I went home to Wisconsin for two weeks while my husband was still away and essentially had a nervous breakdown. My body, mind and soul knew they could finally take the bench now while my mom and friends cared for Ava.
I had to get help for myself and realized that if I didn’t, I really couldn’t be a mom to Ava at all. So I started a low dose of an antidepressant and they sent me on my way. And ya know what? It really, really helped me. It was astonishing actually. I could slow my thoughts and work through them rather than get all wound up in them. I could spend time with my daughter and not obsess about feedings, naptimes, bedtime and if she was developing appropriately. I started to sleep. I had my family with me and I started to think, maybe I can do this…
After returning home, I realized that once again, I was without a support group. I desperately needed to get out of my house and couldn’t bear the thought of becoming a recluse again with my baby. I went online and started to look for activities and groups I could take my daughter to while meeting other moms. Stroller Strides caught my eye. I have always enjoyed working out and was struggling to actually do the home workout videos that were collecting dust in my living room.
I stood in front of my mirror and examined my post-partum body. I felt soft. It was like all of my muscle tone had gone slack immediately after birthing my baby. It was bizarre really. I mean…where did it go?? I had remained active my whole pregnancy doing barre, lifting light weights and doing squats and then poof…I had no butt and no muscles! I should also add that I have struggled with poor body image my entire adult life. While I felt very beautiful during my pregnancy, I had irrational thoughts that after I gave birth, I needed to “snap back.” I emailed the contact person and vowed to show up that Monday. Monday came and went…I didn’t go. The next week I vowed to go…and didn’t. I ended up talking to the owner on the phone and explained to her that I was recovering from post partum anxiety and was still self-conscious about being out and about with my daughter. What if she cried the entire time? What if she had to eat or pooped or had a blow out? What if I couldn’t keep up with the other women and felt too discouraged to keep going? As you can see, I can really become Dani Downer quick…a product of dealing with all of these intrusive, self-defeating thoughts all these years. She assured me that every one of my fears were valid and that yup, my baby may cry and may need to eat, be changed or have an epic blow out…but all of it was OK. I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes. I thought, maybe this will be my outlet. Maybe these women will get me and I will finally feel accepted as a mom…a woman…maybe even a friend.
The next Monday, I packed up my baby and my stroller and we went to class.
This is a common scenario for me now. I am in a plank, sweating like crazy, arms are shaking and my core is screaming…I look to my left and I see a mom wipe the sweat from her eyes and reposition. She is struggling through exactly the same as I am. I look to my right and see another mom, gritting her teeth and pushing herself, finding another level of strength, stamina and heart she may not have known she had. Now when I have the thought, I don’t know if I can do this…all I have to do is look around and see my fellow Stroller Strides mommas, my friends, supporting one another as we learn to develop strength in body, mind and soul. It isn’t about getting skinny. It’s about being a mother, a woman and a friend. This level of comradery is unlike anything I have ever known and it generalizes right out of the workout into daily life with my beautiful daughter and loving husband. I know I can do this now. It ain’t easy, that is for sure. It takes a village. For some, it also takes medication for a short time or however long we need it. And that is OK! This is for all the other mommas out there who are struggling or have struggled with anxiety prior to mommyhood or during...We can do this!!
*If you are ever struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression, please don't feel ashamed. Talk to your OBGYN and your doctor for a plan that works best for you. There are options. You are not alone.