Let’s be real. These days, many of us are parenting through mental health struggles. Just because we aren’t in the postpartum period anymore (although, I argue that it lasts a lot longer than the medical establishment says), doesn’t mean that those of us who struggled with postpartum mood disorders don’t continue to deal with them into the toddler years and beyond.
My own postpartum experience was challenging. I had never been a particularly anxious person, and had only had small bouts of depression as a young adult, so the intense feelings I had during pregnancy and after were new to me. I was overwhelmed and sad that I wasn’t having the joyful pregnancy and new motherhood experience I had hoped for. As a doula, I knew that many new moms suffer with anxiety, but like many, I didn’t think it would happen to me.
We went through a lot as a family that first year of our daughter’s life. Fortunately, I sought support at a few local groups in LA. The in-person support made such a difference and helped to normalize what I was experiencing as well as highlight where I needed to work on myself and my behavior.
Now, with an almost two year old, I have a (mostly, we’re being real here, remember?) level head on my shoulders. But parenting a toddler is NO JOKE. She does everything she can to test limits and my patience, and she’s just doing what is typical for a child her age. I’m not always the kind of mom I want to be. But when I am, I see the results in a happy, confident little person. The anxiety still creeps in at times, especially when she cries a lot or whines. It brings me back to those early days. What seems to help me cope with those frustrating times the most is deep breathing, mindfulness, and embodiment. Then I can sit with her, embrace her, and softly talk her through her own frustrations.
Some of my favorite parenting resources right now are (some) of the principles of RIE (I can talk another time about what I don’t love in that method), evolutionary parenting, and the book, The Whole Brain Child.
How is parenting going for you? What are your biggest challenges? Did you have a postpartum mood disorder? Drop a comment to share about your experience!