What it’s like to parent with anxiety.

Have you ever felt like your heart might jump out of your chest when the teacher called on you in school? The “ohshiteveryoneislookingatmeandidontknowwhattosay” feeling? That’s what it feels like to have high anxiety. Every day. Most of the day. After the very traumatic birth of my second child, I spun out into a high anxiety spiral literally the day we brought her home. I had felt so calm and serene when in the hospital, just wishing for the second they discharged us. I had an 8 hour labor and, in doctor terms, a “precipitate delivery”, meaning that she literally shot out of my vagina in one giant push. Fun. Pretty. Too late for the epidural. All the natural hormones flooded me once she was out though, and I felt GOOD. Better than I had after an epidural with my firstborn. I felt triumphant, stronger, I could definitely brag about this in mom group later. But later the next night, I began shivering uncontrollably and started having severe cramping and yep, diarrhea. I crouched over the toilet, phone in hand talking to the labor & delivery nurses about what was happening….I wasn’t one to panic but they did warn me about a few symptoms, these being some of them. I went to the emergency room where they guessed it was just the antibiotics passing through my system and sent me home. Fine, I thought, that’s fair. Antibiotics always jack my stomach up. But for some reason, I couldn’t get the thought of something being horribly wrong, some awful postpartum complication might be happening to me. I couldn’t sleep that night, or day, even though I had my mom and partner with me. I couldn’t sleep at all. The baby and toddler needed ME. Finally, my brain said, sit the fuck down, and decided I could only speak gibberish. I could hear myself talking gibberish, though in my brain I was perfectly coherent. An ambulance ride and stroke center stay later, they deemed I didn’t have a stroke, but since my symptoms stopped as soon as I got to the hospital, they couldn’t figure it out. Sleep deprivation is my guess. A few days later and lots of sleep, I calculated that I hadn’t slept for longer than 30 minutes at a time for 3 days. “Yikes”, I thought, “I need to take better care of myself.” I started my anxiety spiral strong. My mom was with me for a week to help me with my toddler while I got to know my newborn, and the second she left my house, I started to panic. “What if, what if, what if, what if”. I would work myself up so much that I could hardly breathe, let alone think straight. NOTHING was simple. EVERYTHING was worst case scenario, holy shit, this is DEFCON-5 guys. Baby had a cough, it’s going to turn into RSV and she’s going to suffocate. Toddler picked up hand foot and mouth disease? I’m going to get the adult version and die. I was exhausted, putting on a great front for my kids during the day, and then, because my partner worked nights, having panic attack after panic attack alone at night, which obviously led to lack of sleep, more exhaustion, and yep, more anxiety. It’s insanely difficult to enjoy life when you’re anxious, especially about your health. I can’t imagine having a disease that would make me less than of a parent. I love them. I want the very best for them and I want to live long and healthy to see my precious children be the amazing people I know they’re going to be. The fear of potentially not….cripples. Parenting them is what gets me through my days. It’s not ever, in fact, rarely is, easy. I force myself to go out, be positive and show them the world every day, even though in my head, I’m worried about my throat feeling tight, or that weird pain in my back that could possibly might be maybe, a tumor. No, no, really probably not, hey guys! Look at that orange cat over there! What noise does a cat make? I hope they’re not allergic to cats…what if they’re allergic to cats and one of them has a bad reaction?  We’re far from the hospital….no! No. Animals make kids immune systems stronger. Alright, what shall we have for lunch guys? If you can tell, it gets a bit exhausting to have a tug of war with yourself all day. I try my best, somedays are better than others, but all I can say is; if you parent with anxiety, you my friend, or doing double duty, and I see you. You’re amazing, and stronger than most.

When you feel like a single parent….when daddy is in the same room

I can’t be the only one that feels that paradox, right? What is it with guys and their lack of focus on the important thing, the babies? I can’t tell you how many times my kids, aged 4 and 2 will walk right past their dad and ask me instead for something. “HELLLOOOO you have a father, you guys know that right?” Unfortunately, not everyone is meant to be a parent, and definitely not every guy is meant to be a father. Sometimes it’s their upbringing, sometimes it’s selfishness, sometimes it’s both. Whatever it is, it’s extremely isolating for the other parent. You start to feel like everything kid-related falls onto you, and if you’re a stay at home parent, then naturally house logistics fall onto you as well. You start to realize your partner comes home, the kids hardly take notice or in my case, they cry and shout that they want daddy to leave, and then you start to question what even is going on. The disconnect between what feels like solely MY kids and their dad starts to breed resentment, which slowly disintegrates the integrity of your relationship. The less they care about and need their dad…the less I do as well. There’s something about seeing a child run to their dad or talk about their dad that makes me absolutely melt in the best way, and also feel a gut wrenching sadness that my kids don’t feel the same way about their dad. He’s a great provider. He can provide a great home, have financial freedom to go do fun activities during the day, new toys to play with…but there’s no connection to him. Many people will compliment me on being a great mother, saying how easily it came to me or how naturally, but the truth is, it didn’t. I spent my pregnancies poring over studies and articles on what parenting styles were beneficial to children, what discipline techniques proved to be most effective, and when they were finally here, I felt like I had a base knowledge in which to let my intuition make informed decisions. It wasn’t easy. I spent the first year after each birth in a depression or state of anxiety, while learning to keep a newborn alive. I was spent; emotionally, physically, mentally, LITERALLY, but making sure my kids were taken care of in every aspect was what kept me sane, and going. Doing it all alone while in a relationship with the father was painful in more ways than one. Moving forward is a lot like a rollercoaster…you ride and slowly get to a peak, then a crushing drop, backwards, forwards, loop after loop. It’s not pretty most of the time, but in the end, we’re hoping we get off the rollercoaster to enjoy some churros.

Welcome back, me!

Hi guys! I’m back. Again. I know, I’m the worst. But listen, I’m pretty committed this time because I actually have most of my shit together for the first time in years. I’m at my healthiest physically and mentally, and it feels great. It’s been a long road, and I’ve made a ton of mistakes, enabled a ton of negativity in my life, but hey. I got here and that’s what matters. I’d like to start this blog re-launch off by doing a sort of FAQ that I got from my Instagram story of Ask Me Anything, as well as personal questions I seem to get a lot. Don’t worry, everything on this blog is anonymous and unless I explicitly ask your permission to be featured in any way on this blog, it will always remain so!

Are you a full time stay at home mom?

Yes! Our household works with one income and I’m blessed enough to get paid by the VA to go to school, so technically, that is my job!

How did you get your son potty trained?

Aaron was about to be 2, and he was just ready. He’s a smart kid and it took a week of him being naked to get him to realize that when he had to go, he had to go in the toilet since he didn’t have the luxury of a diaper anymore.

Do you regret having kids so young?

Not at all. In the long run, I’m glad I’ll be younger and more able to keep up with my kids for a longer period of time.

Are you going to have any more kids?

I really really doubt it, and I currently have no desire to have a third, but I don’t like drawing hard lines with my life like that anymore, soooo, maybe!

Don’t you think having guns around kids is dangerous?

Absolutely. But, all of my firearms are handled and stored in an extremely safe manner, especially with my babies present. Knowledge is power, and my son is beginning to learn about guns and how they can be dangerous in the wrong hands, especially his own!

Dick pics. When are they acceptable?

Well, if you ask the answer is no, right? Better to beg for forgiveness.

Mama Burnout.

Can I get a round of applause going for all of my mom friends? We’re the real MVP’s. No one will ever understand us as well as we do. It’s shocking how easily I can relate to and befriend someone with a child under age 5….like we’re in this together girlfriend, come over for a coffee and let’s watch our kids attempt to be humane to each other. Seriously though, I have so much empathy for all my friends I follow on Instagram that have kids. There’s 8-10 girls I knew in high school that all have kids in the age range of my own 2 monsters, and it’s like I’m rooting for them every time they post that they’re having a rough day. It’s interesting, because even though I don’t talk to most of them in any sense of regularity(have you ever tried to have a civil conversation on the phone with 2 under 2 in the house), I feel like I COULD reach out to any of them and I’d be met with kindness and empathy that would rival that of people in my own circle of family members. This may be of some controversy…..but I’m so burned out lately of being a caretaker. The meals, the getting up at night, early in the AM, baths, feeding, potty. I walk into my kitchen and gaze at the stove with annoyance, which is odd, because I love to cook. Burnout is real, yet no one really says anything about it. You’re instantly looked down upon because you’re “supposed” to love everything about being a mom, you’re “privileged” to be able to stay at home and you should “relish” every minute. I agree, but also tell me that when it’s been thousands of diapers, hundreds of baths, and an obscene amount of temper tantrums and refusals to (____) later. I just want to be taken care of too, you know. I’m mom, playmate, entertainer, cook, maid, secretary, accountant, preparer and executer of everything that goes on in my household, and it’s exhausting. If you’re one of those people always wanting to help your daughter-in-law, daughter, friend, whoever it is to you that’s a new mom or a veteran mom, take one, or a couple of those roles from her whenever you see her. She’ll feel the weight lift off her shoulders and will love you all the more for it.

The importance of increasing your emotional intelligence

There was a time in my life when I made excuses for my actions and thoughts, when I would say to myself(and others), “that’s just who I am/what I’m like”. Today’s attitude of “take it or leave it” and “live your best life” doesn’t help, either. I see far too often how my peers/friends on social media are in actuality, very destructive and harmful not only to themselves, but others, how they brush off their bad attitudes, abusive tendencies, and disrespectful demeanor as “living their best life”. Justified as merely “that’s me, yo”. To be honest, I find it sad. I don’t mean to come off as high and mighty, or holier than thou, but the blessing of having a lot of free time as a stay at home mom means that I get to research things at leisure that interest me, particularly psychology. I’ve listened to hours of podcasts and videos on a wide range of subject matter, read many studies, articles, and blogs, and have come to realize that I needed to take a hard look at myself. It’s easy to find flaws in other people, it’s human nature. It’s easy to look at your partner and say “you’re lazy, arrogant, you never do X,Y,Z” and dismiss or justify your own shortcomings with ease. I found, after a while, that I wasn’t so golden as I would’ve once believed. My actions and words could actually be pegged as manipulative, resentful even. Things I was doing or saying matched up shockingly well with the makings of toxic behavior. To increase your emotional intelligence is to humble yourself, in the most brutal of ways. There were many times in my passive research and interest in emotional psychology, relationships, and toxic behaviors that I quite literally said, “Well, shit, that’s what I do, and that’s why I do it, too”. Being the type of person I am, once something “clicked” for me, I had to dive in headfirst, meaning once one of my weaknesses got identified, I felt empowered by it, and I had to start identifying more of them, right all my wrongs if you will. An emotional purge and spring cleaning of my psyche. I enjoy when things make me uncomfortable. It’s an emotional workout that I relish, it’s a strengthening of mind that increases my confidence in who I am as a person. To look at yourself, and say “Yes, I’m weak in this area, BUT I’d like to make that area strong” is both vehemently frightening and exponentially empowering.

Why I’m okay with being the “bad mom”

Oh, moms. We have such an immense amount of pressure resting so precariously on our shoulders, don’t we? Pressure from ourselves, our partner, our families, society. To be the perfect this, the perfect that, the mom carting her smiling kids off to class after class so that they’re well rounded, good members of society. We run ourselves ragged attending appointments, cleaning, ensuring all the bills are paid on time, stress over finances and budgets, stay up late making sure things are prepared for the following day, counting down the hours of sleep we might get if we fall asleep right NOW. I was on FaceTime with my mom complaining of my exhausting and lack of time to shower for the past 3 days when I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Mind you, I’m a mother of a newborn and a 2 year old, so most days I do feel pressed for time to pay attention to myself, but let me tell you, that is the LAST thing you want to forget about. I realized I hadn’t showered in 2 days, I was wearing the same clothes, that had spit up and various things wiped on it from my toddler, I could smell my BO every time I lifted up one of my babies, yet kept telling myself that I’d shower as soon as they were asleep, only to get caught up in clearing the sink of dirty dishes. Moms, and people everywhere really, STOP! Self care is so incredibly vital for you to continue doing what you do. As mothers, I’m very aware of the judgment that comes with pretty much every move we make. Go out one night, and you’re hearing the backlash saying all you do is party and you’re never with your kids. Go out, and enjoy yourself. Have that extra drink, eat that last mozzarella stick and laugh and joke about completely inappropriate topics, your kids will have a better ‘you’ tomorrow because of it. I let my 2 month old cry it out for 20 minutes while I showered and lathered on my nice lotion, something minor, but also something I usually skip to tend to one of them. And you know what? I’m more relaxed, I smell good, and that 20 min was enough to make me lovingly pick her up and soothe her quickly, whereas 30 min ago I was ready to tear my hair out and hurriedly rock her to stop the screaming. If you’re not taking time for yourself, you WILL burn out, you WILL yell at your kids out of frustration, and your relationships WILL start to deteriorate. For me, I had to humble myself immensely and understand that while I could ‘do it all’ it was leaving me exhausted and empty, and for my kids, myself, and my relationship, I had to accept help, and start pouring into myself again. For me, that first step was seeking professional help. At first, I was embarrassed. I was scared of the stigma that comes with “therapy”. I didn’t want to seem crazy, like I was incapable, or that I was having serious issues. I sought help at church, but felt like I was brushed off and dismissed, to “let god handle that” wasn’t a good enough answer for me. I researched a little more, and found a therapy group called Winter Solstice, that I was willing to try. After my first session with Dr. Renee Winters, I felt motivated, understood, and like I had a plan to move forward and get shit done in my life. I felt for the first time, that I wasn’t the only one going through the hectic ness of life and maybe not coping so well, but, through a few sessions, that began to turn around for me. While I personally, have been going to her for issues with my relationship, her guidance has leaked into all areas of my life. I know many of my mom friends, and family members can relate to things that I’m going through, nothing helped me more than hearing things from an objective, psychological point of view. Therapy isn’t just for crazies or anger management. I want to lift that stigma from seeking help, and talk openly about these things. No one should ever be looked down upon for wanting to better themselves, and hey, we can’t all do it alone. I truly believe that going to counseling, for whatever reason in your life, is the most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself. Finding the right therapist for you is half the battle, and I can’t recommend Dr. Winters enough. I was skeptical and frightened that I was going to be forking out money to sit on a couch and be asked “how I felt about that” over and over again, but was pleasantly surprised to realize that sessions with her were more likened to venting to an old friend, who instead of listened sympathetically and told you what you wanted to hear, offered constructive advice that produced tangible results. Mamas, daddy’s, family member, old coworkers. I implore you to take care of yourselves before all else. Yes, even before those sweet babies. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Postpartum snapback?

It’s a weird term I’ve heard a lot lately and it makes me laugh. Women place this huge pressure on themselves and others to look, feel, and act their prepregnancy self instantly after childbirth and it’s so ridiculous. The only one I managed was to look my pre-pregnant self and that’s solely due to my body’s physiology. As much as I’d like to say that I dieted hard, worked out harder, and am reaping the results, the reality is that I haven’t done any of those things, my body just recovers well and quickly from childbirth. I don’t feel or act the same as I did by a long shot. I’m still suffering from the hidden disease of postpartum anxiety, still dead tired from caring for a newborn and toddler nearly all by myself, still trying to convince myself and everyone around me I have my shit together. It’s ok! I’m ONE month postpartum. If I learned anything from my last pregnancy and recovery, it’s to give myself a fucking BREAK. I just went through a major life change, and my body went through a traumatic event (a 2 minute delivery does a number on ya). As much as I physically look normal, I don’t have even half the strength I did prior to pregnancy. It surprises me sometimes how weak my body actually is right now, combine that with my off and on anxiety and you’d imagine I don’t feel my best right now. Throw in a fiancé that works nights and sleeps days and suddenly, maybe you’re not so envious of my seemingly perfect life. My instagram is the good stuff. The funny stuff, the cute kids and the made up face and skinny bod. Rarely do I show the unshowered-for-3-days face, the screaming fits, and the poking of baby faces (I’m looking at you, Aaron). While I think it’s normal for everyone to show the good side of things, I’m also here to show the bad and the ugly. Why? Because sometimes I felt so inadequate, so lost, and so confused because everyone was always only telling me and showing me the good things. When things got hard, I felt blindsided and alone. My goal for blogs like these is to help at least one mama, one person, feel like they’re not alone. That this shit is hard, frustrating, and sometimes just plain ugly. But it’s also kind of amazing, and we can get through anything.

Postpartum Anxiety

In an attempt to normalize postpartum depression/anxiety, I’d like to talk about my personal experience with both. With my firstborn, I suffered severe postpartum depression for about 6 months. I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even my significant other. I felt a deep sense of shame; in a time where I was supposed to be a glowing new mother, I instead felt anger, sadness, jealousy, and frustration towards my new life. Not to say that I didn’t love my son, I did, more than I could ever imagine I could. But here I was, 21 and a new mother, struggling to accept my new identity, struggling to be the ‘ideal’ mom, and perfect fiancé, another title I was still getting used to. My whole family sensed that something was wrong, but especially my mom. I snapped at her a lot and never wanted her around my baby. I convinced myself I had to be the one to comfort him every time he cried, feed him every bottle, and change his every diaper the second it got damp. Naturally, the exhaustion that came from taking on literally every task caught up to me. It exaggerated the postpartum depression tenfold, and every aspect of my life began to feel the negative effects. Somehow, without seeking help or even talking about it, I began to feel the weight of depression lift. I realized what an ass I was being towards everyone, and began to accept help and visit family again. Postpartum depression is real and more common than you think. I wish I had been more prepared for it before I delivered, and I wish the people around me had also been informed about it. Give the new mom in your life some grace, and a helping hand, even if she doesn’t want it.

With my second child, I was scared during pregnancy that I’d suffer through PPD again. I did a little more research into it, and told myself I’d seek help this time if I began to feel the same way. Well, while I did prepare for PPD, I did NOT prepare for postpartum anxiety, which is also incredibly common and affects somewhere between 30-60% of women. The first couple days were bliss. I felt great! Natural childbirth was a hell of a lot easier recovery than medicated birth. I was happy, confident in my abilities as a mother, and just generally more at ease. We went home, showered, ate, and hopped into bed to catch up on our shows we missed while at the hospital. Suddenly, I felt a sharp, searing pain throughout my abdomen that instantly made me lose my breath, sweat, and start to shiver. “Oh god”, I thought, “my uterus is detaching, or I’m about to hemorrhage to death”. I’d never been one to be a hypochondriac, but the hormones and pain combined convinced me that I was in mortal danger. I began to panic, my heart racing, dizzy, and I had suddenly become hyperaware of my breathing. I’m breathing too fast, I can’t get enough oxygen, my heart is failing, I thought morbidly. I quickly called my mom to come and take me to the ER, as I wasn’t about to take my two babies to a germ filled hospital. Isaac tried his best to calm me down, but all I could think was that I was having a severe complication from delivery and my panic continued to escalate. Once at the ER, I was told it was just a reaction from the antibiotics they had given me, and I was actually healing great from delivery! I went home feeling a bit stupid, but relieved. As the days progressed, my anxiety and panic rose and fell to the point where I couldn’t sleep anymore. I was constantly monitoring my heart rate and breathing, convinced that I was somehow about to have a bad complication that would require medical attention. Another day or so later and I found myself confused and irritable. When I spoke, it came out not making sense. I heard myself talking and was confused as to why it wasn’t what I was trying to say. Isaac had to call 911, because they feared I was having a stroke. 2 days in the hospital, a panel of blood work, an MRI, CT scan, and EKG later, and I was deemed perfectly fine. Turns out, sleep deprivation is a real thing, as well as dehydration and malnourishment. Postpartum anxiety had quite literally rendered me incapable of remembering to take care of myself. While I was busy taking care of a newborn and toddler, I was forgetting to eat or drink or sleep for days at a time. When I wasn’t caring for the kids, I was busy riding waves of anxiety. I’m now almost 1 month postpartum and I’m happy to report that my anxiety has all but disappeared. My hormones seem to be going back to normal, and I’m eating and drinking like a normal human being again. I wish both of these conditions had been talked about more while I was pregnant, maybe then I wouldn’t have been so blindsided by either.

What it’s like being the “mom” friend

To be fair, I don’t have that many friends. I have maybe 2 friends from high school that I’ve actually seen since graduation, a few friends from work that I’ve maintained contact with, but overall, my wedding is going to be pretty cozy (better food!). But, of those friends, up until recently, I was the only one with a baby. And that means you’re the ‘mom’ friend. Comments like “no Angelina can’t she has a baby now!” or “why do you think that random baby over there is crying?” Girl, I don’t know! I’m just glad my baby’s not crying right now! It has been quite comical for me to see the transformation that people undergo when they’re expecting. I have the pleasure of being pregnant at the same time as my sister and close friend, both who are expecting their first baby, as well as a few friends whose SO is expecting. Suddenly I became the go-to baby guru who now didn’t seem all that boring talking about baby shit (literally). I feel like I’m mom to all of these unsuspecting poor souls about to embark on the rollercoaster that is parenthood…gently guiding them to do’s and don’ts of a baby registry, advice on handling overbearing in-laws, reminders to support their SO in their own ways during this time, as well as a few ominous snippets of wisdom about what happens AFTER their bundle of joy arrives. It’s surprised me, but also given me a warm sense of pride that quite a few people have trusted me enough to confide in me their worries, problems, and fears about a range of topics. I try my best to remain a person of integrity, I have a firm set of beliefs that I hold myself accountable to. I’m not perfect, but I sleep great at night. Realistically, I think the reason that I enjoy when people ask me for advice is because I feel like I can help them in someway and escape my own problems at the same time. It’s easier to tell someone else what you think they should do, then actually do it yourself. Anyway, being the mom friend isn’t so bad, I love where I’m at in my life right now, and I love being able to help others, even if it’s in the smallest of ways.

On feeling overwhelmed…

I may or may not be a self-proclaimed expert on being overwhelmed. I feel as if I’ve been in a perpetual state of exhaustion and being overwhelmed for over a year now, and as such, have found some ways to relieve stress and cut back on being in that state of crisis at least, some of the time. Personally, the reasons for me being overwhelmed and overstressed vary from financial burden to relationship issues and nearly everything in between, not to mention that fact that I’m pregnant and that just multiplies everything by about 10. The first thing I do to relieve some stress is resort to my planner. Yes, I’m 22 years old and I use a good old fashioned, pen and paper, PLANNER. They make one that is very goal/achievement oriented (even if your goals are as simple as making sure there’s no dishes left in the sink every day) that I use and love! I’m a firm believer in setting goals and coming up with plans to achieve them. Again, your goals don’t have to be HUGE and seemingly unattainable. Start small, start crossing things off your list, and you’d be amazed at how accomplished you feel and how motivated you are to crush the next thing. Planners also ensure you know the due dates to all of your bills, yours and your kids doctors appointments, and for you SAHMs, it’s a great way to keep track of housekeeping chores and logistics. I used to spend hours a day cleaning house because I didn’t have a good system of maintaining it. I’d let the house get trashed, then spend days cleaning it. Now, I have a rotating schedule of sweeping/mopping/bathroom cleaning/trash days, that makes it much faster and simpler to have the house in a clean state at all times. Which means less stress when you have unexpected guests! As silly as it may sound, now that my mind is in a more organized place and my house is clean, I feel a bit more in control of my life. The next thing I do is to try and reflect on things that are weighing heavy on my heart, you know, those reoccurring negative thoughts or annoyances that just keep resurfacing every so often that instantly put you in a sour mood. Or maybe it’s the things that you feel guilty about, not visiting family enough, feeling like you haven’t done something special for your spouse in a while, etc. Sit and think when you have a moment about it all, what you can do today to start to remedy these bad vibes. What can you do right now that’s going to right a wrong? Is it a text to a family member saying you’re thinking of them and would like to make plans soon? Is it a phone call to your grandparents saying you love them? Is it flowers sent to your wife’s work with a sweet note? Is it something as simple as taking time for yourself to feel what you’re feeling? It’s okay to be angry/sad/resentful/guilty about things, it’s not okay to pretend everything is okay and not think about these things because they evoke strong emotion. The last thing I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to remember this: every time period in this life is a season. You may be in a beautiful, wealthy season of your life! I’m in a tough one, a trying one, a season that makes me want to bury my head into the blankets and resurface when everything is easy again. But I’m in a season nonetheless, and I know from my short 22 years in life, that nothing lasts forever. As they say, it doesn’t rain forever. It also doesn’t shine beautifully forever. This feeling of overwhelming tidal waves of responsibility, hurt, financial strain will end. Maybe not today, tomorrow, maybe not next month. But it will end. We cannot control everything in this life and many of us would not enjoy the ability to do so anyway. We can control our reactions, and our attitude throughout it all though. Don’t make things harder for yourself by having a negative mindset.