3 Things To Have Your Postpartum Doula Do For You Today

It is unfortunate that so many birthing people feel that hiring a postpartum doula is an unnecessary luxury reserved for the elite. It's just not true, and with more families feeling depressed, depleted, run-down and isolated I look forward to the day when most have a postpartum doula the same as most write up a birth plan.

The long-term benefits of having a postpartum doula are immeasurable. The immediate benefits can be seen by the relief on a birthing person's face when they know their doula is showing up on Friday and they will be getting a much needed break and a massage.

If you are unclear about what a postpartum doula is, you can imagine that the same as your birth doula supports and encourages you during labor, a postpartum doula encourages and supports every area of your new life after baby is born. This can look like cooking, cleaning, offering breastfeeding or bottle-feeding support, massage for achy muscles, listening and processing your birth story, brewing supportive herbal teas, filling the bath and holding baby while you soak...

Sound amazing? It's because it is!

I could go on and on writing out the benefits of postpartum doulas and support during the fourth trimester, but I think Kimberly Johnson did an incredible job covering all of the bases in a recent podcast interview with The Birthful Podcast. You can give it a listen here~

I myself did not have a postpartum doula, mostly because I did not know that it was a thing that is available. I heard about these unicorn doulas after my youngest was born, and although I'd had a beautiful and healing birth with Isabelle, I knew there was a lot of room for improvement in the way I cared for myself postpartum. Now postpartum work is some of my favorite work I do! I try to provide everything for my families that I didn't have but wish I did after my own kids were born.

After I had Surro-baby I set myself up for the ultimate stay-cation and fourth trimester laying around to restore my health and well-being. Armed with better knowledge and resources, I knew it would be important for my recovery and that I'd come back healthier and more radiant than ever if I could only take exceptional care of myself in those first weeks after birth. But still, I didn't hire a postpartum doula. I wrongly assumed that because I wouldn't be coming home with a newborn that I wouldn't need one, but looking back and even in the moment, I knew that no mother or family, no matter what their birth or postpartum experience, could ever have too much help. I absolutely would have benefited from a postpartum doula in many ways.

I hope that you are able to invest in your health and long term vitality by hiring a postpartum doula, and when you do, you may want to consider having her do these 3 things~

 

1. Clean Your Bath Tub

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Many postpartum doulas are happy to run you a bath, and will even go the extra mile to fill the tub with herbal brews for healing. I took a bath every night after having my kids because it just felt so good! But I was careful to clean my tub really well before soaking. I didn't want to soak in a dirty bathtub obviously, but there is also the thought that a dirty tub can cause an infection in your very open body. I would rather err on the side of caution and keep it clean~ but who wants to scrub a tub when you are supposed to be relaxing? Even if you aren't planning to take a bath during your postpartum doula's shift, ask her to give it a good cleaning so you can enjoy later.

 

 

2. Prep Healthy Snacks

One of my favorite things in the world is receiving love from others through food. Even having a friend drop off take-out makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and as more and more communities create meal trains for their newborn families, I am happy to see that dinner is very often covered by caring friends and neighbors after having a baby. But have you ever noticed that there is never anything in the fridge to just munch on? Sometimes you want to snack, and as well know, you will reach for what is available. Have a friend or your partner shop for some healthy snack ingredients, and your postpartum doula can prep them for later munching. Think chopped fruits and veggies, protein balls, broths, wraps, etc.

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3. Create Your Happy Spot

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Most likely you will find yourself gravitating to one particular spot in the house after baby is born for feedings, reading, snuggling and just overall comfort. This might be your bed, a cozy corner of the couch, a special chair, or even a little spot on the floor. You might have no anticipated this before the birth, but now it's your throne. You deserve to be surrounded by beauty and it can do wonderful things for your emotional and spiritual well-being to have this space reflect this serene and sacred time you are currently in. Ask your postpartum doula to clean and arrange this space. Set you up with a basket or two of supplies for yourself and baby. Think snacks, drinks, reading material, books, etc. for you and diapers, creams, feeding supplies, etc. for baby. She can arrange flowers, candles, hand lotion and others things nearby to give you something lovely to look at it. This kind of cozy corner is wonderful for everyone, and I find it to be especially comforting for those who are pumping breastmilk. Even if the rest of the house is not as clean or tidy as you like it, it will be okay because this happy spot will be clean and organized just for you.

 

Curious to learn more about hiring a postpartum doula? You can leave a comment below or contact me here! Did your postpartum doula do something for you that you really loved? Tell us below or share with me on Instagram: @jasmine.rose.doula

5 Ways to Get The Most Out of Prenatal Yoga (and my favorite online resources for at-home yoga)

I have lost count of how many times someone has told me in an excited whisper, "I'm pregnant!! Nobody knows yet... where do I start, what do I do? I should go to a yoga class, right?"

Many women and birthing people want to enjoy every moment of the pregnancy, especially if it was much anticipated. They also feel the expectation and pressure to be as healthy as possible for the growing life inside of them. A lot of the time fingers are pointed at prenatal yoga as a way to cover all of the bases: healthy movement, attention to breathing, calming meditation, and even better food choices. But how do you get from here to there (wherever that perfect pregnancy and OMazing birth is?)

A lot of people don't know what we actually do in my prenatal yoga classes. Often I've had women show up for class, looking a little more than lost or unsure, and when I ask them what brought them through the door I get an answer along the lines of, "My doctor told me I should come."

"Oh, okay great! Why is that?"

"I don't know... he just thought it would be a good idea."

Or the script goes similarly for the person who answers, "I just thought I should come and you know... be healthy."

There's nothing wrong with any of these answers at all, and yoga IS a great way to connect to your body and your growing baby in a healthy and supportive way. If you find yourself in that place between a positive pregnancy test and grabbing your mat, here is what to expect and how to prepare to get the most out of your class.

* Side note: I would also like to add that my prenatal yoga classes (and I can't speak for all of them, but I hope I am here!) are open to every family bringing a new life home. You better believe that every family who has adopted a child has had months and months of their own type of pregnancy. Surrogates, foster parents, seahorse Dads, both Mommy's, people who are a size 5 or 25.... don't overthink it. We will see you on the mat! Because you need this practice too~

 

1. Honor the pregnancy that you are experiencing, not the one you wish you were having

It would be amazing to have zero morning sickness, tons of energy and a little round bump for 9 months, and some people do! Good on you lovelies! I was not one of those people, and most of us aren't. Yoga is about meeting your body where you are at on that day and in that moment, so if you are really struggling through the first trimester, don't beat yourself up about starting a yoga practice in the 2nd trimester or even the 3rd. Yoga will be there when you are ready. But I do recommend gentle walking every day to help your body distribute and flush out any excess hormones that might be making you feel that way. Walking around the block in the sunshine is a great time to recite mantras or listen to an uplifting podcast. One of my favorite kinds of yoga.

2. Be a smart Yogi

Piggy-backing off of number 1, you really want to listen to your body right from the very beginning. Did your favorite Instagram influencer do inversions, twists and backbends throughout their pregnancy? Cool. I don't recommend that you do that. In the last several years of teaching I can count on one hand the number of students I have seen in my class who could probably have continued their pre-pregnancy practice. The reality is, your practice might never look the same.. but neither will the rest of your life. Roll with it and see how much richer and better it actually becomes.

3. Invest in Comfort

Yoga pants sounds super comfy when we aren't pregnant, but for many of us the lower part of the belly is the first place to grow, and before it is even noticeable from the outside, we can feel the added pressure of tight yoga pants. Suffering is optional in a yoga class, and yoga pants designed for pregnancy can be worn for a long time after. (I still teach in mine!) There aren't a lot on the market, but I love Beyond Yoga's line called Beyond the Bump. Be frugal everywhere else if you like, but buy at least one pair of good, comfy yoga pants, and you will thank yourself every time you come to class. (And every time you where them for your next Netflix binge.)

4. Plan Ahead

A prenatal class is usually an hour long, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. It doesn't sound like long, but your body is changing rapidly. I often encourage my students to bring more than just water to class. If you anticipate that you will be hungry, nauseous, dizzy, cold or hot, or any other number of crazy things that happen to use within the span of one hour, don't get caught unprepared and miserable. This is maybe one of the most understanding groups of people you will encounter! Some of my recommendations are to bring peppermint tea or essential oil for nausea or feeling slugglish, Nux Vomica tablets for feeling yucky, protein bars for sudden I-have-to-eat-right-now hunger, and even magnesium spray for cramping.

5. Expect to work, but take breaks when you need them

The balance of knowing when to push yourself and for how long while pregnant changes week to week. My advice is usually this:

If you need to take a 3 hour nap or get a headache after exercising, you pushed too hard.

If you are only reaching for the advanced posture because everyone else is but you can't catch your breathe... stop.

There will be competition in so many other places, so let your yoga practice be a safe and supportive space. But only YOU can really define your own boundaries and enforce them for yourself. I will guide you into some pretty challenging stuff! Sometimes that is a lot of fun, and sometimes even necessary to build helpful muscle. But if you are following every que at the risk of your own safety, then we've fallen off course. Think of this as your first opportunity to practice boundaries for your little one as well~ let those protective instincts take over and don't worry about what everyone else in the room thinks.

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And of course, the reality with any yoga class is that not every class will be for you. The first prenatal yoga class I ever took as a first time mom was a hilarious horror story that I suffered through for a couple of months before finally throwing in the towel and sticking to my yoga DVD at home. You may need to shop around and find "your person". If you find yourself at home and looking for a way to practice yoga consistently, I have found these online classes and websites to be great!

For the daily feel good all over practice~

This practice is just under 30 minutes and can be done in any trimester whether you have any yoga experience or not.

For the seasoned yogi~

Bri has a strong practice and she speaks to those that do also. Her flows for the different trimesters on the Cody App are challenging in a good way.

You can find her class bundle here

For all yogis~

I really fell in love with Yoga Work's online prenatal classes during my own pregnancy for their variety and teachers. I especially enjoyed shorter sequences taught by Patti on days when I knew a stretch would feel good but I wasn't energized enough for a long practice. If you are in the area you can also check out Yoga Works schedule and Patti's own schedule at Uma Mother.

For Yogis in Southern California~

If you are looking for a treat near the beach, check out U & The Mat in Lagina Niguel and their amazing prenatal yoga teachers and various workshops. With a Whole Foods right across the street and the beach just minutes away, it really covers all of the bases for a perfect day!

My 4 Favorite Remedies for Postpartum Hemorrhoids

I was at a workshop all about pelvic floor, geared toward pregnant and postpartum women. As is common for most workshops I have been to, the teacher began our time together with having each person introduce themselves~ their name, where they are in their pregnancy if they are pregnant, and a question: what is your favorite and least favorite thing about pregnancy?

I was just a few months out of my own pregnancy and was finally sitting normally again, so I knew exactly what my least favorite thing about pregnancy would be. I was one of the closest to her, so I spoke before most of the group:

"Hi, my name is Jasmine. I am 3 months postpartum, and I love absolutely everything about pregnancy! My least favorite is definitely hemorrhoids."

All around the room, young women in expensive yoga clothes with tiny little baby bumps raised their eyebrows and looked shocked. Yup. I said it, and anyone who has had more than one child has probably experienced the unmentionable postpartum annoyance that is hemorrhoids.

As we continued introductions around the room it became obvious that as 99% of the women were still pregnant with their first, I'm sure most of them were thinking to themselves, "Sure, that happened to her, but it would never happen to me!"

But here's the thing. It doesn't matter who you are or how expensive your yoga pants are- hemorrhoids don't discriminate. And aside from being unsightly, embarrassing, or whatever else you associate with having hemorrhoids, when you have just given birth to a child and your bits are already pretty sore, hemorrhoids can be downright painful!

If you've got 'em, you want them gone as soon as possible, so I am going to share with you some remedies that are actually effective so you can move on with your life and sit like a normal human being.

A little side not- I didn't get hemorrhoids with my first labor, but I did with the next two. So don't think that just because you escaped the first time that you will be so lucky the next. I recommend being prepared ahead of time because there is just nothing worse than waiting for shipping or making a trip to the store when you are bleeding and your insides are falling out. You want to be home in bed, congratulating yourself on your preparedness and forethought.

Firstly, where do hemorrhoids come from?

The inter-webs will have you believe that hemorrhoids are mostly a result of dehydration, not enough fiber and constipation. Any Google search gives you advice for not straining during a bowel movement, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking more water... all good things. But postpartum hemorrhoids are a little harder to avoid because during a vaginal delivery there is quite a bit of force involved in pushing your baby out. And well... straining is kind of a part of the package. With all of that pressure, the veins in the rectum may become swollen. Sometimes women find themselves pushing for very long periods of time, and hemorrhoids as a result of an extended period of pushing makes sense, but as I said in the beginning, they don't discriminate, because even a quick labor and delivery can cause the uncomfortable little beasts.

Control what you can control and let go of the rest...

Eating a healthy diet during your pregnancy, getting plenty of exercise and keeping hydrated will absolutely help to prevent hemmies as much as you can. Keeping your pelvic floor in tip top shape will also benefit your booty! Make sure to work your pelvic floor correctly and often throughout your pregnancy for an easier delivery and the possibility of lessening your chances of painful hemorrhoids.

Don't panic, here's how to get back to your normal bum as quickly as possible.

1.)  What I am going to share with you are the things that have worked for myself and clients. Not everything will work for you, and some remedies may take a few days, but don't fret! I've had great success with these easy solutions.

My absolute favorite remedy for hemorrhoids might be the most unlikely. It is a tea by Euphoric Herbals called Vascular Toning Tea. Yes, like a tea that you drink! You can check it out here..

Euphoric Herbals is a small company doing big things with herbs. Her teas aren't just tasty- they work! This toning tea is like a miracle in a mug and resolved any issues in just a few days, bringing relief after day 1. (Check out her other blends while you are there for breastfeeding, fertility, and even a tea to help you sleep.)

If you are very desperate or dealing with a particularly painful problem, you can make a compress out of the tea by brewing the tea in a muslin cloth bag, letting the water cool to room temperature, squeezing out some of the liquid and them placing the bag directly on the affected area for a period of time. You may even place the bag in the fridge or freezer to make a cold compress, using the cold temperature to provide relief and lesson inflammation.

 

2.)  Sitz baths are a favorite postpartum for so many reasons! And this is one of them. Make an herbal sitz bath using herbs such as calendula flowers, chickweed, yarrow, comfrey and plantain leaf. You can create a strong brew of the herbs overnight in a large mason jar or two, and pour the liquid directly into your bath. Or, similar to the tea above, you can place the herbs into a tea bag and create a compress.

 

3.)  Earth Mama Angel Baby has done a lot of the hard work for you by creating their postpartum sitz tea bags. I love these for creating a brew to put inside of your peri bottle postpartum, and the soaked tea bags make a great compress, or another strong brew that you can place directly into your bath.

 

4.)  The postpartum poo... bring it up in any mom group and sit back while you listen to story after story and watch the knowing head nods, because we have all been there! The irrational terror of pushing in those first days after giving birth is real, and when you have hemorrhoids... I mean, what are you even supposed to do?! I avoided it as long as physically possible. (They recommend NOT to do that by the way.) But there is an answer to our postpartum woes, and should apparently be decor in every bathroom, because the list of benefits is long. It is the squatty potty! And it need not be an ugly plastic contraption that you are embarrassed for guests to see. This bamboo squatty on Amazon is so pretty and gives your bathroom a spa feel, and it even has a foot massager built in!! (You will never want to leave your porcelain throne.)

 

Hopefully you have the ability to spend most of your time postpartum lying in bed and getting acquainted with your new little babe, so even if hemorrhoids are an issue they can become an after thought. And if you do find yourself plagued with the unmentionable- I'm sending you my love and hopes that these remedies being you relief.

Happy birthing!

 

Living In Flow ~ embracing the seasons of your cycle

For most of my post-pubescent life I went about my days with little attention to my period. I very often found myself surprised by my own blood once a month and the whole ordeal was nothing more than an annoyance and an inconvenience that was getting in the way of everything else I was trying to do that day or week. I don't imagine my own experience is very far off from most other menstruating women, and how could you blame us? Those very first periods are talked about in hushed whispers behind closed doors and with an air of shame for most of us. The conversations about our changing bodies are embarrassing and sometimes minimal. Growing up I had no idea that my body was moving in a predictable rhythm, or that there was more to periods than just ovulation and bleeding.

As I've aged I've learned about my body, my cycle and my period, but still with the focus being on pregnancy (or preventing it). Thanks to Taking Charge of Your Fertility, a book by Toni Weschler, my mind was absolutely blown wide open by how little I actually knew. By tracking my cycle I prevented pregnancy for years, got pregnant immediately when we were ready, and continued to prevent pregnancy for years after. It has been a lovely and empowering experience, but just last year I had another ah-ha moment of realizing that I still know so little about my natural rhythm and cycle! And after diving in a little deeper, what I found was that I could actually live every single day in complete harmony with myself and my own rhythm, which suddenly allowed me to feel way more connected, be more productive and I feel as if a crucial piece of my own self-care that has been missing my entire life is being restored. I've realized that periods are powerful!

Periods are not all about making babies or not making babies. I have to wonder if my awareness of only the ovulation and menstruation parts of my cycle are somehow linked to our society's view of the female body- which only functions and operates to make babies, of course. *insert eye roll here*. I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I digress.. there are two phases of the cycle that I was missing out on: the follicular phase, and the luteal phase. Where I am now, I relate to the four phases as the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This helps me relate to where my physical body, emotions and mental energy will be functioning at the various times of the month, and helps me to plan ahead, honor where I am at, and generally live "in my flow". I will explain further..

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Springtime: the follicular phase

this is the period of time right after you finish bleeding. What I have learned about this time of my cycle, is that just like Spring, I feel a sort of new awakening. I have new ideas, a fresh spring in my step and a hopeful eye to the future. For me personally it is a good time to make plans. Start fresh with naming my current desires. It's a high time of creativity! This time is when I will set my new intentions for the coming month.

Summer: Ovulation

   Oh sweet summertime. This is the week where I am feeling pretty hot! My skin always seems extra glowy and pretty this week, and I skip the makeup. It's obviously a great week to jump in bed with my hubby and try something fun and new, and I give over to the energy of the week. (With protection if you aren't making more babies!) I usually find myself really passionately relating to my students this week~ delivering great yoga classes and speaking from the heart. Connection is my word for this phase, and I really put myself out into the world.

Autumn: the luteal phase

   As a younger Jasmine, I felt taught by the women around me that this was a crappy week. This is the "I'm bloated and grumpy" week of your cycle.. or so they say. What I've discovered is that most of the uncomfortable symptoms that we deal with at this time are due to imbalanced hormones. Sometimes finding balance can be as easy as eating the right foods. For me, this is a week of being clear with my boundaries and paying close attention to what is falling away. What isn't working from the intentions I set during Spring? Can I let some of the unnecessary shit go? I'm starting to go inward this week, and I intentionally make less plans that require a lot of my energy. I take more breaks for self-care throughout the day, even if it is just 5 minutes of breathing. This is when I notice I start to be less out in the world and more in my own head. And I go with it.

Winter: Menstruation

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   The life/death/life cycle. Letting the old die so the new can be reborn... I feel this big time while I am bleeding. What intentions and dreams do I need to let die so I can give life to other desires? What isn't working like it should and needs to be rearranged or changed. Like pruning and tending to the garden~ this is my winter phase. Taking an internal inventory, checking in with my body and my emotions, and starting fresh. This is a time for warm oil self-massage, comforting cacao (which offers plenty of minerals we lose while bleeding, so bonus points on the cacao!), maybe binding my belly in my postpartum belly bind for comfort, and extra time to snuggle up on the couch with a good book. I don't schedule meetings this week if I know I will need to be "on" for that particular person. I let myself take naps instead of exercising. I nourish myself well.

(And a word here about the products available ~ if you aren't already using a menstrual cup, I highly recommend looking into them! I made the switch last year and very much wish I had discovered them sooner. There will be a future blog post all about menstrual cups, but for now you can check out one of my favorites here ~ the MoonCup.)

Ever since diving deep into supporting myself for each unique space I am in during my cycle, I have noticed huge differences in my own energy levels, my health and my mental well-being! It is such a small thing, but it has a big impact. To learn more about your own cycle, I highly recommend downloading the app MyFLO. This is in no way sponsored by MyFLO (although I would love that! Heeeyyy MyFLO, you can call me any time!), I am just a huge fan of the app and the way it has supported me these last 6 months since my period has come back after having baby #3. In the app you will find information about what your hormones are doing in each phase, how to best use your mental energy, what foods will support you where you are at and even the best kind of sex for that particular week. I'm telling you- this is a game changer, and I wish I'd had something like this 10 years ago!

I'd love to hear from you beautiful souls about how you honor your body and your cycles! Do you track the moon? Journal? Are you currently embracing menopause or diving deep into Nature's rhythms to integrate into your own life? Comment below!

Sign up for my newsletter and stay in touch on Instagram: @jasmine.rose.doula

Postpartum Anxiety

   The statistics on women (and men!) suffering from postpartum depression are astounding. The issue is complicated and filled with grey areas that go beyond simple chemical imbalances, hormones and genetics. The truth is, I believe that we understand very little of this mental health issue!

   While the media might have us believe that sufferers of postpartum depression are likely to dangle their infants out of open windows or attempt suicide, women and families everywhere know that the reality of PPD can be much less dramatic, but still incredibly scary and confusing.

   Unfortunately, the image that we have of PPD being an illness that causes women to jump off of bridges is a damaging portrayal of an issue that can affect anyone at any time in any degree of seriousness, because when the only thing that we look out for is suicidal thoughts, then we miss or ignore some of the many other symptoms of these mental health issues. And yes, I said "issues"! Postpartum depression is not the only condition a birthing person might struggle with after having a baby- there are other conditions such as postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis.

   What I am going to share with you today is not the science behind why and how this affects women, or the history of these mental health issues. Partly because I believe the science is lacking and like I said, there is still more to learn. Also, I am not a scientist. But what I will share- my own story- is, in my experience, just as important. Because perhaps someone out there might read this and say "Whoa! Me too..." or "Oh, I thought I was the only one!"

   Sharing our stories is powerful medicine for us who do the telling, but also for those who listen because it normalizes the experience and lets us know that we are not alone. It can also empower someone to get help, or give them words for an experience that they didn't previously have. What I am going to talk about in this blog today is not postpartum depression (yet. Stay tuned for that!), I will be sharing my most recent experience with you: postpartum anxiety.

My Story

   Postpartum anxiety was a sneaky and confusing little bugger when it first began to creep up on me after giving birth last July!

   You see, I was prepared for all kinds of things. For those of you familiar with me and my story, you know that I was a surrogate for my third pregnancy. So I prepared myself mentally to feel a little melancholy at coming home without a baby to hold. I was even aware that I might slip into a bit of a depression because I have dealt with PPD in the past. I felt that I had the tools to handle whatever came my way, and I was prepared to deal with all of it with grace and the support of my husband.

   But this postpartum anxiety wasn't like the heavy darkness that slowly settled over my head years ago. After little Baby Mae was born I felt incredible. I actually really enjoyed this postpartum experience, because I was able to care for myself like I have never done before! Without a newborn I was sleeping deeply every night, caring for myself daily with gentle ayurvedic routines, pillow-talking with hubby in the middle of the day, journaling, reading... it was like the best vacation I've ever had. I was feeling refreshed and rejuvenated in a way I've never experienced after my weeks of bed rest!

   The birth was fast, but I became aware that it was a little too fast for my comfort. The way my body felt so entirely out of control was beginning to settle in my mind and I found myself experiencing moments of absolute panic just as I'd begin to fall asleep. But in the moment I didn't believe anything was "wrong". I would simply breath and then drift off to sleep. But then as time went on, I would notice that at various times during the day I'd find breathing difficult. My chest would tighten suddenly, My eyes would swell up with tears and I'd feel a definite sense of panic. But of what?! I could never figure it out.

   Soon this panic began to manifest as a feeling that I was surely dying. I would be walking through the grocery store. Sudden panic. And then the mental self-talk goes something like this:

"Oh God. Relax your face, don't make it obvious... I'm dying. What will I do with my kids, I don't want them to be frightened. Can I make it home first? I would like to die somewhere comfortable.."

And another part of my brain, sounding much smaller:

"Wait, what? Silly, of course you aren't dying! Where is this coming from? Something isn't right..."

And this began to happen several times a day. I started to be afraid to fall asleep while simultaneously resigning to the idea that I wouldn't wake up the next morning.

Weird, right?

It felt weird to me too! I knew something was "off", but I also knew that this wasn't depression at all. I settled into a new normal and didn't pay these panic attacks much attention. I started to create ways to deal with the sensations as they arose, and then I'd let it fade and go away. Moving on.

But then I started to project this fear onto my kids. I would suddenly be overcome with panic during mundane every day occurrences, and I would be certain (and terrified) that they were going to die. If one of them sniffled- "Oh my God, she's dying!" If one of them complained of a pain, "She has childhood cancer!"

This, I knew, was not like me and it was also very strange for my personality. I became terrified of germs, eating any food that I didn't prepare at home, and the list goes on. I was also hiding it all really really well.

So what's the deal? What was going on and where am I at now?

The diagnosis

   I started to suspect postpartum anxiety and contacted a few people to confirm a diagnosis. Unfortunately there aren't any state-of-the-art ways to diagnose these kinds of issues, so it is more like a conversation, a series of questions, and then "Yep! Sounds like anxiety!" (If you are seeing a healthcare practitioner who doesn't believe in anxiety and tells you that you are just tired, see someone else!)

   Knowing that you aren't crazy is always comforting. But it doesn't fix anything, does it? There are medications on the market for anxiety, but me being me (and maybe you being you), I felt that I'd rather treat this as naturally as possible before resorting to medications.

   So why me? I made preparations regarding my mental health before giving birth, I have resources, I do yoga and meditate every day and I was getting plenty of sleep and healthy, nutritious food. What gives? That's the thing about these mental health issues. They can happen to ANYONE! It is never your fault and there is no way you could have prevented this, so there is no use in beating yourself up or carrying any guilt. Once you reveal the problem to yourself (oftentimes realizing that there is a problem takes longer than we'd like to admit), it is only moving forward from there.

Let's review just in case you have experienced some of these things as well (and remember, this was MY experience. You might feel that some of these are familiar, but the time to seek help is the time when you know that something is wrong or off.):

- I started having trouble falling asleep

- I was experiencing a tightening in the chest, a feeling of sudden panic and had difficulty breathing

- My thoughts were irrational and filled with panic

- I began to fear for my children and their well-being in an irrational way

- I knew deep down that something was off

Moving Forward- What Did I Do?

   Unfortunately, conventional medicine did not offer me anything of use. This is a problem with the system that I personally find really disheartening, and I have no advice for this. Unless my situation got to a point where i felt medication was going to be helpful, I felt that I had to rely on my own resources. Let me say again- my experience. This may be helpful to you, but if you only take one thing from this let it be this: take the time to listen to your body and what it is telling you.

No More Coffee

The first thing I did was cut out caffeine. I did this because it is known that the caffeine in coffee may cause anxiety to worsen, but mostly because I listened to my body and I saw a direct correlation to when I had coffee to how many panic attacks I was experiencing in a day.

Don't get complacent with your health

Balancing my hormones, filling up with superfoods and supportive herbs such as the tablets from Banyan Botanicals became a top priority. I started sipping on mineral broths, reishi mushrooms, miso broth, etc. and filling up with fats, protein and a lot of leafy greens. I also found that I needed to keep my exercise routine gentle and supportive. A lot of yin yoga and slow, gentle flows.

Ayurveda

The sister science of yoga became a real lifestyle in these months postpartum. Daily morning massage with warm oil, scraping my tongue, rinsing my nasal passages with my neti pot, warm baths during the night, balancing the food and tastes on my plate, taking time out for pranayama (breathing practices)... I found it was hard to feel anxious when you are just soaking yourself in feel-good vibes throughout the day. Literally living a full day of self-care! Look up simple morning and evening rituals for your own supportive practice. Make it a non-negotiable, even if you have a newborn! It is not an indulgence, it is necessary.

Ask for Help

I got help. A lot of it. I received all of the help that was offered to me with gratitude and I didn't began to mentally plan the ways in which I would immediately pay them back. This was a time for receiving. I let myself be loved on and catered to and I took mental breaks when I needed them and trusted that my family would be okay. And guess what? They always were! Ask friends and family for a meal, for someone to babysit, for your partner to do more than his fair share of chores around the house so you can get a break, talk to a therapist. If none of these things are possible for you, hire a postpartum doula!
 

Talk to Your Tribe

This might be the biggest and most helpful thing I can offer and the best thing I do for myself. Find those people in your tribe who can listen without judgement or trying to "fix" you. Find the ones who hold space and make you feel seen and heard. Love them hard, let them in and just TALK! A good way to begin the conversation might go something like this,

"Hi! I am really going through something right now. I feel like I have a lot to say, and you are someone I feel safe with. Are you available to spend some time with me to just listen to what is going on with me?"

This can be a heavy topic for someone who loves you, so getting their permission first and opening up the space for honest sharing is an important step for yourself as well as for them. It gives them the option to say "No, not yet" if they need time to take care of themselves first so they can be fully present for you. It is also a practice in voicing exactly what you need- someone to listen. Not someone who will be sharing what is also going on with them, or rambling on about their co-worker Susan who went through something similar and cured herself with acupuncture and herbs.

_________

 

A lot of my self-care has continued to where I am now, 6 months postpartum. I have created a practice that feels sustainable for the long-term even though my anxiety has only come back once in the last 2 months. (After having a cup of coffee!) I don't expect to suddenly "cure" anything in just a few short months with green juices and meditation. Mental health is more complicated than that, but for myself, this is working.

I would like to wrap up by saying that overall, these last 6 months after giving birth have been great. I feel happy and fulfilled and generally I feel like the same Jasmine that I've always been! Anxiety or even PPD don't have to be something that take over your life so completely that there is room for nothing else. That can be part of why these experiences are so confusing to us as we are going though them, and also may be why we wait so long to admit that we have a problem.

If you have any questions or you would like to share your own story with me, you can reach me at jasminerosedoula@gmail.com

For your local resources try contacting your local doulas and midwives, talk to your OBGYN, and show up to some of the Mom Meetups in your area.