Dear Is This Normal,
I’m 40 with twins, we’ve had four kids in three years. I’m really struggling—I feel like my life is over, I’m depressed, anxious, full of fear and don’t get a moment’s sleep from one month to the next. I’m supposed to be enjoying them but all I feel is anxiety. Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Treading Water,
Oh mama. You are going THROUGH IT. One kid is hard. Two kids are hard! Any amount of kids is hard. But four little ones under the age of 3? I’ll be honest, my brain cannot even process having that particular combination of babies and toddlers at the same time. How you were even able to write this letter is beyond me! What you are doing is nothing short of awesome. But I know you don’t feel awesome, and I can only imagine what a struggle it is right now. Trying to balance four young kids and life and taking care of yourself must feel impossible pretty much all of the time. It sounds like you’ve barely had a chance to come up for air before deep-diving again, and the weight of everything is pushing you further and further underwater. I’m so, so glad you reached out for support, mama. Is your life over? No, not even close. Do I have any suggestions? You bet your tired booty I do.
Some of the emotions you mentioned really resonated with me, because you described exactly the same emotions I experienced before I was officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. Depression and sadness. Anxiety that was through the roof at all times. Constant fear. And if you’re anything like me, maybe a healthy dose of guilt? Because as you said, you’re supposed to be enjoying these early months and years! But it’s impossible to enjoy anything when you’re suffering from a perinatal mood disorder. Postpartum anxiety starts to consume you and your world and sucks all the joy out of things big and small. If you haven’t already, I really encourage you to make an appointment with your OB and ask for a referral to a mental health specialist who deals with perinatal mood disorders. Professional support and therapy for postpartum anxiety can help you get back to feeling more like yourself, and help you get to a better mental space to be the best mom you can be to your kids.
I know it probably feels impossible to prioritize yourself and your mental health with four kids under three to care for. But it’s so, so important. You can only run on fumes for so long before the motor finally craps out. So if dealing with the day-to-day of raising four kids is overwhelming (and how could it not be?!), then it’s time to start dividing up the duties. If your partner or a friend or family member is able to take some of the load off your shoulders during the day or at nighttime, take that opportunity to step away and recharge. Take a nap. Go for a long walk. Get your nails done or treat yourself to a solo lunch or afternoon movie. Stop being mom for a few hours a day, and just be YOU. If your partner isn’t able to rotate with you, I would urge you to seriously consider hiring a part-time nanny or mother’s helper if you can swing it. Even if you aren’t able (or don’t feel comfortable) leaving your babies with someone else, you can still check out for a bit in another room. You won’t be gone, but you won’t have to always be on, if that makes sense.
In this stage, at these ages, it’s so incredibly crucial that you are able to take space for yourself and deal with postpartum anxiety head on. It’s also crucial that you have a good, solid support system in place, and help when and where you need it. It’s hard to do this when you can’t see the forest for the trees; right now, you’re too deep in the forest to be able enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty about needing, asking for, or accepting help, or for acknowledging that you need to “mother” yourself too. You need to be cared for, just as much (if not more) than those little humans do. The most powerful piece of parenting advice I’ve ever been given (that’s not even about parenting!) is: you have to secure your own oxygen mask before you can help whoever is next to you. You have to help yourself before you can be a helper to anyone else.
Call your doc, Treading. Talk to your partner and your people and ask for help. There is no shame in that. You owe it to yourself to be the best version of you that you can be.
Reach for the Life Jacket,
Is This Normal