Iris. I am loved. I am wonderfully and beautifully made.