By Lindsay Barnett
After my daughter Natalie was born, which I can’t believe was almost 3 years ago, I jumped right back into living life as I normally did. Only I slept a little less and had to get all my work done during naps or with a baby attached to the hip. I had an easy pregnancy with no morning sickness, didn’t get any stretch marks, and my natural birth went exactly as planned. At my 6-week postpartum doctor visit I didn’t have to check a single box tasking if I was depressed or experiencing any type of baby blues. And I’ll admit, I didn’t understand how any mother could admit to being depressed when having a beautiful new baby to love. “Yeah, motherhood is hard, what did you expect? We’re all tired. Suck it up, wash your hair, and stop being 'lazy'," my internal voice would say.
Fast forward to present day. I’m 3 weeks postpartum with my second, sweet little Everly Quinn. This time around I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy and I definitely did not escape the beautiful tiger stripes all over my body. Despite all that, she’s perfect. She is the best little sleeper and nursing has been going great. But out of NOWHERE, I was hit with a panic attack.
Explaining a panic attack to anyone who has never had one is very difficult. It’s a physical, out of body experience, that makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack, or drowning, or riding the spinning tea cups at Disney on full speed. It’s terrifying and you feel like you’re going crazy. But this wasn’t my first attack.
The first time, 9 years prior, I called 911. And then the second was 4 years ago while out on the town in Las Vegas for my sister’s bachelorette party. That episode only lasted a couple of hours and I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack, so I just retired early for the night. But this one was 14 hours.
“Please God, when is it going to stop?” I was on my knees praying—no, pleading—for God to do something! The more I tried to tell myself to stop thinking, the more I was thinking about not thinking it and my mind just couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone my girls.
I’m so fortunate my husband was with me and stepped right in as super dad, but I know it was hard for him to understand what was wrong with me. I looked fine on the outside. And in the moment, I couldn’t find my voice to even explain anything other than I needed his help. All I could do was lay in bed and wait for it to end. In the meantime, I listened to worship music and read scripture. I clung to Isaiah 41:10-13,
Like so many women, I don’t like asking for help. But why is there so much shame in admitting the need for help? So much shame in admitting that I am dealing with postpartum anxiety. If I hadn’t asked for help and trusted God to get me through the attack, I don’t want to think how my day could have ended.
I was pushing myself to get out of the house and portray to others I was a rock star mom, who could do it all with a newborn and a toddler. I didn’t want to rest, because I thought people might think I was lazy. And I didn’t want to tell anyone about my attack because I didn’t want to be perceived as an unfit mother. But I just had a baby! And no matter what type of delivery one has, birthing a child is trauma and stress.
I’m learning that any kind of stress in combination with hormonal imbalance is a recipe for disaster. And that, not only am I not crazy, but I’m in the majority of moms who has experienced some level of depression and/or anxiety postpartum.
My hope in sharing my story is that other women who have experienced anything similar after having a baby will speak up. I would encourage you to reach out to new mommies and share your story without shame, as well. That might be what she needs to hear to have the courage to ask for help herself. And above all, if this is you right now, turn to the Lord. Put all your trust in Him and know that He is not letting you go through this alone.