“I had a terrible experience with postpartum mental health. Should I have another baby?”

“I had a terrible experience with postpartum mental health. Should I have another baby?”

 

You’re allowed to change your vision of what your family will look like. There’s no right or wrong. 

 

So you had a bad experience with postpartum depression or anxiety and now you’re wondering what’s next. Do you have another baby? Do you risk dealing with a mood disorder again? Is it valid to wonder about not continuing to build your family? Are you “allowed” to feel nervous or not that excited about this next pregnancy? 

This is actually one of the most commonly asked questions that I get from the community. Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are serious issues that women deal with and they can have a severe impact on how one experiences the earliest chapters of motherhood. 

For some, the effects are relatively minor and they don’t question the idea of getting pregnant again. For others, the symptoms are enough to make them question (or even deter them entirely from) having another child. 

There’s no right or wrong response or way to feel. Let’s make sure that’s clear right from the get-go. Because there’s so much shame, secrecy, questioning, or even women wondering if their reactions are valid, I want to explore this topic to answer everything you might hesitate to ask. 

 

 

What does severe PPD or PPA feel like?

 

Mood disorders that hit in the postpartum period include anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, or psychosis. The more severe cases of any of these mean that the person who is suffering experiences significant disruptions in their day to day life. They may self-harm, think about suicide, wonder if their baby and family would be better off without them, and they might also regret their decision to become a mom. It’s also possible to become physically sick or just generally not well enough to function. For those with anxiety, the fears about safety, uncertainty, and constantly feeling on edge can be debilitating. 

Even though perinatal mood disorders are somewhat common (about 20% for anxiety and depression), it can feel startling for the person who is experiencing this. (Remember that there’s a difference between common and normal. It’s not normal to be wanting to self-harm or be contemplating suicide and if that’s what your experience is like, there’s always help.) 

Feeling surprised or blind-sided by your experience may make you question if you want to risk going through it again. That makes sense, and is totally understandable! 

 

 

How likely is it that I’ll develop a mood disorder again?

 

If only it were possible to know whether or not you would have a repeat experience with postpartum depression or anxiety, I wish we could know this. But there’s no way to guarantee that your experience with your next child will be easier. There’s also no way to guarantee that you’ll 100% develop PPD or PPA again. 

It’s always helpful to get as much information as possible though (knowledge is power). And predicting whether or not you might experience mental health issues again isn’t a total toss up. A lot of therapists, counselors, pregnant people, and people in the perinatal world do pay attention to factors that put a woman at risk of PPA and PPD

Having a personal history with perinatal mood disorders already does increase your risk. Other factors to pay attention to include: relationship trauma, abuse, or instability; having dealt with stressful life events recently; inadequate support; family history of mental health issues; birth trauma, and others. 

But this shouldn’t be all doom and gloom. Having depression or anxiety during the postpartum phase may just be one small difficult chapter in an otherwise incredible journey and relationship with your child. 

And it’s not wrong, irresponsible, or in any way a bad idea to expand your family just because you’ve experienced postpartum depression or anxiety. You can take control, learn coping tactics and build a support plan so that you and your family are taken care of. Read more about how to set yourself up for success here

 

 

Deciding whether or not to have another child: Costs versus benefits

 

Postpartum depression and anxiety look different for everyone and so the way these disorders impact your life moving forward will also be unique to your own experience. 

Having experienced severe PPD or PPA won’t necessarily mean that a person will decide against having a subsequent child, for example. In the same vein, maybe a parent’s experience wasn’t “severe” but it was enough for her to not want to go through it again. Which is totally valid.

There’s absolutely no right or wrong here. You’re the expert of your own story and you get to call the shots. You’re allowed to change your mind and you’re allowed to pick a route different from the one you originally planned. 

Sometimes though, coming to a decision can be incredibly difficult. What I encourage people to think about is the cost versus the benefit. What is the cost of having another baby knowing that there’s a higher chance you could experience a mood disorder again? How would that weigh on you and your family? 

On the flip side, what if you didn’t have another child… what might be the cost of that choice? And how does that version of your story sit with you? 

These questions are not easy to answer so it’s entirely understandable if you can’t clearly define the cost versus the benefit right away. 

For some, maybe a big family was a major dream forever and so the cost of not having more kids would be bigger than the cost of dealing with postpartum mental health challenges again. Another parent might acknowledge that they wanted another child (or assumed they would have one) but they’re just not up for a repeat experience. It’s okay to change or question a vision. You hold the deciding power here! 

 

 

Reflection questions:

 

Deciding whether or not to get pregnant again after having an experience with a postpartum mood disorder is one of the bigger decisions you’ll ever make. Sure, even that thought alone can feel like a lot of pressure and in turn, bring on a wave of anxiety. Understandable. 

That’s why I created a list of questions that can help you get closer to your values. I hope these can help you get clear on what you want your family and your future to look likewhether you need to revisit these questions once, twice, or several times.

  • Looking at your past experience, what feels tolerable, meaning, what do you think you could handle again? What doesn’t feel tolerable? (And what first came to mind when you asked yourself that?) 
  • What was the hardest part of your postpartum depression/anxiety experience?
  • What was the impact for you, your relationship with your partner, and your family?
  • Were there factors that played a role in you developing a mood disorder (or made it worse)? 
  • If you were to feel this way again, what would you do differently?
  • What would you tell a best friend if she were in this exact same situation? Would you encourage her or dissuade her?
  • If you could go back in time, what would you tell your past self? Is there anything you’d want her to know?
  • What supports do you think could make a difference the next time around and are those available? (I.e. Could things realistically look different next time?)
  • Are you prepared to ask for help? (From friends, family, support groups, a therapist, nanny, etc.)
  • Get outside of the current situation for a second and imagine your life 5, 10, and 20 years from now. When you picture your entire life—and the version of you at those stages—does that shift anything either way for you?

 

Having a hard time envisioning what you want the future for your family to look like? Deciding whether or not to have another baby is hard. So is dealing with the postpartum depression, anxiety or other mood disorders that arise during the postpartum period. If you want support with family planning decisions, or you need to arrange a solid support system before the birth of your next baby, I have a team of therapists in Canada who do exactly that. The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective supports moms and moms to be on all the difficult things that arise during parenthood. Learn more here

 

“Help! My baby cries in the car. What should I do?”

“Help! My baby cries in the car. What should I do?”

 

Your baby won’t stop crying in the car and getting behind the wheel spikes your anxiety. Here’s what to do for yourself and your baby. 

 

Though it may sound oddly specific, one of the most common things that can set off a mom’s anxiety is when their baby cries in the car. 

You might be on a longer trip out of town or just merely hopping over to the grocery store but once your baby starts to cry, it can feel like game over. 

 

 

Your heart rate spikes, you clutch the wheel a little tighter, and your thoughts start to spiral as anxiety takes over. “What if she doesn’t stop?” “I can’t hold her, what if she’s not ok?” “My baby always cries in the car… what am I doing wrong?”

And it can feel like complete torture when you can’t get to them to offer comfort in the same way you would if you weren’t driving. 

There are many reasons why this can feel like such a vulnerable and nerve wracking experience. For starters, you can’t hold your baby or comfort them as you normally would. You are also stuck in a car with limited ways to regulate your own nervous system. Plus, you have to pay attention to traffic, road conditions and multitasking really isn’t something our brains are designed for. 

So what do you do? How can you create calm in this stressful situation both for yourself and your baby? Here’s a breakdown below to calm the chaos when your baby cries in the car. 

 

 

Things that are helpful for your baby: 

 

When this situation arises, it can be difficult to think as your baby is screaming in your ear. For that reason, it’s best to have a game plan set up ahead of time. Have a quick brainstorm. What are some things you can do? 

Many moms find that playing some calming music is helpful. Considering that in a car, there’s not much you can do, this is also one of the easiest and most effective ways to bring peace to a stressful situation. Consider acoustic, classical, jazz, soft indie or folk music.

I asked the moms in my Instagram community about music recommendations, and here are some examples that they shared: 

  • Lord Huron 
  • Ed Sheeran 
  • Adele
  • Enya
  • Spotify Morning Folk Music 
  • Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify
  • Taylor Swift 
  • Motown 
  • Fleetwood Mac 

Other things that you can try to calm down a crying-in-the-care baby could be: reach back and rub your baby’s head or foot; sing to them; turn on a mediation soundtrack; speak in soothing tones; and take a break and pull over if necessary. 

And then of course one of the most common pieces of advice was to try leaving to go to places early so that time doesn’t become a second stressor.  

 

 

How to help your own anxiety: 

 

You’re going to hear me say this a lot because it’s true: when you focus on your own nervous system, and getting yourself back to that calm, grounded, state, your baby often follows your lead. 

If you’re stressed, frustrated, angry, or flustered, your baby will pick up on that and regulated according to how your feeling. 

That’s not to bring on any kind of blame or guilt (we have enough of that as it is!), but it is to say that if you give yourself the power, time, and space to bring your own mood to a calm state, then you will have more control over the situation. Pretty cool right? 

So, how do you actually do that when you’re stuck in traffic with a screaming infant behind you? 

Again, music can be a great tool for you as well. Play what you want. Turn on your favourite playlist (it doesn’t hurt to create one of your top songs for these SOS moments!). 

Other things you can try that moms in our community shared:

  • Roll down the window and enjoy the sun and breeze on your face
  • Sing out loud to yourself
  • Turn on a podcast or radio show
  • Use a mantra for difficult car moments (She is safe and loved. I’m doing everything I can in this moment. This will pass.)
  • Remind yourself that sometimes babies just cry and it’s unrealistic to expect these moments not to happen
  • Pull over and take a breather
  • Name the things that you’re seeing as you’re driving to stay mindful and in the moment
  • Stop for a short walk together 
  • Mentally prepare and get into a positive, calm headspace before getting into the car. Being proactive where possible always helps. (This could look like a five-minute meditation, bringing a soothing tea in a travel mug, packing a scented hand lotion you love, or putting that extra five minutes into your routine so you feel your best.)
  • Remind yourself that you already covered all your bases and that your child is okay. 

What else would you add to this list? What else have you tried that has helped? Knowing your own self, your triggers and your anxiety, what’s one other thing you could try this week? 

Sometimes there are moments in motherhood that are just inherently more difficult than others. Having a baby or toddler cry nonstop in the car as you try to get somewhere is one of them. 

Knowing this, you can come up with some strategies and a plan A, B, and C if you suspect you’re going to be dealing with an upset little passenger. Before you leave for the grocery store, visit a family member’s house, or go to daycare, ask yourself: “What’s something I could do for myself before we get in the car and what can I do for her and for me when her crying starts?” 

You’re probably hearing a lot about self-regulation these days. You know it’s important and you know that having the ability to regulate your own nervous system will impact the way you show up as a mom. And it helps your baby in stressful moments too! 

But maybe no one is telling you how to actually do this. I’m putting together a resource, The Regulated Mom which teaches you how this works, why it matters, and how to practice it. Make sure to follow along on Instagram to hear when this new program is available. 

 

I had postpartum anxiety once before. Will I get it again?

I had postpartum anxiety once before. Will I get it again?

 

“I felt so horrible for the first few months of my baby’s life. I can’t bear to go through that again!”

 

If you’re a mom of young kids, pregnant, or planning to become a parent soon, chances are you’ve heard of postpartum anxiety (PPA). PPA is a mental health struggle that’s just as common as postpartum depression (PPD). Yet it’s the less understood of the two. As its name suggests, PPA is a form of anxiety where the onset of symptoms happen during the perinatal period. 

For some women, this anxiety can be a huge burden to deal with. For others, it can feel challenging but not something that is long-lasting or greatly impacts their overall experience in motherhood. 

 

 

For the former, the difficulties with mental health can even lead to questioning whether or not the experience will repeat itself in the future. This fear can make subsequent pregnancies stressful and can sometimes even cause moms to rethink their decision to have another child. 

If you’re reading this, you’re in the right place. Read through to learn about what PPA feels like, when it might set it, and what to do to prevent it as best as possible. And of course, I’ll aim to answer your question about whether you’ll get PPA a second time around. 

 

 

What does postpartum anxiety feel like? 

 

It’s important to know that everyone’s experience with postpartum anxiety is going to feel different. There’s no one-size-fits-all. 

Anxiety in general can show up in a number of ways. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to tune into your own triggers, reactions, emotions, and symptoms. When do you feel most anxious? What does that feel like for you? How do you usually react? Becoming self-aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions will help you to better understand your experience so that you can gain better control over it. 

Not sure if your anxiety is being triggered? Here are some examples of what postpartum anxiety may feel like: 

  • Racing heart
  • Anger, snapping, or feeling a blood boiling sensation that’s disproportionate to its triggers
  • Intrusive thoughts (always worrying about something bad happening to you or your baby)
  • Being unable to sleep well even when you’re tired
  • Having a queasy or upset stomach 
  • Being unable to stop focusing on the “what ifs,” overthinking, or stressing unnecessarily
  • Feeling nervous about health or minor illnesses even when the worry is unwarranted
  • Leaning into perfectionism and operating at unsustainable paces when stressed 
  • Constantly feeling irritated by your partner or kids
  • Dwelling in self-comparison or self-criticism 
  • Feeling an unexplained sense of doom or dread. 

 

 

When does postpartum anxiety start? 

 

Both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety start between pregnancy and the first year after giving birth. One thing that’s commonly misunderstood about PPD and PPA is that they both must set in right after giving birth. This isn’t the case. Many women report feeling completely fine until months into their child’s life when they suddenly experience a downturn in their mood or battle feelings of anxiety. 

One thing to recognize is that PPA and PPD are also different from the baby blues which is a short-term and temporary dip in mood that many experience immediately after having a baby. 

 

 

What are the risk factors for postpartum anxiety? 

 

So you had postpartum anxiety once before and after going through that experience, you might be wondering to yourself, “What if it happens again?” That’s a very understandable and valid question. 

Sure, it’s possible, but the tricky thing is that there is no way to know for sure. Generally speaking, there are some common factors which do put you at risk .These can include: 

  • Having had PPA or PPD in the past
  • Already dealing with mood disorders like bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety or depression on an ongoing basis
  • Dealing with factors like grief, loss, trauma, relationship challenges, or financial instability 
  • If mood disorders of PPA runs in the family  
  • If you’re sensitive to hormonal changes
  • Lack of support during the perinatal period

 

 

Setting yourself up for success

 

It can be scary having overcome an experience like PPA only to feel that the likelihood of a repeat experience could be in your future. That can feel like, “Oh gosh, I’m pregnant again. This time I know what it’s going to feel like after I give birth.” 

Or, you may notice that you’re spending a lot of your pregnancy worrying about the toll this might take on you emotionally. “I felt so horrible for the first few months of my baby’s life. I can’t bear to go through that again!” 

If your thoughts sound anything like these, here’s what I want you to keep in mind: So much is already different this time around. This is a different pregnancy, a different chapter in your life, and you’ve changed so much as well. I’m willing to bet that you’ve also gathered some mental health tools and coping skills along the way, right? 

If you are worried that you’ll suffer from postpartum anxiety a second, or third time around, you also want to be as proactive as possible. 

Set yourself up for success. Knowing that you may deal with anxiety once the baby comes, what are some things you can start doing now to get ahead of that. 

Some common tactics that might ease postpartum anxiety could be: 

    • Movement. (Whether it’s dance, running, HIT or yoga, pick a type of movement that you love and commit to it.) 
    • Meditation. (It can be as quick as 10 minutes before bed.)
    • Positive mindset practices, or mantras. (What’s one phrase you can connect with that will build you up?) 
    • EFT tapping (there’s tons of evidence to support this)
    • Honing in on nutrition (Is there anything right now that is bringing more harm than good? Note: Not everything has to be “perfect.” Comfort foods can serve a purpose too!
    • Establishing proper sleep hygiene. (Is your sleep schedule all over the place? What’s one small thing you can do to make for a better sleep?)  
    • Carving out space for your needs. (Are you putting yourself on the bottom of the priority list?)
    • Social connection. (We need each other. If you can broaden your circle, that could bring a lot of joy and connection to your life. That can be as simple as a morning walk or a phone call.)

 

 

Additional Support:  

 

If you’re worried about postpartum anxiety and whether or not that’s in your future, don’t try to deal with this all by yourself. 

There are so many forms of support available for women in the perinatal period. If you have already dealt with postpartum anxiety that has disrupted your life, then consider the following ways to get support. 

Which one or two feel most aligned with your values and lifestyle right now? 

Family: Is there a family member who has offered support and who you feel comfortable leaning on? If so, it might be worth scheduling a coffee and telling them what’s on your mind. It’s more than likely that that encouraging sister in law or that trusted aunt is more than happy to be that sympathetic ear or share some of the burden. 

Friends: Friends are the family we choose and this is a period of your life when you most need a confidant. Maybe for you that person is the one who has already been where you are. Maybe it’s the friend who isn’t a parent and therefore possibly more available to be in a support role. 

Therapy: Therapists—namely ones qualified to work in the perinatal field—can offer a professional perspective, honour your personal needs, and speak to you without an agenda or bias that others in your life may have. A therapist in this field will be compassionate, aware of your specific experience, and have the background to truly understand your symptoms. 

If you’re in Canada, check out The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective and set up an appointment here

Perinatal community: Was there a group of women who you connected with during pregnancy that you can stay in touch with once your baby is born? There’s so many types of groups, meet-ups and classes for new mums. These can be a great way to feel seen, heard and validated. 

Anxiety course: Depending on your lifestyle, where you live, and capacity, a self-paced mental wellness course might be for you. Mama Calm is my bestselling program that helps mothers identify where their anxiety is coming from while walking them through the steps they need to take in order to heal. This course is for you if you’ve experienced (or are currently dealing with) postpartum anxiety, general anxiety, feelings of identity loss, intrusive thoughts about your children and more. No, this isn’t forever. Yes, you have control over what your next chapter looks like.

 

Holiday blues: Your SOS guide to when the holidays feel rough

Holiday blues: Your SOS guide to when the holidays feel rough

 

Your guide for when December doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s the so-called, “most wonderful time of the year.” That may (or may not) look like festive parties, gatherings with friends and family, and cozy nights by the fire. Even though there may be many special little traditions and fun evenings during this time of year, December is sometimes tough to get through when the holiday blues take their toll. 

Our culture and society places a lot of importance on the holidays. Because of that, we want it to feel special, filled with joy and as perfect as possible. That’s a lot of pressure for a few days though isn’t it? The holidays can be the heartwarming, charming, most wonderful time of the year but they can also bring grief, perfectionism, stress, and anxiety

 

So, if the latter is feeling applicable to how you’re feeling these days, you might need a dose of realism and validation that looks nothing like the perfectly-posed shots you’re seeing on the socials right now. Here, your SOS guide to getting through the rest of December.

 

Take things off your plate 

 

There’s the gift shopping, wrapping, showing up to the dinners you RSVPd to a month ago, driving to and from the in-law’s, your sister’s Christmas dinner, and not missing a beat with your daughters’ piano and dance recitals. 

Talk about holiday burnout in the making! 

Sometimes the holidays can bring on stress and anxiety because your schedule is unrealistically packed. If you have a tendency to take on way more than is realistic, ask yourself which things you can take off your plate. Maybe your kids don’t even care about that recital and it’s possible that your sister would prefer a night in with quality time and takeout…

 

Embracing the “let it be easy” mindset

 

What kinds of pressures do you put on yourself in the weeks and days leading up to the holidays? Many who suffer from anxiety also happen to be extreme perfectionists. The holidays are the perfect breeding ground for both of those to surface in their most extreme versions. This can look like wanting decorations to look as good as they do on Pinterest, needing everything to be homemade, wanting to buy your kids all the gifts on their list, needing everything to be perfect for the holiday party you’re hosting, or struggling with body image issues ahead of certain events. 

What can go? Which things on the list can you intentionally make easier on yourself right now?

 

Go with the “less is more” approach 

 

Does the dinner party with your siblings have to be traditional holiday food and fancy cocktails or would you have just as much fun if you got Uber Eats and a bottle of wine? Do you really need to take your kids to The Nutcracker again this year or would they prefer a night in baking sugar cookies and playing in the snow? Holiday movies, walks in the nearby forest, making snow angels, or decorating candy canes are simple activities that don’t require a lot of mental or physical energy for you and your family to get into the holiday spirit. At this time of year, less is seriously more. 

 

Know that the holidays often wake up grief. 

 

Holidays can bring up sad feelings about loved ones who have died, are sick, aren’t doing well, or who we’re unable to see during the season. Because it’s such a special time of year, the holidays highlight the people who we miss and can wake up grief. We don’t place as much value on other more average days but during the holidays, we want things to be special and just so. That’s why we might notice holiday blues setting in as we look around and really feel the absence of who isn’t there. Grief is part of the human experience—there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re missing those who have passed away, are separated by distance, relationships that have run their course, etc. 

 

Be proactive and give back to yourself

 

The holidays can just be stressful and emotionally turbulent. The holiday blues is a known term for a reason. Sure, as kids it may have been a magic, fun-filled time. As adults though, there’s more on your plate and you may find yourself feeling difficult emotions surrounding perfectionism, body image, finances, family dynamics, schedules, relationships, or remembering loved ones who have passed on. It’s hard at times. 

The question to ask yourself here is, “How can I be proactive and give back to myself?” Difficult emotions like anxiety, stress, grief, and sadness will inevitably come up so having a self-care practice in place to give back to yourself is key. That can look like 20 minutes of creativity first thing in the morning, reading your favourite magazines for a half hour every afternoon, or re-starting that skating or running routine that you used to love. When you make yourself a priority and give back to yourself ahead of time, you’re preventing anxiety and emotional depletion ahead of time. 

 

 

Let your future self be the guide

 

When the holiday pressures are all feeling like too much, ask yourself if this particular stress will matter one, three or five years down the line. The answer: probably not. 

Most of us get swept up in the moment from time to time and during the holidays, there’s just more coming at us that can cause anxiety. In those moments, try to ask yourself what your future self would say about whatever is bothering you. Chances are, nobody really cares (yourself included) about your wrapping paper, what you bring for dessert, or your holiday look. Connecting to your perspective in this way can help you choose what to let go of. 

 

 

Connect to your values

 

When the holidays have you feeling overwhelmed and anxious, carve out some time to brainstorm what matters to you this season, how you want it to look for you and your family, and which elements of the holidays don’t actually matter to you. 

It’s so important to live in alignment with our own values… otherwise society will dictate your next move for you. So, do you care about home-cooked, traditional meals or are catered options fine by you? Do you like a tree heaped with gifts for everyone or do you prefer to put limits on material items? Identifying your own values helps you realize that not all elements of the holidays are important.

 

 

Expect pushback and learn not to care

 

Not everyone is going to agree with you and once you become okay with that, you alleviate so much anxiety and stress. Ideally, family and friends will support your decisions and boundaries… but we can’t have everything we put on our wishlists, can we? Sometimes there’s pushback. Some will insist you partake in the big gift exchange. Others won’t take no for an answer when you decline that party invite. That’s their problem, not yours. If you make everyone else happy, you’re going to make yourself unhappy! 

Feeling the holiday blues extra strong this year? There’s support for that. I’ve designed programs specifically for moms of babies and young children to grant them the tools they need to get through these years. Mama Calm is my self-paced course that acknowledges the anxiety that comes up in motherhood, helps you understand where it comes from, and teaches you to manage your triggers in the moment so that things like family tensions, packed schedules, and never-ending to-do lists don’t become factors that ruin your day. Imagine if holiday stress never got the best of you! 

 

Pregnancy after loss: A guide to dealing with emotions from conception onwards

Pregnancy after loss: A guide to dealing with emotions from conception onwards

 

The journey to becoming a mother is so often not a neat and pretty road and that’s why we need to acknowledge the many emotions, thoughts and fears that may pop up during this time.

 

Pregnancy after the loss—be it miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a child—brings on so many different kinds of emotions. Conceiving, or even thinking about it, can cause worry, anxiety, fear, rage, hope… it’s a lot to sit with. 

 

And since miscarriage and loss is (unfortunately) so common, so many women go through this emotional rollercoaster. While unfair, this is something a large percentage of the population will experience. The journey to becoming a parent is so often not a neat and pretty road and that’s why we need to acknowledge the many emotions, thoughts and fears that may pop up at any point along the road from trying to conceive to the weeks after the birth. 

 

 

Normalizing the messiness of this stage is important as it takes away loneliness, isolation, and feelings of shame. If you’ve experienced loss and are now on the road to becoming a parent (or thinking about it), you’re in the right place. 

 

Here is a guide to emotions you might be feeling and ways to ease your experience and establish proper support systems. 

 

 

Pregnancy after loss: There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel

 

If you’ve already experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or death of a child, then you’ve suffered. There’s absolutely no need to add guilt or self-judgment to the list because of any feelings that are popping up right now. 

 

For the person who needs to hear it: there is no right or wrong way to feel as you work through your journey to motherhood. Everyone is different and all thoughts, fears, and emotions are valid. 

 

With that said, here are some common feelings that could come up during this stage. If you recognize yourself in this list, know that yes, it’s normal. All feelings on the spectrum from happy to sad to angry are healthy, human emotions and you have full permission to experience all of them. 

 

Anxious: Pregnancy after loss (or trying to conceive again) can bring up so much anxiety. This is one of the most common feelings for soon-to-be moms. This can look like waiting for the other shoe to drop, stressing over every single symptom, fearing medical appointments, and being anxious that your past experiences with loss will repeat themselves. Many also have anxiety over sharing the news or doing normal everyday tasks because you don’t want to risk anything. 

 

Angry: It’s normal to feel angry that this is happening to you. You may be mad that you don’t get to experience a “normal” pregnancy or that you worry each month as you try to get pregnant. You may also feel mad or upset that society doesn’t discuss experiences like yours out in the open. This can sound like, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” or “How come I didn’t know about this?”

 

Jealous: Jealousy can be a hard emotion to sit with. You don’t want to feel jealous of those who already have kids or who got pregnant easily without the grief that you had to deal with. But, it’s natural to feel that way anyway. Oftentimes jealousy after pregnancy loss can look like feeling happy for friends and family AND wishing you had that for yourself at the same time. 

 

Skeptical: Conceiving after loss can bring out someone’s cynical or mistrustful side. That makes sense. If you’re identifying with this one, it’s because you may have caught yourself wondering if this pregnancy will work out and you’ve questioned whether or not you’ll give birth to a happy healthy baby in the near future. 

 

Relieved: Getting the news that you’re pregnant after loss can bring on a sense of relief. Going through the process of trying to conceive after an experience like loss or miscarriage can be quite emotionally turbulent so you may feel like you can finally breathe knowing that you’re onto the next chapter now. 

 

Detached: Many women say that they feel detached from a pregnancy or they feel less excited during the entire journey towards becoming a mom. This shows up as women not feeling connected to their baby during pregnancy or immediately after, not truly *feeling* like they’re pregnant, or not feeling much emotion once they get that positive test. Yes it’s normal. You’re not alone. 

 

 

How to bring ease to your experience

 

It doesn’t have to be this hard. While pregnancy after loss (or trying again after loss) is something that is inherently hard, there are so many ways to bring ease back into your experience. 

 

Here’s some ways to create support and stability during this phase. 

 

  • Find a friend who “gets it.” Having a sympathetic ear who is there to listen without problem-solving or giving unsolicited advice makes all the difference. Don’t suffer in silence. Feeling heard, seen and validated makes the experience so much less isolating. You’re allowed to take up space. ⁠

  • Seek out a community of other women who have been there.⁠ Things like miscarriage, loss, still birth and fertility problems are not rare. So many people have been where you are. There’s a massive community around the unfair experiences that happen when we try to build our families. Find the groups, read the books, search out the online communities who will support you. If you’re in Canada, you could look into the free Facebook group that is offered through my organization, The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective, and if you’re outside of Canada, Postpartum Support International has many free groups you could join. 

  • Get support from a perinatal mental health therapist. Having someone who will walk with you on this journey and give you professional guidance will make things easier on a day-to-day basis. Your friends and family might not always say the right thing, but someone trained in perinatal mental health will have the perspective to make sure you’re actually supported in the way you need to be. The Canadian Perinatal Wellness Collective has therapists all over Canada for this kind of thing.

  • Make self-soothing practices like walking in nature, reading, and breaks from technology part of your every day.⁠ Put yourself first during this time. Coming back after a loss this significant is draining to say the least. You need to fill your own cup so that you can be a strong, perseverant version of you. What would that look like? Daily practices running, reading, walking in a forest, or cooking without distracting notifications can provide an important emotional boost. 

  • Audio journal. Sometimes saying it out loud helps you process and heal. No need to re-listen if you don’t want to.⁠ Nothing is off limits, just hit record and say everything out loud. Putting words to your experience and articulating emotions can help you get to the root of anxiety or understand your personal experience better. 

 

Pregnancy after loss is so common and it’s also one of the most difficult experiences a woman can ever go through. It’s no wonder that the journey to becoming a parent can bring on so many mixed emotions and spikes in anxiety. The things to know here are that you’re not alone, everything is treatable, and there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Give back to yourself in any way that you can and know that help is available. 

 

OCD in motherhood: 3 ways to manage your symptoms

OCD in motherhood: 3 ways to manage your symptoms

OCD in moms is a mental health issue that requires a lot of self awareness, attention and mental redirecting. Here’s how you can start   

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an area of anxiety that is often misunderstood, neglected, or flies under the radar.    

Quite a large portion of women actually struggle with OCD in motherhood or pregnancy but they’re not even aware of it. Because of that, they don’t end up getting the support that they need. Since OCD is a mental health issue that’s so often misrepresented in pop culture and in mainstream conversation, so many people don’t relate to its symptoms.    

When myths or stereotypes become so prevalent, they actually skew our personal definition or understanding of something. For example, when thinking of OCD, what comes up? Someone obsessed with showering multiple times a day? A person who has an odd need to count *everything*? An obsessive hand washer? Maybe someone who keeps their home spotlessly clean at all times?   

    

These are some of the common stereotypes of a person suffering from OCD… but they leave a lot out of the conversation. That’s how our own experiences with OCD in motherhood get missed.    

If you suspect you’re dealing with OCD (or you already know that you are) and you’re looking to get a better handle on your symptoms, you’re in the right place. Here, a more well-rounded explanation of OCD in motherhood plus three ways where you can start to manage your symptoms. 


What does OCD in motherhood look like on a daily basis? 

Because OCD is a type of anxiety, many people notice certain symptoms or anxious behaviours in themselves but assume it’s just anxiety—and nothing more. The most important distinction to make between OCD and general anxiety is that OCD is a loop. It starts with a thought or obsession which then triggers a response. It’s important to know that the response could be anything from hypervigilant cleaning to avoid food poisoning but it could also be overthinking, worrying, or ruminating.   

Many people don’t realize that the compulsion or action that continues the OCD loop can be mental. So you may have a habit of ruminating over a conversation that has happened in the past or you worry endlessly until you have the right solution to a problem. That constant need to turn something over again and again in your mind may be getting in the way of other things but because you’re not scrubbing the bathroom counter for the sixth time today or you’re not pulling out the hand sanitizer every other minute, you don’t see it as OCD.    

But think about it: if constantly washing, cleaning, tidying or counting is seen as a problem, shouldn’t stressful, non-stop overthinking or keeping yourself awake all night worrying also be recognized as an issue?    


Here are some other examples of how OCD in motherhood could show up: 

  • Having one specific intrusive thought related to school trips, outdoor sports, or the holidays that you can’t stop obsessing over, and you worry about what it means. 
  • Being unable to mentally shut off after kids’ appointments with medical professionals, and then repeatedly checking on your child to help soothe your worries. 
  • Feeling anxious about an upcoming trip and then overthinking all the details and never feeling fully prepared
  • Worrying about a feeling that you have toward your child, and then researching to make sure it’s normal, only to feel worried about it again.

Usually the action (or compulsion) is the response to the anxiety. And it’s your way of trying to gain control. For more, see my full breakdown on how OCD shows up for moms


Easing your symptoms: 3 ways to start managing your OCD

If you know that you’re dealing with OCD in motherhood, or you’d describe yourself as an anxious mom but suspect it’s more than just anxiety, this is a great jumping-off point.    

These below suggestions are ways to start managing OCD. OCD in moms is a mental health issue that requires a lot of self awareness, attention and mental redirecting. Here’s how you can start: 


Learn as much as possible

Knowledge is power. When you gain a deep understanding of anxiety in motherhood and OCD specifically, you’ll be better able to understand why it happens, who it affects, what symptoms might look like for the general population, and why OCD in moms is such a common experience.    

Everything is treatable… but you can’t figure out how to treat something if you don’t know what you’re dealing with in the first place. Learn the difference between OCD and general anxiety. Follow the experts. Read what  has been written by those in the niche. Ask questions. Visit a therapist to get more information. The more you understand, the less worrisome your own symptoms become. 


Build self awareness 

Once you know what OCD symptoms might look like for the general population (i.e. that it’s not just handwashing and step counting), you can start tuning into what OCD looks like for you!    

Is there one intrusive thought in particular which you can’t stop going over in your mind? Has covid-related health anxiety got you stuck in some sort of ritual that you think will prevent illnesses for you and your family? Do certain types of conversations trigger you and leave you ruminating for an entire night?    

Once you move beyond general knowledge, you can hone in on your own experience with OCD in motherhood. Identify your patterns, suspected triggers, energy levels, fears, and times when you most want to gain control. One tactic could be to journal. Write it down, get as specific as possible and really delve into the details. Do you over-research a lot? What topics do you generally seek out information on? Do you ruminate over a specific fear? What’s going on when that happens? Be explicit and detail-oriented in your own notes so you can gain as much awareness on your own patterns as possible. 


Resist the compulsion

Even though the “compulsion” or “action” component is the thing that makes sufferers feel like they have control, it actually just perpetuates the cycle. You may feel as though you can manage a situation when you lean into your compulsions but really, they just add fuel to the fire. When you think about it, does repeating yesterday’s conversation in your head yet another time change the outcome? Does going through the vacation checklist for a 10th time prevent anything different than if you just re-checked once? Likely not.   

What we want to do with all types of anxiety is learn to sit with the discomfort. The second guessing, the worrying, or the uncomfortable feelings will pass if you do not give them power over you. For people who are used to controlling, or actively fixing things, this can seem counterintuitive. If you’re dealing with OCD in motherhood though, the best way to start to deal with your symptoms is just by accepting them… but not engaging.     

While focusing on becoming self-aware and accepting our OCD symptoms without engaging in our specific compulsions are important, getting better at anxiety management overall is essential. In my program Mama Calm, I teach all about anxiety, including the underlying causes and how to set yourself up for success when your triggers are firing.