Postpartum Anxiety Stole One Year Of My Life

mom struggling with postpartum anxiety
Picture of Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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Postpartum Anxiety?  “That will never happen to me” – Lauren, Cofounder of The Matrescence

That’s what we all think until it does.

Our entire mission at The Matrescence® is to destigmatize maternal mental health issues and to create an authentic, relatable, safe space for women going through their individual journey of motherhood. Before I expect other women to trust this platform, I think it is only fair to share what brought me here. What drove me back to pursue mental health. And what sparked the passion deep in my core to make a difference, to use my voice, and to help people avoid the pitfalls I came into.

Let me tell you, I feel like such a fraud in this photo. I don’t know if I feel guilty because I tricked people or if I feel completely heartbroken because I was missing out on so much. I was completely numb to life happening around me and fixated on the intrusive and catastrophic thoughts that plagued my life for over a year. I have struggled with anxiety in the past, so I thought I was prepared to recognize if I was struggling. This (postpartum anxiety) presented differently. I had the support system I always yearned for. A husband who was smitten with the new addition and our growing family. Family surrounding me and supporting me. Friends constantly checking in on me. Truly, I was set up for success with a new baby at home. Yet, it was the darkest and most isolating time of my life. And this photo was taken in the thick of it.

mom lying on floor smiling with baby tugging her hair and smiling at her

For months I battled postpartum anxiety that constantly lingered but would always escalate throughout the night. I would stay up in between feeds and convince myself that these physical feelings I was having were signs of something horrible going on. Coupled with severe postpartum anxiety and sleep deprivation, I convinced myself that those symptoms meant I had some kind of terminal cancer. I just knew it. It sounds crazy to say this out loud, but that spiraled into planning my own funeral in my head. Picturing my kid’s lives without me. Someone else raising them. I was fixated on it and it consumed my thoughts for months. I truly thought I would never see 5th birthdays. I was a shell of a person during the day because of the exhausting, spiraling thoughts at night.

Everyone close to me would brush it off when I would try to tell them. Even laugh and tell me how ridiculous it was. It wasn’t their fault, I was hiding how bad it was. I would cry, google, and search for validation for hours in the middle of the night. Rinse and repeat. Until I finally broke and my husband gave me the validation I needed to seek help and to talk to someone else that may be able to better help me.

For me, postpartum looked different after each pregnancy. After the first, I didn’t struggle with my mental health. This story above is from after having my second baby. I am now in the thick of postpartum with my third, and I finally feel like I have the tools to plan, educate those around me about identifying if I was struggling, and to advocate for myself in a system that is broken and ineffective in detecting and treating postpartum anxiety and other manifestations of postpartum mental illness.

For me, the solution at that time was medication, educating my support system, and prioritizing sleep.  It is different this time and will be different for each woman in motherhood. I am honored to be able to help encourage, empower, and educate you on your unique journey. This is my Matrescence.  With love, Lauren.

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Picture of Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren was a licensed and trained registered nurse in the NICU and has since made a career shift to focus on mental health. Lauren is now a board certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, focusing on women’s health and wellness. She is a mom of three precious little men who has turned her pain into passion.

mother with eyes closed pressing her face up against her infant to calm her anxious feelings

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