This is the face of postpartum anxiety.
I know, I know. The seemingly genuine smile. The eyes full of life. The way it all seems so inviting and put together.
That was the idea.
Keep it together. Don’t acknowledge it. Paint on a smile and go through the motions. Show up physically, check out mentally.
But the truth was, I wasn’t happy or at ease. Sometimes it felt like someone simultaneously sucked all the air out of the room and sucker punched me in the gut. And the rest of the time, it felt like I was trying to breathe through one of those coffee stirrers that is way too narrow to function as a straw, yet for whatever reason is made like one.
So, what does it look like? Well, postpartum anxiety shows up in all kinds of ways.
It’s the lactation consultant who tells you to “calm down” because your stress is only causing more problems for the baby.
It’s the night-shift nurse who assures you you’ll ruin any chance of breastfeeding when you call out of sheer desperation to request a pacifier.
It’s the well-meaning acquaintance who asks you if the baby is sleeping through the night, or rolling over, or sitting up – any milestone really it doesn’t matter, just so long as they pick the one you’ve already been a little bit concerned she hasn’t met yet.
It’s alarms set throughout the night just to make sure she’s still breathing.
It’s flu season. The holiday season. Any season that could be too hot, too cold, or too germy.
It’s other people. God bless you, but YOU’RE HOLDING HER THE WRONG WAY.
It’s change. Unpredictability. Unfamiliar places and territory.
Get-togethers that run long and interfere with the schedule.
It’s questioning every single decision you make, and oftentimes, feeling so paralyzed by those decisions that you can’t make one at all.
It’s isolation. Out of fear. Out of shame. Out of guilt.