Insomnia in motherhood: 6 reasons why it happens and what to do

Insomnia in motherhood: 6 reasons why it happens and what to do

 

These days, it’s like you dread night time because you lie there awake and feel exhausted, alone and drained.

 

If you’re here researching insomnia in motherhood it’s probably because sleep has been a struggle. Let me guess: you can’t sleep no matter how tired you are and you lie awake night after night unable to just shut off your brain. You’re exhausted throughout the day and when you do get to sleep, you wake up with your family and you don’t feel fully rested. You look forward to getting some sleep but when the time comes, it feels impossible. If this has been going on for a while, you may have noticed that your insomnia is having an impact on you both physically and mentally. 

Before, you used to be able to just close your eyes and before you’d know it, the next day would arrive. Now, it’s like you dread night time. You lie there awake and feel exhausted, alone and drained. 

It’s strange how in early motherhood, there’s so much focus given to your baby’s sleep… but there isn’t much attention given to yours. Insomnia in motherhood is really common though! Many women start having this experience during pregnancy and for some, it can even continue two years postpartum. And, it can have a serious impact on mental health. 

If sleep has completely gone out the window since becoming a parent, you’re in the right place. Here, I’m outlining what’s going on and how you can start to fix it. 

 

Why insomnia and anxiety are linked

When it comes to anxiety, people can sometimes overlook insomnia as a symptom. We might first think of things like a jittery sensation, butterflies in the tummy, feeling nervous without really knowing why or feeling sick to the stomach. But insomnia and anxiety are strongly connected. If you experience anxiety, you might have issues with ruminating, stressing over minor things, obsessing over intrusive thoughts, or needing to feel in control of certain areas of your life. These are the types of thought patterns that keep you up well into the wee hours of the morning. This connection makes sense, right? You cannot be in a relaxed state and an anxious state at the same time. Hence why you just cannot seem to doze off. You’re stressed!

 

Insomnia in motherhood: Why now 

Insomnia is linked to anxiety regardless of what phase of life you’re in. But some of you may be wondering why it’s really picking up since you’ve become a mom. Why is it that since having children, sleep has become such an issue? Here’s a quick breakdown of six possible explanations: 

 

1. Physical health changes.

Think about the things happening right now that make it physically hard to fall asleep. Pain after birth, breastfeeding, handling hormonal changes, a dysregulated circadian rhythm and increased nighttime urination are all factors that are common in new motherhood and can impact how you sleep at night. 

 

2. Increased stress. 

Um hello, motherhood is super stressful! A stressed mom is going to be one who can’t seem to rest easily and get a proper night’s sleep. Think about all that’s on your plate now and how you’ve historically coped with stress. You’re literally keeping an infant alive and that baby has so many needs that you have to meet! That’s no small feat. You may also be experiencing relationship distress. In a two-parent family, there are factors that naturally bring one parent into the primary caregiver role. This can feel overwhelming and create disconnection or resentment. 

 

3. Mental health distress.

Past mental health issues have a tendency to resurface during this time. Do you have a history of depression or anxiety? Chances are that that can be triggered. It’s also important to understand that insomnia is a state of hyper-arousal. Pregnant and postpartum mothers experience more cognitive hyperarousal than women in the general population. This looks like repetitive thought patterns or ruminating which prevents you from sleeping.

 

4. Behavioural changes. 

Take a look at how your life has changed lately. (I mean allllll the ways!) One logistical thing that’s different now is that you have to care for a baby during the night. She cries, wakes up, needs feeding, etc. That means that you’re regularly getting up during the night and not sleeping as you normally would. This itself isn’t insomnia but it could trigger circadian dysregulation which in turn can cause insomnia. 

 

5. Lifestyle factors. 

Sugar, alcohol, coffee and lack of movement all contribute to poor sleep quality of insomnia. During early motherhood all of these things can come together to play a role in a sleepless and exhausted period. Think about how the stress of parenting might make you reach for a glass of wine or sugary snack a little more frequently than you may have done before. And I’m willing to guess that nursing a baby or caring for multiple young kids has you totally out of sync with your yoga or running routine. This all plays a role in your sleep. 

 

6. Individual factors.

There are a bunch of things about you as a unique individual that can lead to sleep problems. For example, perfectionism, being highly sensitive, or being reactive to stress are all elements that could make it more likely for a person to have issues with insomnia. Insomnia, anxiety, stress, and adjusting to motherhood isn’t one-size-fits-all. Your personality, needs and way of dealing with stressors all weigh in. 

 

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Falling asleep: How to actually make that happen

Ok so you now might have a better idea of what’s causing your insomnia and why it’s happening right now in this stage of your life. But I get you: you’re exhausted and you need solutions. What are some tangible things that you can actually do about the insomnia you’re experiencing lately? How do you solve it and get the rest you need in order to be the parent you want to be? 

 

1. Assess potential lifestyle changes. 

To the point about lifestyle and how it can affect sleep, assessing habits or your routine is a good starting point. Does anything need to change? And if so, what and how are you realistically going to do that? Keep in mind that a lot of general sleep advice won’t necessarily work for a new mother. It’s probably not feasible to get to a gym every day but could you put your baby in the stroller and commit to morning walks together? 

 

2. Share the load with your partner.

A lot of what keeps us awake is knowing that our baby will probably wake up pretty soon and anticipating that keeps us from drifting off. If this is the case, it could be time to take a look at what you’re doing during the night versus what your partner is doing. If you’re doing the bulk as they sleep easily, maybe it’s time to have a conversation about divvying up the taks more evenly. (And to learn how to do that, check out my mini course here!) For example, maybe you pump and on certain nights, they take care of feeding. Or, they could take on morning tasks like making breakfast and lunches for the other kids while you get an hour or two of sleep. 

 

3. Address unhelpful thoughts. 

Sometimes we are unable to sleep because the thoughts swirling around in our minds are causing stress which further prevents us from relaxing. Thoughts (whether they be positive or negative) create a reaction and emotion. So negative thoughts or beliefs about sleep can cause you to feel anxious, upset, frustrated, or irritated. That’s not exactly conducive to feeling rested is it? If you notice that this is what’s going on as you see 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., and 3:00 a.m., try managing this by switching out negative thinking with something neutral or positive. Here are some examples: 

 

Instead of…

“I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow.” 

“I’ll never fall asleep. It’s not going to happen!” 

“I hate how sleep has been going lately.” 

“Even if I fall asleep now, I’ll only get a few hours of sleep. I should cancel tomorrow’s plans.” 

 

Try these…

“At least I’m resting. That’s still helpful.”

“I may not be at my best tomorrow but it won’t be the end of the world.”

“This is temporary. Many people go through this too.”

“I’ll be a little tired but I’ll get through my day.” 

 

Sleep problems and insomnia can be tough to deal with especially in the first weeks after welcoming a new baby into the family. Yes, continuing to struggle with insomnia can have a negative impact on your mental health and lead to things like depression or postpartum anxiety. But insomnia is curable just like anything related to mental health. You might feel tired now or notice yourself dreading another sleepless night, but just know that this isn’t permanent. With proper research, support and changes, you can definitely try the wide range of tactics out there to get back to a place where you feel more calm and rested. 

If you’re at the beginning of your research and you know that insomnia has been a pretty big problem in pregnancy or postpartum, you may want to check out my workshop on getting to the root of insomnia… and fixing it! For just $17, you can start to understand why this has been happening, and learn all the most effective tools to put an end to this problem. Picture not having anxiety over insomnia anymore and actually feeling energized to tackle your days each morning. 

 

Can breastfeeding cause anxiety?

Can breastfeeding cause anxiety?

 

Ummm… yes.

 

Breastfeeding can be such a loaded topic, right? For something that’s supposed to be natural and just part of daily life as a mother of a baby, it can definitely cause a lot of stress! 

Not only are there some really damaging and annoying societal conversations (people who say “breast is best” or shame parents for using formula…), but breastfeeding can also cause anxiety. 

*And* to add more difficulty to the mix, it’s not actually physically straightforward for a lot of women. A lot of new moms have a hard time learning how to nurse their baby, have latch problems, issues with pain, etc. So if you’re experiencing anxiety while breastfeeding or the logistics around feeding your baby are stressing you out, you’re in the right place. 

This isn’t easy. In my practice, I see a lot of women who are anxious about breastfeeding their baby or are experiencing high levels of shame because it’s not going well. Seriously, this problem is way more common than you think. There’s nothing—I repeat nothing—wrong with you. Promise. 

The below list is intended to explain why breastfeeding can cause anxiety so that you can feel informed, validated… and normal. 

 

Supply. 

You would think that milk supply wouldn’t be an issue. We usually think that breastfeeding is supposed to be this natural thing where your body instinctively knows what your little baby needs, right? But even though it’s a natural function, it doesn’t always go smoothly. A lot of women have an undersupply or an oversupply of breastmilk. That first one can be especially stressful. You might notice yourself worrying about whether you’re going to produce enough milk and stressing about what to do if you don’t. And that brings me to my next point… 

 

Societal pressure. 

The societal pressures never stop. Especially for women. Before you have kids, you’re expected to check a bunch of—quite frankly—stupid boxes. Be thin, be pretty, be “successful” (but not too successful), find an ideal partner, etc. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that there are tons of ridiculous expectations put on women during early motherhood. Many revolve around breastfeeding which can certainly bring out anxiety. Here are some of the most common pieces of bullsh*it advice that you’re totally allowed to just block out and ignore: 

  • “Breast is best! You should only feed your baby breastmilk and never formula.” 
  • “You should breastfeed your baby until they are X age. Not a second earlier and not after that either!” 
  • “You shouldn’t breastfeed in public.”
  • “Don’t ever drink alcohol while breastfeeding.”
  • “Formula is bad and you shouldn’t give it to your baby.” 

Yeah. No to all of this. You know what’s best for you and your baby. You get to decide how you’ll feed him/her. 

 

Pain. 

Ugh. Yet another way that women experience physical pain right? Periods, pregnancy, birth, birth recovery… and now this too?! Breastfeeding doesn’t always hurt but it often does. Some women experience latch difficulties, cracked nipples, or their baby is too rough. That can bring on anxiety because feeding time physically hurts! If this is describing your experience, know that there are many lactation consultants that can help—either with education online, a class or an in-person consultation. 

 

Tap this image to learn more about my FREE anxiety workbook

 

Perfectionism.

Perfectionism has a way of ruining everything! This is a sneaky one because most perfectionists are already dealing with high-functioning anxiety. If this is one of your tendencies, you might think you’re doing yourself all kinds of favours, but you’re not. All you’re doing is creating unrealistic expectations for yourself… which leads you to feeling angry when you fall short. (And cue the depression that follows!) 

If you have these types of tendencies, this is how your perfectionism might show up when it comes to breastfeeding: 

  • “I have an undersupply. I’m a failure.”
  • “I’m just not getting the hang of this! Isn’t this supposed to come naturally?”
  • “I’m probably doing this wrong.”
  • “Am I eating all the right things to ensure that my milk is perfect?” 
  • “My breasts have changed and I’m not sure if I like how they look.” 

 

Body image anxiety. 

Why do body image issues have the reputation of being exclusively a teenage issue? As women at any age, it’s so hard to ignore beauty standards or not compare ourselves to others. Anxiety is what drives these kinds of issues because you’re worrying about being perceived as good enough and you’re using mental energy to think about potential steps you plan to take to change yourself. With pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, a lot changes! That can be really triggering for a lot of women. This might sound like:

  • “How am I going to get my body back?” 
  • “Every time I breastfeed, I’m faced to look at a part of my body that has changed so much.”
  • “Worrying about what I can and can’t eat to ensure safe/healthy milk is reminding me of restrictive diets/disordered eating issues from my past.”

 

Feeling touched out. 

Anxiety can be triggered when both emotional and physical needs aren’t met. That includes physical, personal space and control over your own body. The very nature of breastfeeding can feel like it violates both of those things. If you’re feeling anxious because your baby always needs your body, that’s a fairly common reaction. (Even if others aren’t always talking about it.) Sometimes you just feel touched out! 

 

Baby health anxiety. 

A lot of women struggle with health anxiety as their child’s health is practically in their hands. As kids grow up, health anxiety manifests as worrying about them getting a bad diagnosis, contracting a bug, or getting really sick. This can start as early as the first days after they’re born. If breastfeeding is causing anxiety or you have anxiety while you’re breastfeeding, it could be because you’re worried about passing something to your baby, triggering an allergy because of something in your milk, or feeling overly cautious about the glass of wine you had with dinner and worrying if it’s out of your system. So yeah, if you’re feeling anxious during feeding times, there’s a good reason for that! 

Breastfeeding is one of the many, many things during motherhood that can trigger anxiety. If this topic hits close to home, don’t feel ashamed or as though something is “wrong” with you. While underrated—and under discussed—breastfeeding can be challenging in many ways.

If breastfeeding has been a struggle for you, reach out and get support! I lead a team of perinatal therapists at The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective. Even just a few sessions with a therapist can dramatically improve your experience in motherhood. And for some DIY mental health care, check out my anxiety workbook for moms. This tool is a great starting point to get clear on where anxiety comes from and the impact it can have. 

 

Is period anxiety a thing!?

Is period anxiety a thing!?

 

Totally a thing. You’re not imagining it!

 

Monthly cycles are a part of life for most of us. And even though they are natural, predictable (mostly), and just part of being a woman… they can really take a toll. Physically and mentally. 

We know about PMS (premenstrual syndrome), mood changes that can happen during your period, and that general icky feeling at this time of month. (Ummm, yeah maybe we’re a little too acquainted with those things!) The mood dips is what I really want to address. Specifically: period anxiety. 

“Is period anxiety a thing?” you might find yourself asking as you notice yourself feeling on-edge, nervous for no apparent reason, or like you’re in a heightened state of awareness. The answer is yes. You may have noticed yourself freaking out over your career path (Am I on track? Am I doomed to fail? Is my boss mad at me?) just to get your period later that day. Or consider this situation: ruminating all night, losing sleep, and waking up feeling like you’ve already lost the day. Then, boom! Your period starts. 

But why does your period cause anxiety? And what can you do about it

 

Is period anxiety a thing?

Period anxiety is totally a thing. It can definitely take a toll on you emotionally and have you getting stuck on certain anxiety-fuelled thoughts like wondering if you’re a bad mom or if you’re passing your anxiety onto your kids. What’s at play here? 

First things first, hormones play a starring role. 

Your menstrual cycle is a delicate dance of hormone fluctuations, and as your period approaches (especially the week prior), levels of estrogen and progesterone start to shift. These hormonal changes can impact your brain chemistry, specifically the neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions, like serotonin. When this is out of whack, it can lead to heightened anxiety. 

But hormones aren’t the sole culprits (Ughh… so many crappy moving parts here.) There’s also the emotional baggage that comes with menstruation. Society, unfortunately, has a way of stigmatizing periods. From a young age, we’re bombarded with negative messages about periods which bring on shame, body image issues, embarrassment and low self-esteem. And you wonder why you’re feeling extra anxious during this time? Yeah, makes sense! 

Now, there’s also the fact that our mental and physical selves are connected. When you’re not feeling great physically, your emotions can take a hit. Physical discomfort, like cramps and fatigue, can totally exacerbate our emotional state. Dealing with pain and feeling physically drained can make us more susceptible to feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It’s like adding fuel to the anxiety fire. 

We’re not all alike. Some women experience really bad emotional symptoms and period anxiety whereas other women barely have any. And our symptoms certainly shift as well! One thing to pay attention to though, is the severity of how you’re hit emotionally during these days. And that brings me to my next point… 

 

What is PMDD? 

If the anxiety (or other mood issues) you deal with during your period are really strong or even unbearable, consider the fact that you *could* be dealing with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). PMDD is when women experience mood disturbances during their menstrual cycle that are beyond that typical emotional dips that can happen during this time of month. 

This is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects a small percentage of menstruating individuals. It’s characterized by intense emotional and physical symptoms that occur in the days or weeks leading up to menstruation. These symptoms can include severe mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and physical discomfort. PMDD significantly impacts daily functioning and overall well-being, often requiring medical intervention such as medication, therapy, or lifestyle changes for effective management.

Remember, you are the expert of your story and your experiences. If you think something is worth looking into, it probably is. Advocate for yourself and push to get the right answers, diagnosis, and tools that will make your life easier. 

 

How to soothe period anxiety

We’re taught to self-sacrifice and just deal with things but that really shouldn’t be the case. I say this all the time: you deserve your own love, energy, and attention. You deserve to feel like yourself even on days when you’re a little low. When you’re on your period and anxiety is really doing a number of you, make self-care happen. I know, I know. That can sound annoying but there’s truth to it. And I also say this all the time: let it be easy and simple. 

Assess how your cycle is affecting you right now. Is it intolerable? Just fine? A bit anxiety inducing at times but otherwise ok? The more you tune into what your body is telling you, the better able you’ll be to know which type of self-care is most likely to help. 

Remember that self-care isn’t about pampering yourself, it’s about tending to your individual needs. If this is a struggle, here are some ways you could do that:

    1. Look inwards. It can’t all be about the kids all the time, always. So carve out some time and space for you to get really honest about your needs and which ones aren’t being met. Our needs fit five categories: mental, physical, social, spiritual and environmental. When you read that, which one(s) do you think are lacking?  
    2. Adjust your calendar. If you know that your period, or the week before, tends to hit you really hard (either now or always), plan for it as much as possible! Seriously, your future self will thank you so much. Sure, it’s not like you can just not go to work, but you can meal prep, stock up on feel-good foods for your soul, take care of harder projects in advance, or enlist help! Give some thought to how you can reduce the load. 
    3. Plan a friend date. Ok, sometimes your partner and kids just don’t get it. (And soooometimes during your period, it might feel like they are making things worse!) So plan a friend date. Friends see you and they get it. We all have the need to connect with others so pick something (be it gentle yoga, a quiet dinner, or even just running Saturday morning errands together) and give yourself that lift! 

Period anxiety is definitely a thing! Now you know why. Hopefully, you’re feeling validated, seen, and like your experiences are normal. Being a woman is super freaking hard! It just is. If you need support to get through this time, I have a team of therapists trained to guide you through your specific needs. Reach out! And always know that you are worthy of your own support—especially when you’re down! 

And of course, I have a resource for that! Do you already have a copy of my self-care workbook for moms? This is a freebie tool that will help you get clear on areas where you need to give back to yourself, goal setting, and roadblocks that might be getting in the way of properly caring for yourself. Check it out here

 

Why pregnancy is the perfect storm for anxiety

Why pregnancy is the perfect storm for anxiety

 

What causes anxiety during pregnancy?

 

So pregnancy is taking a toll on your mental health. You feel unbelievably anxious about what lies ahead. Birth? Might seem terrifying. You have no idea how you’ll do when that moment comes. Becoming a mom? You *know* you can do it, but being in charge of a vulnerable new baby makes you nervous. Plus there’s all the unknowns: the health of the baby, the ways your life will change, if your birth plan will go as desired, how your relationship will change, and how the remaining stages of your pregnancy will go. 

For a time that’s often portrayed as “exciting,” this has been feeling intensely stressful, right? You thought pregnancy was shrieking in excitement once receiving a positive test, a healthy glow, cute maternity clothes and decorating the baby’s room. Instead it’s anxiety, “what if” thinking, intrusive thoughts, and physical discomfort. Those are all really hard to deal with. 

Whether you’re not excited about being pregnant, you’re dreading some of what lies ahead, or you’re dealing with strong waves of anxiety that you never saw coming, your mental health might need a bit more care during this time. In this post, my goal is to help you understand why anxious thoughts are so common during these months. 

 

 

What causes anxiety during pregnancy?

If you’re someone who struggles with (or is prone to) anxiety, pregnancy can be the perfect storm to trigger that. You’re not the only one! Here are some of the main reasons why things might be feeling less than calm right now. 

 

Anxiety lives in the future. Pregnancy is a temporary state that largely focuses on what’s ahead.

If you’re reading the resources, following the mental health accounts online, and/or going to therapy, this might sound familiar. Anxiety lives in the future. So what does that mean exactly? 

Speaking specifically about anxiety, it means that the things that are taking away from your mental wellbeing are thoughts focused on what’s to come. This can look like what if scenarios (“What if the baby isn’t healthy?” “What if I have a traumatic birth?”), worrying about things that haven’t happened yet (“Am I going to be a good enough mom?”) or feeling anxious about the future in general (“I can’t rest until I’m sure this child will have a happy, healthy life!). 

Pregnancy can really trigger this because it’s a very temporary, short-term state that largely focuses on the future. Think about it. You’re not going to be pregnant forever, it’s literally a transition time. When you find out that you’re pregnant, you have nine months to prepare. Suddenly, the focus shifts from the present moment to what lies in the near future: giving birth, learning how to become a parent, raising a child. In many ways, that nine months is a kind of limbo or waiting period. That’s anxiety inducing! Your mindset becomes largely focused on before or after the due date. That’s a very different feeling from just living your days as they come where the shifts and life changes occur more gradually.   

 

Perinatal anxiety starts during this phase.

When we talk about “perinatal” anything (i.e. perinatal mental health, the perinatal period, perinatal anxiety), we are talking about the time from pregnancy up until one year postpartum. This is such a critical time for women—particularly for mental health—as so much changes. The perinatal stage is just difficult for so many women. If you find that you’re anxious, unsettled, on-edge and just not feeling like yourself these days, but you’re unable to really articulate what’s bothering you, this is something to keep in mind. 

Perinatal anxiety is the uptick of anxiety symptoms (like panic attacks, an uneasy stomach, feeling like you can’t calm down or self-regulate, feeling reactive, or obsessing over minor things) that happens during this time period in someone’s life. It’s exactly like general anxiety with the only difference being its onset and that it’s triggered by this specific stage. 

 

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Past experiences of loss or miscarriage can come up. 

If you’re pregnant after having experienced miscarriage or infant loss, your emotions might be running high right now. And they may include many feelings that are not positive. For a lot of women, excitement or happiness get majorly overshadowed by anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, sadness as you relive or continue processing what happened, or sometimes jealousy of those who haven’t experienced what you have. 

A lot of women who have loss or miscarriage in their history just feel like they can’t be happy or excited yet because they’re scared about what could go wrong. Things like check-ups, medical care appointments, planning for the baby, sharing the pregnancy news, creating a birth plan, or choosing a baby name can bring on a lot of anxiety for this group. 

 

So much about the baby remains unknown. 

When you’re pregnant, suddenly so many unknowns are introduced to your life. The unknowns about your baby can be particularly upsetting. That makes so much sense when you think about it. There are the immediate concerns like how your pregnancy will go and how your baby is doing as she develops. Then there are the fears around birth and the early days for both of you. It can also feel pretty strange to not yet know anything about this person who you’re about to be tied to for the rest of your life. Their personality, needs, strengths, interests, and difficulties are all going to take a significant amount of your thoughts and energy and yet all of these things remain question marks as you just wait for them to arrive. That can feel… unsettling and pretty weird. You’re not alone there!  

 

Physical changes and thinking about birth can impact your mental state. 

Mind and body are connected. We hear that all the time, right? But usually, we hear that in the context of why working out and eating a balanced diet improves mood. Being pregnant and experiencing physical changes (rapidly!) is another physical element that can have an impact on your mental health. Our bodies are our homes so if you’re feeling tired, lethargic, uncomfortable in your usual sleeping positions, or disconnected from your appetite which is now raging allll the time, that has an effect on you! Plus, let’s just acknowledge that body image issues are not just for teenagers or young adults. Past body image issues may be triggered as you continue to change… or new ones might emerge. So much is changing so fast and it can be hard to not recognize your own body.

As your baby continues to develop (and you both grow), birth might start to be on your mind a lot more too. Thinking about labour and how giving birth is going to go can feel… really scary. This is one of those things where the anticipation and thinking about it can make everything feel so much harder. No wonder anxiety seems to be at a high!  

 

Various appointments can trigger medical anxiety.

If you’re someone who suffers from medical or health anxiety, being pregnant can bring on so many triggers. There are way more appointments, check-ins with healthcare providers, tests, and changes to your body to pay attention to. Plus, you may find yourself being hyper aware of things like food safety, not being around those who are sick, and protecting yourself. Many women find this all to be so stressful. And when you go in for your scheduled checks, if certain appointments don’t go as planned, you might find yourself constantly searching for more information or waiting until the next appointment to get reassurance and peace of mind. 

There are also so many medical checks that you won’t be familiar with if this is your first pregnancy (like ultrasounds, and blood tests). It can be a steep learning curve and if physical checks and trusting others with your body makes you queasy, that can be so hard to adjust to. 

 

Starting a whole new life can feel really scary. 

Hey, it’s human nature to worry a little bit when things feel new and unfamiliar. Remember all of those first days of school? Remember starting a new job and wondering how you’d perform? What about moving to a new place? Starting a new chapter is HARD! I mean, that’s why most of us have established comfort zones that we like to stay in, right?

This chapter is now different. It’s perfectly acceptable for pregnancy to bring on crazy anxiety as you brace yourself for what’s right around the corner. This can sound like, “Omg! I didn’t think I’d get pregnant right away. This is happening too fast!” Or, “How am I actually going to raise a child?! I have no idea what I’m doing!” Or even, “There’s no way I’m going to be a mom in a mere three months. I need more time to prepare!” 

 

So much is out of your control as you wait in limbo. 

There’s that saying, “You think you have control, but all you really have is anxiety.” That might make you laugh because really, it’s true. So much anxiety stems from wanting to gain control over the uncontrollable. Perfectionists, type A people, over workers, those who plan everything to a tee, and people with high standards might relate to this. If you’re always trying to gain control over every single situation and make things go just your way and exactly as planned, pregnancy can be a huge challenge. 

In other scenarios, you might gain “control” over your anxiety by overworking yourself to get ahead or being overly organized to prevent a mishap. During pregnancy though, you’re kind of stuck in limbo. You can’t start practicing breastfeeding now, you can’t do a trial run of your first weeks postpartum, and your five-year plan (if you’re that person) is probably in danger because life’s about to get really unpredictable. This together can all feel like a serious trial. 

If you’re pregnant and your anxiety is getting the best of you, it’s helpful to know that that’s a surprisingly common experience. Hopefully this post has helped you understand why anxiety can really pick up during this phase of your life. If there’s one thing I want you to take with you though is that just because anxiety is present right now doesn’t mean that you automatically have to tolerate it as it’s showing up. You don’t have to spend nine months worrying or feeling uneasy. You can get proper support to help you adapt to this chapter in a way that feels much easier. This is temporary and it will pass. 

 

Tap this image to learn more about my FREE workshop for Anxiety in Motherhood

 

 

Are you currently pregnant and feeling overwhelmed with anxiety? I’ve created a free workshop for mothers about anxiety, what it looks like, how it feels, and how to best manage it so it stops robbing you of your joy during this phase of your life. It’s totally free! Check it out here

 

25 truths about motherhood women are too scared to admit to their friends

25 truths about motherhood women are too scared to admit to their friends

 

None of you will say it, but you’re all *thinking* it…

 

I always strive to support women through motherhood as best as I can. I have based my entire career on educating mothers on the realities of pregnancy, postpartum and early parenthood and how those affect mental health. I create educational resources, provide mental health support, suggest wellness tools, and spread information about these chapters. 

And sometimes the best way I can support you is by just telling it as it is. Words can have a lot of power. Articulating common experiences during the perinatal phase can be so validating because it means that a) you’re seen and reassured that what you’re going through is quite common and b) someone else has put language to your reality so you don’t have to. 

 

 

One of the most bullsh*it things about motherhood is that we’re expected to accept it in all of its craziness, adjust without problems, never complain, and even enjoy it all the time. I’m sorry but those are some wildly unrealistic expectations! 

There are some (many) parts of motherhood that are just really hard and inherently difficult. I’m talking about the physical pain you endure before and after birth, the anxiety you feel during pregnancy, the stress that comes up when your baby won’t stop crying, and all the minor losses that you must grieve as you make one of the biggest transitions you will make in your entire life. 

What makes matters worse is the guilt we as mothers often feel. There’s so many things that are just freaking hard… but we’re often too scared to admit it out loud. Why? Because what if it means something about us as mothers? What if we appear not to love our kids or we seem ungrateful? What if we say how we *really* feel and others don’t get it and just make us feel worse? These are all valid concerns. But if you’re having a hard time, I still want you to know that that’s a valid way to feel. 

Below are 25 truths about motherhood that are common but fairly uncomfortable to admit out loud to friends. How many have you related to recently? 

 

1. I’m not excited about my pregnancy

This is so common. I mean I hear this all the time. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or a subsequent one, you may just not feel that ecstatic joy that society expects you to have. That’s ok. Maybe you’re worried about giving birth, getting a postpartum mood disorder, or you’re nervous because you don’t entirely feel ready. A lot of women find out they’re pregnant and feel shock, disappointment, frustration, fear, or anxiety. Some also experience negative emotions towards their baby. It’s so common. Not just you I promise. 

 

2. I’m not doing well

You’re not doing well but for some reason, when your friends ask, you’re unable to say so. Instead, you keep conversations surface level or only report the good stuff. What would happen though if you were to confide in your friends and say something along the lines of, “Hey, things are feeling overwhelming and not great at the moment. I need a bit of emotional support.” In all likelihood your mom friends would understand and even feel the same. Your friends without kids may also have the capacity to take you out for lunch and listen with non-judgmental ears. 

 

3. I secretly hate my partner 

This happens. Most relationships take a hit after having a baby. When you really think about it, that makes sense. So many things literally change overnight and suddenly you just don’t have the same time, capacity, and energy to connect like you used to. For moms, the balance of things can also feel so unfair. You had to be pregnant for nine months. You gave birth. You have to breastfeed. And now you are doing the bulk of the household chores, night waking, meal prep, etc. Sometimes all your partner has to do is chew too loudly and you want to kill him. I have a course that addresses this resentment and relationship imbalance. Check it out here.  

 

Tap this image to learn more about my course Sharing the Load of Parenting 

 

4. I’m scared of the thoughts that pop into my head sometimes

Intrusive thoughts in motherhood are so common and can be so scary. They usually focus on harm coming to you or your children. And guess what? They thrive on shame and silence. If you want to take their power away, try opening up with a friend you trust. “Ugh my brain is so weird sometimes. I always visualize these crazy pool accidents.” Since intrusive thoughts are so common, it’s more than likely that your friend has a few of her own to share. 

 

5. I regret having kids 

This is such a tough feeling to sit with and it can be hard to have a thought like this without feeling guilt, shame, self-criticism, fear, and then further regret. Some moms immediately love motherhood. Some don’t. If you have doubts as to whether or not you’d go back and do it all differently, you’re part of a really big group of women. Sometimes finding *your* people can make all the difference in this experience. Maybe you’re not into a traditional approach to parenthood (but society has you feeling like you should). In a case like that, finding the right friends who share your values can be a great way to make the experience more positive.

 

6. I’m lonely 

We need to feel heard, seen, witnessed and held. When we don’t have that, loneliness and isolation kicks in. It’s so tempting to only show the positive side of motherhood when secretly, you wish you had a close mom friend to confide in. 

 

7. I’m not sure if I’m any good at this

Every mom feels this way sometimes. What if you could kick off a conversation with the *right* group of mom friends and all have a good laugh together about the things that have gone wrong lately? You accidentally sent your kids to school with frozen lunches. Your friend forgot to bring her child’s bag to the camping weekend and had to improvise. These things can feel like failures in the moment but they’re relatively harmless and it can relieve a lot of stress if you laugh about yourselves together. 

 

8. I miss my old self

You miss spending your money and time on you. You miss your old routine and having less responsibilities to constantly take care of. You miss girls nights, your old wardrobe, solo travels and your yoga group. Sure, you wanted this life and you like your current life as well. But sometimes you just miss those days! 

 

9. I feel disconnected from my body 

Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and mom life took a toll. Things don’t look or feel the same physically. You don’t feel at home in your own body anymore and maybe body image issues are also coming up. You don’t say anything to your friends because it seems like a silly thing to complain about. Really though, it’s totally justified. This is such a common experience, that I actually created a free resource to improve body image issues. Get it here

 

10. I’m going through a hard time with my relationship

You may not be at the level where you hate or actively dislike your partner, but things might feel strained and just out of sync. Sex postpartum can feel weird or even scary. And with so many new things to tackle, it may have been weeks since you really had a deep conversation. This is so common for couples after a baby comes into the picture that I’m positively sure that someone in your life will understand. My course that addresses certain relationship challenges postpartum is also here so if you want to do some research on your own first, that’s up to you! 

 

11. I don’t actually know if I’m connecting with my baby

It doesn’t have to be love at first sight. Maybe nobody told you but the connection between you and your baby will grow over time. Sure, some mothers feel that love and connection instantly, but plenty don’t! If you were to get honest with your circle of friends, surely more than one person would relate. 

 

12. I haven’t felt like myself since having kids

These mom confessions aren’t just for mothers of babies or really young kids. Motherhood can quickly turn into a self-sacrificing endeavor if you don’t catch it. You used to have the cute apartment, go out dancing with friends, or host dinner parties. And you can totally get back to that! Having this conversation is the kind of thing that can prompt a girl’s night, friend trip or commitment to a new hobby. (I tried roller skating this year!) Rather than suffering in silence, bringing this feeling to light can inspire change for more than just you.  

 

13. I’m really worried I’m going to cause harm to my kids 

This is related to intrusive thoughts again. Most of us have an intrusive thought or two that comes up again and again. Yours might be something like fearing you’ll leave the stove on and your kid will burn herself or worrying that you’ll drown your baby in the bath. These thoughts just… happen. The good news is that they hold less power the more you admit how silly they are. If you have scary intrusive thoughts, here’s a workshop that will help.

 

Tap this image to learn more about my workshop How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts

 

14. I just want alone time 

To go out with friends, to watch lighthearted shows on Netflix, to cook up a storm, to sleep in, to read, to do a long workout, to travel, or to do absolutely nothing. Sometimes you just want time and space for you. Sometimes you actually don’t want to be with your family. Nothing wrong with that! 

 

15. If I were to go back in time, I’m not sure I’d become a mom 

As a therapist, I’ve seriously heard it all. And I’ve heard this mom confession dozens and dozens of times. The funny thing about saying something—even the “worst” thing—out loud, is that that very act can minimize its impact. Say this to your friend who really gets you and you might be met with a huge sigh of relief and a “OMG me too!” Motherhood is just HARD. Maybe you both need an afternoon to vent about what’s causing the regret and a good chat about what you’d be doing instead in another life. It’s good to daydream because by looking at it rather than avoiding it, you may come up with some creative ways to invite more joy and excitement into your current life. Yeah, a chat like this could also bring up some FOMO or jealousy but isn’t that still more productive than hiding in shame and letting a thought like this eat at you? 

 

16. I’m jealous of women who don’t have kids 

You might see what other childless women are doing and feel that pang of envy because you wish you could do that too. Maybe they seem lighter or freer but you don’t actually know what they’re dealing with. Even though it’s normal to compare sometimes, that can intensify things like postpartum depression, anxiety and low self-worth. A lot of weight can also be lifted by just confiding in a friend. “You know, sometimes I envy women without kids.” Boom weight lifted! If you’re thinking this a lot, maybe it’s time to give back to yourself. My self-care challenge is a way to do that. Plus, it’s free. 

 

17. My partner doesn’t get it 

A lot of women end up feeling that their partners take them for granted or don’t recognize all that they do in order to keep the family going. Resentment stems from unmet needs. Do you know which of your needs aren’t being tended to? Full disclosure: most of your friends’ partners don’t get it either. The longer you all keep quiet about it, the longer it’ll take for them to become aware. 

 

18. I’m running on fumes

What if you were to just say it like it is next time your friends ask? “I’m running on fumes. Motherhood is burning me out. I’m tired and I need more support.” Sometimes it’s wise to get professional support before you really feel like you need it so that you don’t reach a breaking point. 

 

19. Sometimes I don’t know if I like my kid and that makes me feel guilty

One really weird thing about motherhood that most people absolutely don’t talk about is that you don’t get to pick your kids. You can raise them as best as you can, you can lead by example, and you can illustrate your values. But you don’t get to choose their personalities and for some moms, there can be clashes that are hard to sit with. There’s only so much you can control or influence and if you’re having a hard time letting go of that, you’re definitely not alone. 

 

20. I miss the social life I had before kids 

We know you love your kids. We know you love many elements of your life right now. You can also miss spontaneous evenings out, restaurants or summer travel on *your* itinerary. Both can be true at the same time. 

 

21. Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done

From growing a literal child and carrying it around for nine months to figuring out how to actually *raise* her all while keeping a career going, and tending to yourself and your relationship… those are all hard things to do on their own. Now to do them all at once while being expected to go with the flow when days get turned on their head for no reason? Seriously. So. Hard. If you don’t want to admit this to anyone in your life, I’m here to validate that. 

 

22. My expectation of motherhood was different than the reality 

Society focuses on things like “pregnancy glow” and “the mom who does it all.” There’s the annoying pressure to “bounce back” right after giving birth or be the pinterest-perfect mom. There are also people who only show/talk about the things in their life that are going well. So yeah, all of this creates an unrealistic expectation which you don’t have to keep comparing yourself to.

 

23. I feel like “just a mom” now 

We all need to feel seen and witnessed, for all parts of ourselves, not just our role as a mom. You’re a multi-faceted human being with distinct traits, strengths and interests. We need to be witnessed so that those who are close to us can celebrate who we are and what we’ve become. You might not say it to your friends but when you feel like “just a mom,” it’s as if certain parts of youyour spontaneity, your intelligence, your creativity, your sexuality—aren’t important anymore. Which just isn’t true.  

 

24. I cut corners when I feel like I’m just over it

We all do this. What’s with the pressure to do everything perfect all the time? Sometimes all you have time or bandwidth for is boxed mac and cheese, letting your kids watch tv all morning, or not enforcing bedtime because you don’t feel like dealing with the complaints. So what? Can you let some of the perfectionism go? 

 

25. I hate being pregnant 

Not everyone enjoys pregnancy. If your friends and family did, good for them. But really there can be so much physical discomfort, pain, uncertainty, and anxiety that can come up during this time. If you’re not loving it, there’s no reason to feel ashamed or guilty. Just because you’re grateful to be pregnant doesn’t mean you have to enjoy physically carrying a child. Those are separate things. 

 

Motherhood can just bring on such a mixed bag of emotions. Some conflict with one another but pop up anyway. Certain ones can be easy to move past whereas others can just feel horrible enough to sit with let alone admit out loud. Even though you might feel ashamed of your confessions that you’d fess up to if you could, there’s nothing wrong with identifying with any of these. No phase is perfect and it’s okay to admit to what you don’t love about this one. 

And if you’d like to continue to dive into some self-help strategies as you continue to work through the ups and downs of motherhood, check out my self-compassion affirmation cards. They’re totally free and they will help. Feeling ashamed to say what’s truly on your mind often stems from self-judgment or self-criticism. These cards help you re-route your thinking so that you can feel the opposite. Picture being able to meet yourself where you’re at with compassion.