Help with coping with first year of parenthood
May 27, 2018 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I’m a bit at a loss of what to ask because I know I can’t ask people over the internet to diagnose me, but I also know I need some support/ideas: - I’m a first time mom of an 8 month old & I need to know how to distinguish worry from anxiety More inside

- I need advice on how to find the time and/or the minimum work I need to do to get properly evaluated
- I honestly do not think I have PPA/D and because I am breastfeeding, I do not want to take meds for anxiety. So I want advice on how to cope with anxiety without meds.
Relevant details:

I am a stay at home parent and I solo parent 60% of the time.
My worry is mostly at night and its main impact is that it prevents me from falling asleep or wakes me up. I worry my baby will stop breathing in the night. She has no risk factors other than being under a year.
I also worry/get upset when she’s sick or hurt. For example, tonight I am preoccupied with her diaper rash, feeling terrible that she has it, and going down research rabbit holes for treatment.
I don’t want to take meds cus of breastfeeding but also because I’ve been on them before (Lexapro) and don’t want to withdraw again when it’s time to stop.
I don’t have time to shower everyday and haven’t resumed exercise. I feel very pressed for time.
I belong to mom suppprt groups and my parents are close by and help me everyday.
In many many ways, I am the luckiest (most supported) Mom I know, but I still find myself feeling overwhelmed multiple times a week.
I’ve taken the PPA/D checklists and do not have a postpartum syndrome according to that.

So...fellow parents of metafilter, is this just the deal?
posted by CMcG to Human Relations (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I went through this with both my kids in their first year and it seemed normal. Hard, overwhelming, but normal.

Looking back, I definitely had PPD. I was stay at home, primary parent, on my own the majority of the day, also took on the vast majority of nighttime duties because nursing, also have a super supportive and involved partner whose parents helped a lot, and it was still more than I needed to deal with by myself. If you aren't having time to shower every day by 8 months, you deserve more help than you are getting. How much sleep do you get? Do you get time to yourself regularly? (and I don't mean while baby is napping, but time when you are not responsible for anything or anyone but yourself)

There are coping mechanisms besides meds, especially for the anxiety re diaper rash and SIDS. I hope you reach out to your doctor or therapist. You can probably cope with what you're experiencing and it gets a lot better (or it did for me as my kids got older). But you also don't have to live with this level of anxiety.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:23 PM on May 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

It doesn't really matter if it's post-partum or just "regular"
anxiety. It's anxiety. Talk to your doctor!
posted by yarly at 7:11 PM on May 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

How much sleep are you getting? Does your baby sleep thru the night, can you pump ahead and your partner takes a night? The first step is to get a few nights rest and then evaluate.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:43 PM on May 27, 2018

Response by poster: Some more relevant details:
When I say solo parenting, I mean my husband is traveling for 60% of the time. Right now we are in the midst of a 13 day trip
- she has never taken a bottle, so the longest amount of time I’ve been away from her is two hours. However on the Saturdays he’s home, my husband is in charge of parenting so I get a mental break
- she sleeps through the night. I get between 5 and 8 hours a night. Pre-baby, I got 10
posted by CMcG at 8:22 PM on May 27, 2018

I have a 3 month old and a lot of anxiety. Can you get an owlet? They’re expensive but will assuage your worry about her breathing. Do you have a pediatrician with a really responsive nurses’ line? Mine helps me a lot with my health concerns. Can you take melatonin at night? Since she’s sleeping through anyway it will make it easier for you to fall asleep. Can you try a bottle? It will make your life easier if someone else can occasionally feed her and you can feel like you’re “off” for a few hours.

Zoloft is recommended for breastfeeding mothers because it has low milk transfer and has been widely studied. You can call the Infant Risk hotline and talk to nurses at length about what medications are safe for breastfeeding and why. Hope you’re feeling better soon. Solidarity mama.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:42 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you don't already have a therapist, you might consider looking for one. I know of several in my area who will let people bring their babies to appointments if necessary.

Alternately, Postpartum Support International may have some ideas for you.
posted by linettasky at 9:13 PM on May 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a six month old and I completely hear you, both on the level of anxiety and the specific worries (and having trouble sleeping because of it sometimes!). I’m pretty sure I do have PPA though. It doesn’t mean that you do, but it’s probably worth talking to your doctor or a therapist about.

I’m doing weekly phone appointments with my CBT therapist, monthly Skype appointments with my psychiatrist, and taking Prozac (after doing risk/benefit analysis with previous care providers). I have a friend with PPA who’s dealing with her anxiety through exercise, meditation, and journaling.

Being the parent of a young baby is HARD, even without exclusive breastfeeding, anxiety, or solo parenting! You are a rockstar and doing an awesome job. Hang in there, see if you can find a therapist, and MeMail me if you want to chat/rant/exchange ridiculous poopsplosion stories for distracting comic relief!
posted by bananacabana at 9:26 PM on May 27, 2018

Best answer: Oh god, yes, entirely what it was like for me. When the babies (born 20 months apart) did sleep through the night, I would still wake in fear and check them, not getting enough sleep for 3 years! And while I breastfed relatively easily, I couldn't express more than a teaspoon. So I had to be with them until they were on solid food. I have no solutions for you (I hope somebody does) but I had educated myself (pre-internet) to know what risks they faced, and one time when my daughter was about 2 months old and my son was not quite 2, he had a high fever, and my absentee (lazy fuck) husband was out with his friends and I knew I had to get to the hospital...

Now, I know, I have lifelong general anxiety disorder, adhd and autism, but I got through, and you will too. It's hard, so so hard, and for months at a time. But you are responsible for a precious little person, and there's so many conflicting rules. Just do the best you can, and hold on. It's okay if you don't shower every day (It's not like you're dirty). It's okay if the housework doesn't get done (it'll wait). The only thing I would suggest if you can find the time is to work at recognising if/when you're catastrophising (I'm a bad mother, I fail at everything) and learn techniques to push those thoughts away (David Burns books are good for that).
posted by b33j at 2:56 AM on May 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

So...fellow parents of metafilter, is this just the deal?

It was for me. I'm in the process of moving from the home where I raised my 3 kids to a one bedroom apartment, so there's a lot of decluttering going on. I have discovered no less than seven gigantic photo albums of Thing 1 of her first year of life (including at least 10 pages of her sleeping), one album of Thing 2, and essentially no albums of Thing 3. It's a useful metaphor for what can happen with our kids.

So while I think what you're doing is pretty typical new parent behavior, I can also see that you aren't taking enough care of yourself, particularly with exercise. Getting outside may improve your mood, so I would start planning a daily run, either with or without the baby. If your parents can watch her, then start a Couch to 5k program or just go for a brisk walk, ideally alternating walking and jogging.

I found that running really did help my mood and it did help calm down the new parent anxiety; it gave me a thing to do that was manageable and my own, and it also forced me to shower.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:01 AM on May 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So...fellow parents of metafilter, is this just the deal?

It's hard is and it isn't. SOME of this is just the deal. Parenting is fucking hard (esp the first year) and you don't get as much sleep as you would like and you worry about your kids. For a lot of people, they're anxious a lot at first and then it gradually gets easier and they get more confident. So it's sometimes hard to pull out what's "normal" parent stuff and what's worthy of more attention. Having said that, you're writing this question and you sound overwhelmed and stressed and I would really encourage you to look into some non-med solutions for anxiety. Talk therapy has really helped some people I know, and CBT. Meditation (I like the headspace app) or journaling are both easy places to start.

It would also absolutely help, I think, to get some self care like showering and exercising and a little time away from the kid. Practical tips (just so you know where I'm coming from, I'm also a SAHM and my husband travels, although not nearly as much as yours):

- the bottle thing: I feel you on this, my kid didn't take one either. However, 8 months is around the time she was starting to get an increasingly large percentage of her food from solids, and also she started using a straw sippy cup. Could you try pumping and see if she will take breast milk in a cup, to allow for a little less boob reliance? Or maybe supplement with formula for a couple of the daytime feeds? (Obviously you should keep breastfeeding absolutely as long as you like - I'm just speaking from my experience, it helped me a LOT to know that I could do something that lasted an entire morning without worrying my kid would starve).

- showering: at that age if I needed to shower and I was solo parent, I would bring her into the bathroom on a play mat and take a quick one while talking to her around the door. Bathroom was pretty babyproofed and I could see her the whole time.

- exercise: my absolute godsend has been a family membership at the YMCA which allows me to use their childcare. (cost is pretty reasonable and they have some programs for lower income folks if that's an issue). It's in the same building and they will come and get me if they need to. I drop her off, run on the treadmill for a bit, take a shower, pick her up - all done within an hour if I need to be. It's been amazing for my sanity and I also think it's been good for my kid to experience some other kids and some different caregivers. We started doing it at about 6 months.

MeMail me if you ever want to talk about any of this, with someone who's been there / is still there. Also there's a metafilter parenting group on Facebook that is very supportive.
posted by cpatterson at 5:30 AM on May 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

I found even mild sleep deprivation really ramped up my anxiety and first noticed this after my son was born. That realization at least helped me notice when my thoughts were particularity out of control and touch base with myself, saying, "ok this is a sign I need a good night's sleep." Since your anxiety is making sleep harder, it's possibly a self-perpetuating challenge. You could try a mild over the counter sleep aid to see if getting better sleep helps break the cycle. But yeah, the first year is really hard. You've got her sleeping through the night which is great. It will probably get easier, slowly over time. Good luck.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:56 AM on May 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's absolutely not "just the deal" with parenthood. Anxiety that disrupts your sleep, and being unable to take the time to shower, mean you need professional help if you want to get better.

As for the bottle - it is usually possible to get a baby to take a bottle if you are persistant and let an experienced caregiver do it. You need a high-flow nipple. Your baby at 8 months can also go more than 2 hours between feedings. You might try leaving for the day and seeing what happens. You can also start trying cups and straws, and ramping up solids.
posted by yarly at 7:51 AM on May 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Assuming your baby sleeps in a crib, that's where you can stash her when you need to take a rinse. She might cry a bunch, but she'll be fine, for real. It's the only way my spouse and I can each get ready for work in the morning; baby chills out in her crib with a couple books and stuffed animals while we do adult stuff. No one should be chained to their baby at all times. Just plop her down in there and do what you need to do.
posted by fso at 8:15 AM on May 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey all, thank you. I can’t mark any one of these as best answer because they are each giving me a different perspective. Thank you all!
posted by CMcG at 10:25 AM on May 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So much good advice above - especially about worsened symptoms correlating with less sleep. IANAD, but since IAAPOAB (I am a parent of a baby) I cautiously disagree that not finding time to shower is a warning sign...for a solo parent of a semi-mobile baby everything bathroom related is just tough to pull off. There were days I was choosing between showering and eating! The best I could do some weeks is shower by dragging a pack n play in front of the bathroom, plop the little guy in, and shower REALLY quickly while supervising with the door and shower curtain open. All my baby owning friends have similar stories.

Hang in there! It really does start to get easier (not easy, mind, but easier) around ten months.
posted by this-apoptosis at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

For anyone reading who would like to join the Facebook parenting group cpatterson mentioned, please memail me, we would love to have you.
posted by sestaaak at 5:14 AM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

> because I am breastfeeding, I do not want to take meds for anxiety

There are medications that it's safe to take while breastfeeding, in case you didn't know that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:16 AM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

We just bought a running buggy. These are wonderful things and will save your sanity. You can run and have free childcare.
posted by moiraine at 3:05 PM on May 30, 2018

Response by poster: One last from me for anyone reading along: I was part of the parenting group on Facebook and it was so helpful! I left Facebook though. It’s one of the only things I miss about it!
posted by CMcG at 11:06 AM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

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