Arlyn Elizabeth Stepan arrived fashionably late (on November 11, 2016) and our little family instantly fell in love with our precious little girl. Compared to Bradley (our “velcro baby”), Arlyn was (and still is) the “perfect” baby… only fussy when she is hungry, tired or needs to burp. She is always smiley and happy and it’s hard to not smile when looking at her sweet face.
Since she arrived over a week past her EDD, my mom had to travel back to MA the morning after Arlyn was born. I was left alone at hospital waiting to be discharged while my husband stayed with our son. The first few days were a bit of an adjustment without any extra hands… we played a lot of man-to-man defense 😉 Thankfully we were blessed by having home cooked meals delivered to us from sweet friends and after a few days, having two kids just felt like the new normal! We even went to church that first Sunday. I’m the type of gal that can’t be cooped up… So while I should have been resting, I was GOING.
I started back up with my photography doing Arlyn’s newborn session at 3 days postpartum and Christmas Mini sessions by week 2. We planned a trip back to the East Coast for Christmas and I started teaching Birth Boot Camp and opened my Etsy shop again around 2 months postpartum. I just kinda dove into everything all at once. Normally, busy is good for me (and it was for a while).
Around 4 months postpartum, I started feeling completely overwhelmed and just consumed by anxiety. I was afraid to even leave Arlyn with my husband to run to the post office or Target. Every time I would drive over the Jimmy Davis bridge, I envisioned it collapsing and would plan how I would get Arlyn and Bradly out of their car seats when we were stuck in the river. I was terrified someone would kidnap Bradley at the park or Arlyn if I left stroller unattended for a split second. My mind would race at night… while the kids were sleeping, I would toss and turn with anxiety. It became debilitating and exhausting.
Recognizing these feelings probably weren’t normal, I decided to cut back on my commitments, switch up my diet (by eliminating sugar and gluten for a week) and even tried meditation and yoga. Nothing seemed to help more than just temporarily. Even with literally nothing on my plate, I felt overwhelmed. I was so grateful for friends (who themselves had experienced PP Anxiety) reaching out and recognizing that maybe I needed help… professional help. At first, I wasn’t convinced but after several panic attacks out of the blue, I decided to seek help.
Sadly, I discovered it wasn’t very easy to get help. I first called my OB’s office but since I was 4 months postpartum, my insurance would not cover a visit. I called base trying to get an appointment with the woman’s clinic and was told that if I wasn’t bleeding or having physical issues, it wasn’t considered a “postpartum issue”… it took about 4 phone calls and sobbing on the appointment line to finally set anything up.
Postpartum Anxiety and Depression are so common and often left untreated or unrecognized as a postpartum issue. While I’m still struggling and not feeling 100% yet, I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just want other mamas to know they are not alone in their struggles. Having a support team in place and taking time to rest, heal and focus on yourself is essential in this postpartum season of life.