Becoming a mama changed my life. But so did my postpartum anxiety. And no one talks about that part of it.
I’ve always been good at work. I make a goal, I execute, I achieve. It’s been my pattern. High school valedictorian, debutante, full ride scholarship for undergrad, law school, judicial externship, job with a prestigious boutique law firm. And I threw myself in to my work. 12-14 hour days were the norm. Working the weekends, late nights, never shutting off. I loved my work. I lived for my work.
And then I had my daughter.
It seems so cliché to say becoming a mama flipped my world upside down, but boy did it. And I think it was such a noticeable shift because in addition to a tiny 8 lb 11 oz human depending on me, I had postpartum anxiety. And for the longest time I wouldn’t admit it. I told myself what I felt was normal – part of being a parent.
I experienced EXTREME separation anxiety. I desperately wanted time away, time to myself, like any sane mama does. But the second I was away (I mean literally on the other side of the front door – even just to run to the grocery store), my mind was racing with all of the things that could go wrong. And in my head, I was the only one truly qualified to be there for my daughter.
My mind never quit. When I was awake, it was constantly racing. All the things that could go wrong. What if I couldn’t cut it as a mama.
And I adore my daughter. But she was not an easy baby. In fact, her Pedi called her “high needs” – that’s not a medical diagnosis but reference to a little who is just more sensitive than most. Em didn’t sleep unless I was holding her. She screamed when we were separated. She refused to take a bottle. So much so that on my first day back at my law firm after having her Em went 12 hours without eating. 12 hours!
With my postpartum anxiety in full swing, I extended my maternity leave (because I had gone back a month sooner than I was required). My husband and I spent the month trying to figure out how we could pay the bills if I stayed home but I also WANTED to work. I love my career. After trying about 20 different kinds of bottles, my husband and I finally found one Em would take. So back to work I went, excited to jump back into my familiar routine.
But then one day my boss took me to lunch. It was about a month after returning to work and boy was I struggling. I remember him sitting there telling me about the additional things I needed to add to my plate in terms of networking and rainmaking activities for the firm and it was like something in me snapped.
I was hanging by a thread, crying on my way in to work because I didn’t want to leave my daughter, crying on the way home from work thinking about the workload I was leaving behind. 12-hour work days with an infant at home weren’t working for me. I had put 20 lbs back on (whoever said breast feeding helped with weight loss was a liar!). None of my clothes fit. I was sleep deprived, dealing with a super clingy infant. And anxious. So anxious.
And a little voice in my head told me there was more to life.
I began to explore my options and chat with other female attorneys – most of who mentioned they would love an overflow attorney. Someone to step in and take on assignments when they were too busy.
So, I did something I never thought I’d do. I quit my cushy law firm job after being back for about 3 months. I took a temporary position at another firm with more flexible hours while their associate was on maternity leave. And I got my independent contractor agreements in place.
In October 2016, I started my law firm and it was the scariest most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Since that time, I’ve worked with other female-owned family law firms as Of Counsel (which is a fancy way of saying I’m doing work for them but not employed by them). Listening to that little voice was the best decision I ever made.
But, oddly enough, I don’t think I would have taken the leap if I hadn’t been struggling with my postpartum anxiety.
While I was building my firm I still struggled with balancing self-care. Not just working out, but carving out any time for me. My self-care time was basically the 10 minutes I had to shower at night while my daughter cried in the living room with my husband. And a lot of those showers I cried too. Because my mind would not stop racing.
I finally shared how I had been feeling with my OB-GYN, who was the first person to use the words “postpartum anxiety.”
I’m sad to say that I hadn’t really talked to anyone about my feelings until then. I was embarrassed, overwhelmed, and part of me wondered if it was just normal “baby blues.” It didn’t feel like any of the baby books or blogs I had read while preparing to become a mama talked about postpartum anxiety. I saw a few references to postpartum depression, don’t get me wrong, but most of them glossed over the subject and didn’t dive into what it felt like or warning signs.
Sharing how I had been feeling for months was liberating. And I started to research ways to cope and recover naturally.
Around that time, I received a message from my coach (and now one of my biz besties). We began chatting and she shared how Beachbody products and programs had been working for her. Say what you want about MLM/network marketing/direct sales, but that message came at the right time for me. Especially because without it, I probably wouldn’t have gained exposure to personal development and the online space. I learned to prioritize my self-care, whether it was working out or simply taking time to read a book or get a pedicure (it really is about making the time and taking it). And I learned about doing the inner work. I started meditating and journaling and gave my anxiety a voice to friends and loved ones.
Over the course of about 6 months I lost the baby weight and was actively creating a work-life balance for myself. It felt amazing, so I decided to try coaching myself. Because I knew if I was struggling, there sure as hell were other mamas out there having a hard time too. I made some amazing friendships while helping other working mamas create a work-life balance for themselves.
During my brief soirée into coaching, I was bombarded with legal questions from other mompreneurs in the online space. As soon as they found out I was an attorney, “Can you answer just one question?” began to fill my DMs. And when I would suggest they consult with someone in their local area, 99% of the time they told me that it was too expensive or too overwhelming. And I had that “ah ha” moment so many entrepreneurs talk about – I could create legal resources as an affordable and accessible way for these women to protect themselves and their businesses. So, I created my legal templates and began blogging about legal topics that are relevant to online entrepreneurs.
Slowly, my postpartum haze subsided and so did my anxiety. For the most part. I still have my moments but I think it’s just part of motherhood.
I built 2 businesses in 2 years as a new mama. And overcame postpartum anxiety. And created a work-life balance – one that works for my life. Holy cow, that’s crazy to write. But it was a journey.
If you’re suffering from postpartum anxiety mama, know you’re not alone.
Even if you’re just a hot hormonal mess. Talk to someone! Don’t ignore it. Motherhood has a funny way of flipping life upside down and changing your perspective entirely. But it’s part of your story. And it’s what you do with the experience that truly matters.
That’s why I’ve set out to create a work-life balance blog. Because while I’m passionate about the law and helping people in my law firm and online business, I’m also obsessed with acknowledging that unique story that motherhood gives us and balancing it with all the other parts of ourselves. Because I still love what I do. And I love my family. And I can sure as hell have both. Anxiety and all.