Here, Jo, a parent and now an avid Mind the Bump app user, tells her story of facing down anxiety as a new parent and how our meditation app helped her cope.
I am a mother to a long awaited, beautiful, nearly one year old girl, the looming first year mark is so very bittersweet for me as I prepare to go back to work and re-enter a huge part of my “old life”.
We had struggled with infertility and through the magic of IVF she was the only embryo that made it through the process, she was so very wanted. I waited the few weeks before she was born with the most anticipation I had ever felt.
When I look back at my pregnancy I now can see the glimmers of parental anxiety that were creeping around the edges, I worried about the baby being normal, but figured that was because I had spent a large part of my work life with children who had special needs.
I struggled to get comfortable at night and found sleeping harder and harder. I worried about the birth due to some medical issues but that was normal right, everyone worries about the birth?
After she was born, our little one was so unsettled and cried a lot, breast feeding was not working. I was feeding and expressing every hour or so and was told by everyone “keep going, it will get better”.
We finally got home and I burst into tears as I held her in her little room I had lovingly made for her, she was perfect but I was far from...my husband who is my rock was in full support mode, wiped our tears, fed us and held me and the baby at the same time but he was fraying too.
My own mother had died when I was 12 and I felt her absence in this situation as a wide expansive hole, she would know what to do, if she hadn’t died I would have been able to cope with this parental anxiety I was feeling.
Rocking the baby or putting her to sleep became unbearable to me, tearfully my husband called his mother to come and help us, we had her as a back up to come and support us. Before the baby came we had thought that we wouldn’t need her.
On the outside I just looked like any other tired mama but by the time help arrived I had utterly come undone, I was unable to sleep, could not stop shaking and my thoughts were swirling around in my head.
I worried about the same things over and over, “I can’t do this”, “I can’t feed her”, and “I can’t cope”. I knew about postnatal depression and even worked in that field, this didn’t feel like depression, I didn’t feel sad, I kept saying.
I have always been a worrier but never like this. I knew I needed to get help and one night I called a colleague of mine who was a maternal and child psychiatrist, I was so embarrassed to let her know that I was feeling like this.
To be so vulnerable to a colleague felt so awkward. She was amazing, she told me that what I was feeling was parental anxiety and panic and that they are best friends with depression and eventually if I did not seek help my panic would turn into depression.
She arranged to pick me up the next day and take me to my GP. I waited for her on the road, so deeply embarrassed and full of shame it had come to this. She normalised my experience and helped me articulate to my GP what was happening.
They were both so helpful and I received pharmaceutical support that started my road to recovery as well as being referred to a local maternal mental health team which was hard as they were also colleagues.
The road felt so long, I felt unable to quiet my mind and control the thoughts that overwhelmed me. Until a friend sent me a link for the Mind the Bump app, I had been trained in meditation before and had tried it for my sleep issues but had previously found it too hard to commit to.
I devoured the content on the Mind the Bump App, the way that the sessions were short and tailored for exactly where I was at in raising this little person made it so relatable.
I used the sleep and rest techniques at night and learnt to be able to control the physical sensations of the parental anxiety and calm my body and then eventually my mind.
I used the walking and feeding meditation suggestions for when I fed her and had to endlessly walk the baby around the neighbourhood to get her to sleep. I learnt to scan my body for the sensation of tension and let them go.
Slowly the panic eased and the thoughts became slower and slower in my mind. I could cope and I was coping. With the combination of the Mind the Bump app techniques, medication and one on one support for my parental anxiety I started feeling whole again. I still have times when I feel easily overwhelmed but now I feel like I have the techniques and support I need.
As we plan for her first birthday and reflect on this year and how far we have come I would urge anyone who is feeling not like themselves or that they can’t cope, to seek help from a professional as soon as possible, and if they don’t listen, find someone who will.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed of your feelings of anxiety as a new parent, know that with treatment and support this too shall pass and will become a distant memory, replaced with many happy joyous moments with the new love of your life.