Perfect to Panicked: My Struggle With Postpartum Anxiety
By: Haley Bradenburg, PS-WA Clinical Extern
Content warning: Postpartum Anxiety, intrusive thoughts
Dear Perinatal Support Washington community,
In 2014 I had an incredible homebirth with a midwife for my second son’s birth. We both had minimal or no complications. I felt empowered, and, as though nothing could possibly hinder my ability to be the best mother to my two boys, then 2 year old Hudson and new baby, Leighton. My heart was full of love. Little did I know that my parenting journey would be fraught with peril.
The transition from one to two children was hard. I was plagued with questions that undermined my confidence. They included “Am I doing enough? Am I showing my toddler enough love? Am I a good mom?” These insecurities continued to build over that first year.
In March, my baby was 16 months old when anxiety began to take hold of my thoughts and dominate my life. I had an overwhelming sense of doom that paralyzed me in fear. I remember cloistering myself in my bedroom to “get away” and be alone. I began to wonder if my children were safe with me. When my husband would leave for work I would tremble. I felt like a snail without a shell – so vulnerable.
I tried doing yoga. I got a therapist. Nothing was having a lasting impact on my anxious state of mind. Finally, it got to the point I was not sleeping, or able to focus on daily tasks, let alone enjoy time spent with my precious boys. It was my GP who encouraged me to check myself into the hospital to get the help I desperately needed. Medication, learning about anxiety and how to cope, as well as time alone to focus on healing did wonders for me. I am changed for the better because I bravely sought treatment.
My anxiety doesn’t define me. My story has shaped me and given me a passion for helping other women, mothers in particular, realize they don’t have to suffer in silence, but that they can ask for what they need without guilt or shame. This passion led me to connect with Perinatal Support Washington. Through PS-WA I was able to lead a support group for moms specifically suffering with perinatal issues of adjustment. My experience leading the group fueled my desire to pursue a clinical externship with PS-WA to conduct therapy with perinatal moms.
Today, it is an honor to be providing much needed mental health services to moms who, like me, desperately need support to overcome obstacles in order for them to be the best mom they can be.
PS-WA wants to expand the new clinical training/therapy program I joined. With your support, we can support more moms like me with perinatal mental health therapy.
Haley Brandenburg, MSW, LICSWA
Perinatal Support Washington