Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Happened When I Gave Up Shopping For Lent

I am a practicing Baptist, not a Catholic, which means that during the Lent season I can still eat meat on Fridays and I don't have to give anything up as a sacrifice.  However, I live in southeast Louisiana which is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith.  This means that during the weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter Sunday I'm surrounded by a Friday night fish fry at the Knights of Columbus and friends talking about how they miss diet Coke, chocolate, or whatever else they've given up for Lent.  Actually, eating deep-fried catfish is my idea of a great Friday night so I'm more than happy to partake in the Catholic traditions.

Each year when I was in the working world and around other adults (instead of these two hooligans who only care about snack time) the discussions starting in February always centered around what everyone was going to give up for Lent.  I listened with interest but never gave a thought to participating myself.  However, two years ago I was in the throes of spending more than I knew was necessary and on top of that was considering staying home.  I knew if I became a stay-at-home mom my spending habits would need to drastically change so I decided to give up shopping for Lent.  I know, crazy right?

The only items I allowed myself to purchase were groceries and any needed emergency items such as medicine or tampons.  Tampons are important, y'all.  The first week wasn't so bad but as time went on it got harder and harder not to pull into Target, Ross or TJMaxx and see what new goodies they had.  I had justified my previous spending because, as the earlier list of cheap stores shows, I never shopped expensive retail stores.  I was always shopping in the bargain stores for all of my home and clothing stuff.  However, $50 here and $100 there quickly adds up and until I stopped shopping cold turkey I had no idea how much money I was blowing every month on things I didn't need.

As the Lent season progressed I realized that shopping for me wasn't just a transaction.  It was an outlet, an emotional experience.  If I was having a bad day or displeased with something in my house or closet I went out for some literal retail therapy and felt better...for a moment.  Then buyer's remorse would usually set in because what I purchased wasn't a necessary item and then I would get bummed out.  And the vicious cycle continued.

It wasn't until I had to literally keep myself from pulling into the parking lot of a store that I realized how much time and money I had been wasting on unnecessary things.  I began to see purchases as falling into one of two categories: Need or Want and I came to see that the vast majority of what I purchased each month was a Want and not a Need.

It was eye-opening to see that my son didn't need more clothes.  My husband didn't need new ties for work.  I didn't need new throw pillows for the sofa.  When I pared my life down to the essentials I realized how much we already had and how little extra we really needed.  I'm embarrassed to remember how much money I wasted and am forever grateful for that Lent season two years ago that taught me that blessings do not come with price tags.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cut the Cheese

My husband and I received our tax refund this week and the extra money in the bank has me planning all kinds of wonderful ways I could burn through that cash.  New rug in the dining room? New sofa in the playroom? No more skimping on the monthly food budget? I have about a million different ways to spend that money floating around in my head.  But when I come back to reality I realize that the money needs to be put into the savings account and used for a rainy day.  Ah, well, a Cheap Mama can dream, can't she?

In all of my new-money-dreaminess I had to remind myself that the way we have kept our heads above water, financially speaking, is by my implementing all of my Cheap Mama tricks and sticking with them month in and month out. It's not always easy or fun but it does help me sleep at night knowing that I'm doing all I can to be responsible with what God has given us.

The grocery budget is always the easiest place for me to save money but it is also the easiest place for me to blow money.  The way I keep my head on straight in the grocery store and not give in to those impulse purchases is to continually say to myself the phrase that keeps me focused.  It's my grocery store mantra.  Cut the Cheese.

In my experience as a Cheap Mama I've come to realize that if any of the work is done for me when it comes to food items, I'm paying for the extra convenience.  Is it a pre-made meal? I'm paying extra for that.  Is the product pre-cooked?  I'm paying extra for that.  Is the cheese already in convenient little plastic-wrapped slices for me?  I'm paying extra for that.  Cut the Cheese means to look for the food products that are in their whole, natural state; the actual ingredients themselves because they will always cost less than the pre-packaged, done-for-you food items.  They are also usually the healthier item as well.

So when I am in the grocery store and can feel myself losing it because my head hurts from making the 817th food decision, the kids won't stop talking at me,  and the old lady in front of me has parked her shopping cart in the dang middle of the aisle with no way to get around her, I take a deep breath.  I put the impulse purchase back on the shelf.  I center myself.  And I remind myself to Cut the Cheese.  It reminds me to get back on track in my effort to stretch my grocery dollars and the bonus is, it always makes me laugh.  Because let's face it, farts are funny.  Always.  Funny.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Donut Shop

*This is a post I wrote for The Red Dress Club.  

The alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and I groan as I sit up in the dark.  Around me my high school girl friends lay sleeping where they will most likely stay until around nine or ten on this Saturday morning.  But me, I'm up, dressed and driving in my dad's hand-me-down Camaro to be there when the donut truck arrives at Spencer's Short Stop promptly at 5:30 a.m.  Mr. Spencer is a retired school teacher and baseball coach in this sleepy Oklahoma town who realized his dream of being a small business owner when he opened a gas station / donut shop on the main street in town.  Each morning the Dunkin Donuts truck arrives with fresh donuts on plastic yellow trays that we display in a corner of the store.  There is a small counter with barely enough room for a cash register and six plastic booths in front of the window overlooking the parking lot of gas pumps.

I put the trays away in their proper places and begin to make the coffee.  The first customer is always Walt Guthrie. He pulls up in his old pick-up truck before the doors open at 6 a.m. and I usually let him in early so he can settle in with his coffee and newspaper.  We sit there together, the elderly man and the high school girl and watch the sun rise over the flat Oklahoma land.  Although I'm only seventeen years old I feel like I have an adult's appreciation of the reds, oranges and yellows that slowly creep over the sky bringing another day.  I love the quiet and the anticipation of the sunrise.  It is my favorite part of every Saturday.

As dawn gives way to morning the street begins to come alive with dads in mini-vans coming to get Saturday morning breakfast for their families, moms grabbing a quick bite on their way to the grocery store and cars of children yelling from the backseats, "I want a glazed! No, a bear claw!"  The hometown heroes of last night's Friday night football game stop by for a half dozen donuts each on their way to watch the film of last night's game and to work on the game plan for next week's rival.  These sleepy boys caught between adulthood and childhood with the bodies of men but the easy smiles of children are my childhood friends.  I cannot fathom that one day they will be husbands and fathers.  I can't imagine that I will be anything other than a daughter, cheerleader, student, friend.

I pop a few donut holes in my mouth between customers but rarely do I eat more than a few during my shift.  I'm like the kid in the candy shop who has eaten so much candy that it's no longer a treat.  I fill Mr. Walt's cup for the third time and chat with the other familiar faces who come and go on this fall morning in America's heartland never knowing that these memories will remain with me for the rest of my life.  That these seemingly innocent mornings spent trying to earn a little bit of spending money are shaping a young girl on the precipice of life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How a Cheap Mama does Children's Birthday Parties

This past weekend I took my 4 year old son to the birthday party of one of his classmates.  I have to say that I'm not usually thrilled to attend the birthday parties of young children.  If I'm honest, even throwing my own child's parties is exhausting so I don't pick favorites when saying I don't exactly love attending kids' birthday parties.  Although I may come across as an unbelievably witty gal who would have no shortage of dazzling small-talk, I am a little shy on the inside.  This means that unless the other parents are good friends of mine I have to spend two hours on a Saturday forcing myself to chit chat with people I won't see until the same party next year.  The only thing that keeps me coming is the cake.  I love cake.  However, my son loves to attend these parties and so I usually end up loading him up in the car with gift in hand and zooming off to the local park, gymnasium or some other bouncy heaven.

My goal in birthday-party-attending is to bring a gift that the receiver will love but that won't break my Cheap Mama bank account.  My secret Cheap Mama trick is a little thing I call the Toy Basket.  The Toy Basket is a basket that I keep high up in the laundry room (so my son can't see the goodies inside) that I stock throughout the year with toys that I find on clearance or in those wonderful $1 bins at the store-with-the-red-bullseye.  My goal is to never spend more than $10 on a gift but that doesn't mean that the gift has to look like I only spent $10!  In fact, if I buy things on clearance I can usually buy a gift at least 50% off the original price which means the actual value of the gift is around $15 or $20 when I only spent $7-$10.  To do this successfully, it means that each time I'm in a store with great toy sales I have to remember to go take a look and see what's available.  If I wait until I need a present I usually have to pay more.  As long as I stay on top of the Toy Basket making sure that there are both girl and boy appropriate presents, I'm always ready when Superman comes home with another invitation.  Using the Cheap Mama Toy Basket means that I can get away with being a cheapskate without actually looking like one.  As long as the gift is age appropriate and looks like something that my child would enjoy himself, the price doesn't have to define how great the present will be.

Another Cheap Mama trick that I also employ to save money on birthday parties is to save each and every gift bag and sheet of tissue paper that comes in the gifts that my family receives.  Unless the bag or tissue paper is torn up beyond repair, most of these can be reused at least once if not more.  Smoothing out and refolding used tissue paper isn't exactly my idea of a good time but each time I do it, I remind myself how ridiculously overpriced those items are at the store and it motivates me to keep salvaging them for future parties.  And, when those parties do inevitably roll around I'm always glad that I have my stash in the closet instead of having to run by the store on the way to the party because I don't have any at home.

My final Cheap Mama trick for parties is something that I use to save on those very expensive birthday cards.  I think it is outright highway robbery to charge $2 and $3 for a birthday card that a child is going to toss aside at the party and throw in the trash can at home so I have started using a little Cheap Mama method for these as well.  I bought a pack of unlined 3x5 index cards and I use these in place of traditional birthday cards.  I get a great colored Sharpie marker and write something like "Happy Birthday Ava!  Your friend, Superman!"  The birthday kid gets a personalized message, the mom can keep track of who gave the gift for thank you notes (I live in the south, remember - not sending thank you notes will get you cut out of the next play date) and I don't have to pay for an overpriced birthday card!  Win-win-win!

Just today Superman came home with yet another invitation to a birthday party.  Off to the Toy Basket I go...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The One Thing I Will Always Pay For

So I ended the title of this post with a preposition but oh well.  As you know I am seriously One Cheap Mama.  A real bonafide cheapskate.  I hate paying more than $10 for any piece of clothing and it's a stretch for me to pay more than $20 for shoes. I rarely find great clothing at these prices which explains why I rock a zip up hoodie and cotton pants from Wal-Mart most days but that's just how it goes.  I would much rather buy nice stuff for my house anyway but that's another post for another day.

Yesterday I was standing in the lobby of my local pet bathing locale and wondering what ridiculous price I would be charged for my pooch's half day of beauty.  I have a Silky Terrier which is basically a Yorkie Terrier on steroids so he's cute but extremely hairy.  This means his "hair maintenance" is no small job.  These doggie grooming places usually charge as much as it costs for me to get a haircut so the Cheap Mama in me is usually fuming on the inside as I sign the debit card receipt.  But as I stood in the lobby amid the dog tutus and specialized doggie hair products it dawned on me that no matter what it was going to cost in the end, it was going to be worth it.  This is because the one thing I will pay for no matter how many coupons I have to clip or how many meatless dinners I have to feed my family, is for someone else to express my dog's anal glands.

The reason he was there in the first place was that while dragging his butt across the carpet he had "half-way" expressed his glands (the dog groomer's words, not mine) and the awful scent had lodged itself in his butt hairs.  No amount of regular doggie shampoo could kill the smell so I scheduled a bath at the pooch beauty parlor in town.  These people love animals, even stinky Silky Terriers.  They will wash their hair, clean out their eye boogers, soak their hair knots in conditioner, and, yes, express their anal glands.  I'm all about DIY to save money but let me say again, I don't care how much they ever charge me.  I will always pay for anal gland cleansing.  

I may be One Cheap Mama but there are some places I just won't go.  Anal glands are at the top of that list.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Be Content

This weekend I had a chance to spend time with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  She and I have been friends since our first meeting in the 2nd grade and we have a friendship that is more like sisters than friends.  We don't get to see each other very often these days because we live in different states so when we get a chance to talk in person we almost immediately go back to the days of Friday night sleepovers when we could talk until the sun came up.  This past weekend, that's just what we did.  Actually it was more like 1:30 a.m. but when you're our age with small children that pretty much feels like all night.

One of the things we discussed was the fact that she and her husband are on the hunt for a new house in her area.  She is pregnant with Baby #3 and their current house is already a little tight with Kids 1 and 2 and all of the stuff that came with Kids 1 and 2, so they are looking to upsize for good reason.  Did I mention her husband is a physician?  Her husband is a physician.  So as she sat and talked about their house budget, I tried not to go slack-jawed as she described the houses that they had been touring.  Marble floors, coffered ceilings, umpteen bedrooms, the works.

As we sat chatting in my playroom, with its finger-smudged doors and Play- Doh encrusted carpet, I was tempted to go down the road of discontentment, envying the type of home that she can afford.  My household income will never match hers and I will never be house-hunting for 7 bedroom houses but that's okay, right?  Right? Of course I know it's okay but don't we all fall victim to comparison sometimes?   Comparison which is the death of contentment.  We grow old of looking at the same furniture in our living room, the same clothes in our closet and we start to grow discontent with our stuff and ultimately our lives.  So we spend to bring back the contentment.  We buy new furniture.  We buy new clothes.  We do whatever we can to make ourselves feel better about our own lives.  Yet we all are smart enough to know that if we are always waiting for more money in the bank or more possessions in our houses, we will always be left wanting because there will always be someone with more money and more things.

What's a Cheap Mama to do?  Be content.  In all things, be content.

I have to remind myself of this quote when I feel the envy monster beginning to creep up, "If you want another's blessings, would you also take her burdens?"  You see, my friend with the M.D. husband and fabulous house budget lost her mother to breast cancer at the age of 17.  She went through high school graduation, moving to college, meeting her husband and walking down the aisle all without her mother there to share in the joy and happiness.  She will have to teach her children who their grandmother is by looking at photographs and telling them stories from her own memory.  So would I trade the time that I have had with my mother these past 15 years for a bigger house?  Would I give up seeing her holding my newborn son for travartine marble and hardwood floors?  Not in a million years.  So I smile at my friend as she describes these houses and laugh with her that I know someone who could actually afford such beauty and I hug her tightly knowing that if she was given the choice she too would live in a hut if it meant having her mother here again.

In those times when I start to become disenchanted with my station in life, which I know will quickly lead to discontentment, I take an account of all of my blessings and then I remember what God said.  See, He knew we would struggle with keeping up with the Jones' and gave us these words as encouragement, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  And in another part there are the encouraging words of someone who had lived in plenty and in poverty. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  We often see that last verse plastered in locker rooms as a kind of mantra for superhero sports athletes or other giants of achievement.  In reality, the context is in being content with what we have.  It takes mighty strength to be content with where we are but it is possible.

Join me today in taking stock of the blessings in your life.  And the next time someone tells you about their new expensive car, house, or piece of furniture give an honest smile and tell the envy monster to shut up.  Remind yourself that you are content and blessed beyond measure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Cheap Mama Handbook - Frugal Friday Inspiration

Depending on what you've read on my blog, you may or may not know that I was a working mommy before I became a SAHM.  About a year prior to my retirement I knew God was whispering to me to stay home but I didn't think that we would financially be able to do it.  I'm not sure anyone believes that they can go from two incomes to one which is why I wanted to do a post about a book that helped me so much during that time.

One day on my lunch hour I was browsing in Barnes & Noble and came across a book with the title Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less In a Tough Economy.  I don't know why I picked it up since at the time I was anything but miserly, but for whatever reason it caught my eye and I bought it that day.  Don't be fooled or put off by the word "miserly!"  It's not about being stingy or washing and reusing Ziploc baggies, but rather making every dollar count to best take care of our families.
As I began to read the story of Jonni McCoy and of how she learned to live on less I was encouraged that I could do the same.  So much of her story was my story.  They were living in a major city area and went from two incomes to one without changing houses or doing anything radical like eschewing food and clothing.  I didn't want to have to move houses or never buy a latte again but I wanted so badly to stay home with my children.  I read her book cover to cover and it became my handbook in frugal living.
I started implementing her strategies even while I was still working as a kind of test run to see if we could do with less.  This book was so helpful to me and it really made me see that a lot of what I thought we needed were only simply wants.  And it inspired me to live as chic of a life as I had been living but to find cheaper ways to do it.  I'm not saying that you will agree with everything she says but I guarantee you will find a lot of ways to save money that will fit into your lifestyle.
I have a couple of friends who are still working moms but are wanting to stay home.  "I just don't think we can do it financially" they will say to me.  I'll smile and tell them about this book.  I'm not saying it's a miracle cure for your financial situation but it helped me become a frugalista, made me realize I'm not alone in finding ways to stretch a budget and gave me the confidence that our family could survive on one income.
Now I'm off to refinish my Goodwill find.  I'm working on a sofa table that somehow, someway I will finish in between naps and laundry and snacks and will post the before and after pics soon!
Happy Friday Cheap Mamas!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Long Denim Skirts and No Makeup

I blame the Pioneer Woman.  If she wasn't so darn cool and funny and hip I never would have entertained the thought of homeschooling my son.

From the moment I gave birth to a boy in late June of 2006, I knew I was going to wait to send him to kindergarten after he turned six years of age.  Here in Louisiana he would have been able to go as a 5 year old but we knew that would have meant that he would probably be one of the youngest in his class.  My husband was a military brat who happened to be in Hong Kong when it came time for school and in their British school system he was eligible for kindergarten as a 4 year old.  My mother-in-law was a harried military wife so you can bet your bottom dollar that she sent my little Georgia Boy to school just as soon as she could.  Although my husband never had a problem academically, he has always said that he hated being the youngest in his class.  It meant that he was usually the smallest for his age - something that is NOT cool as a boy - and he was always the last to reach puberty, earn a driver's license, kiss a girl.  Well, the kissing thing probably had nothing to do with his age but I digress.  Based on my husband's experience and my mother's advice (she's a school teacher so I trust her advice) I always knew we would wait to put him on that shiny yellow school bus two months after his sixth birthday party.

If you calculated correctly, you figured out that he will be five this summer which means that this coming year was going to be the year of uncertainty; the extra year between Montessori Pre-K and real kindergarten.  I was planning on sending him to Montessori for an extra year to do their kindergarten program before I sent him to public school.  (You didn't think I was going to say private school did you?  I'm One Cheap Mama, remember?  Just kidding.  I would never skimp on my kids' education; we just happen to have really good public schools where I live.)  I'm always getting off track.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the part where the Pioneer Woman blows my plans to shreds.

I, like Ms. PW,  had an idea of homeschoolers in my mind and, let's just say, it wasn't pretty.  The word "homeschooler" conjured up images of long skirts, no makeup, enough offspring to fill a passenger van and a morning that began with chores in the barn.  I also thought that you'd be able to spot the homeschooled children a mile away because they would be the ones who were pale from lack of sunlight (all that time holed up in their houses) and they would duck and run anytime someone tried to talk to them due to their intense lack of social skills.  My husband reminded me of all of these perceptions when I dropped the bomb on him one afternoon while he was working in his home office.  "I think I want to homeschool the kids."  Poor Georgia Boy didn't see that one coming.

After realizing that I was not playing a joke on him he politely humored me as I explained to him my reasons why, my research findings and my newfound opinions of homeschooling.  I'm not sure what was going through his mind but I'm sure he thought I'd lost it.  That somehow a year of being a stay-at-home mom had completely fried my brain and left me on the verge of insanity.  Technically that's true but that's not what led me to consider homeschooling.

We agreed to let him think about it (his usual stalling technique for when I've blown his mind with one of my ideas) and to pray about it as well.  I prayed.  He forgot about it.  And we discussed it a week later.  But this time I was even more prepared and had talked to other cool moms in my area who were going to be embarking on homeschooling their 5 and 6 year olds as well.  He saw that I had that look in my eye and so he decided to meet me in the middle.  Because we had this "free" year coming up he agreed to let me do my crazy homeschooling plan for one year.

This is where we are now.  We've agreed to try this homeschooling thing for one year and evaluate next summer.  If it's a success, as I suspect it will be, we will be embarking on the educational equivalent of the road less traveled.  If it's a failure then we'll be buying a Star Wars backpack and putting my little Superman on that big yellow bus where he will be the cutest 6 year old that school has ever seen.

I have no idea where this road will lead but I'm excited, nervous, terrified and optimistic.  I just need to find out where I can buy some long denim skirts...

P.S.  Please don't tell my mom.  She doesn't know yet.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Journey through Postpartum Anxiety

When I was pregnant with my first child I was surrounded by information regarding Postpartum Depression or PPD.  There were posters at my OB/GYNs office and articles in magazines alerting me to the signs and symptoms of PPD.  After I had my son I watched myself carefully for any of the symptoms typically associated with PPD but because I didn’t notice any, I considered myself to have been one of the lucky one who wouldn’t have to experience PPD.  

What no one ever told me, though, was to also be on the lookout for Postpartum Anxiety.  Had I known that what I was going through in the first few weeks home from the hospital was not the typical nerves and stress associated with new motherhood, I would have saved myself so much frustration and tears.  I would have understood that what I was going through wasn’t normal.  I would have sought the help that I so desperately needed.  Four years later, I am able to see my experience for what it was, Postpartum Anxiety, and I hope to shed more light on this condition so that other women don’t have to suffer unaware as I did.

Loss of Appetite - The First Sign
The first sign that should have been a red flag for me was my loss of appetite.  After I came home from the hospital, I couldn’t bear to eat anything other than the sugar cookies from the cookie bouquet that my sister-in-law had sent me in he hospital.  I distinctly remember forcing myself to eat each bite of the delicious homemade meal that my mother made for my husband and I for our first night home as a family.  I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by not eating but my appetite was completely gone.  

Utterly Overwhelmed
In addition to the loss of appetite I was utterly overwhelmed with my new role.  I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to do this thing called ‘mothering’ for the next eighteen years and I wondered why anyone would have a second or third child if this was how difficult parenting was going to be.  Those first few weeks at home, I would hole up in my bedroom to nurse my son, take a nap, or escape from everyone while I read and re-read the stack of parenting books on my nightstand in hopes that somewhere I would find the answers for what to do with these thoughts and feelings that consumed me.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone in real life or in literature who seemed to be as overwhelmed as I was.  The parenting books were really a double-edged sword for me.  Instead of being a source of helpful information, they were constantly making me feel as if I was doing things wrong because my baby wasn’t responding the way that their glowing anecdotes made it sound he would if I just followed their instructions on sleeping, feeding, schedules, etc.  I had so much information at my fingertips and yet none of it was was helpful with what I was going through.  

Constant Worry
I also felt like a prisoner in my own home.  I was paralyzed with fear at the thought of going out to run errands and so I stayed home wondering if my life would always be like this; never feeling like I could take a leisurely trip to the bookstore or the coffee shop or if I would always be a slave to this new life.  In hindsight these fears were obviously irrational but at the time they held my mind captive with constant worry.  I worried about the baby crying in public and what I would do if I couldn’t calm him.  I worried about timing my errands with the schedule that I was trying to create for both of us.  I stressed about finding the time to get a haircut, paint my toenails, take a bubble bath.  I was too wound up to relax and enjoy my time with my infant son.  When I did get out of the house to go for a walk in the neighborhood, the irrational fears would come in the form of worry over his safety.  I had these scenarios in my head of what I would do if someone were to try to come up and grab him while I was on a walk or in the store.  Now that I’ve done some reading I realize that these “What if” fears are a symptom of Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  

These anxieties and fears so completely consumed me during my first weeks at home that I genuinely did not enjoy the time that I had with my infant son.  I regret this terribly and I wish that I had known that what I was going through was not normal new-mom anxiety and that I had sought help from my doctor.  If I had been able to receive help, either in the form of counseling or medication, I would have been able to enjoy that precious time.  Instead, I look back at that time and remember nothing but intense worry, stress, anxiety and fear gripping my heart and mind as I questioned every move that I made as a new mom and feeling like I was drowning with no one to help me.  

Smooth Sailing with Second Child
The good news for anyone who may be going through the same thing is that you do not have to navigate this alone and one experience with Postpartum Anxiety, Depression or OCD does not mean that you will experience it with any subsequent pregnancies.  With my second child things were completely different.  I was educated and aware of my experiences and I discussed it with my doctor at one of my last appointments.  I relayed my experiences with him and told him to be prepared for a phone call from me asking for help if I were to go through the same thing again.  The good news, is that either because I was an experienced mother or my hormones were different, the second time around was nothing compared to the first time.  With my daughter, my second child, I was relaxed and at ease.  She still woke up through the night, nursed erratically at first and in general kept me on my toes but my reactions to all of this were the complete opposite of what they had been with my son.  I am thankful that I didn’t have to go through another episode of Postpartum Anxiety and I am determined now to help those who are struggling with it.  I am passionate about awareness and education of these conditions so that no other mother has to suffer silently as I did.  

Postpartum Anxiety Often Goes Unnoticed
Postpartum Anxiety, and Postpartum OCD are lesser known conditions than Postpartum Depressions but they are just as debilitating.  As I stated earlier, I can’t believe that I never came across any information on these conditions while I was pregnant - either the first time or the second time when I was aware of it!  It surprises and saddens me that in the year 2011 doctors still don’t discuss these conditions with their patients either due to lack of awareness or time which means that women are suffering in silence with what they think is normal new-mom stress and anxiety instead of getting the help that they need.  I believe that one of the reasons Postpartum Anxiety goes unnoticed is that motherhood in and of itself is a time that is very prone to anxiety.  Whether it’s a woman’s first venture into motherhood or her fourth, most new moms experience feelings of concern and worry.  While pregnant, a woman may be anxious and may worry about the health of her baby, her delivery and what her recovery will be like.  After the baby arrives, she may be concerned with doing the best job that she can do to take care of this little person who has been entrusted to her and worry if she is doing things the right way.  A certain amount of anxiety is normal for all new moms.  So how does someone know when it’s ‘normal’ anxiety associated with motherhood or a more serious form of Postpartum Anxiety?  My opinion is, if you have to ask the question, and if you feel like you are drowning and need someone to throw you a lifeline, you probably are experiencing Postpartum Anxiety or another condition similar to it.

Signs of Postpartum Anxiety
To understand Postpartum Anxiety, it is best to understand the symptoms associated with it and how those symptoms differ from Postpartum Depression.  Oftentimes, anxiety will be listed as one of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression, but for those experiencing Postpartum Anxiety the associated anxieties are much more substantial and paralyzing.  Here are a few of the symptoms typically associated with Postpartum Anxiety.  By no means should this be considered a comprehensive list!  If you are feeling overwhelmed but don’t see your particular symptoms on this list, I would still highly recommend that you reach out to a health are professional and discuss your experiences with him/her.
Typical symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety include:
Racing Thoughts
Disturbed Sleep  (If you CAN'T "sleep when the baby sleeps" because your mind won't slow down)
Loss of Appetite
Irrational Thoughts (What if someone tries to steal my baby while we are on a walk? What happens if my baby cries so much that I can’t console him/her? etc.)

Trying to determine the exact definition of your own experience can be hard - is is Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, Baby Blues?  I found a very helpful website called Baby Blues Connection which gives an excellent rundown of the different symptoms associated with each of these conditions.  (

Seek Help!
If you find any of the listed symptoms describing how you or a loved one seems to be feeling as she navigates the world of new motherhood, please reach out for help.  There is nothing shameful about these conditions and you will get the help you need so that this time with your newborn will be a pleasant time and not one of pain and sorrow.  I wish someone had recognized that I was drowning in Postpartum Anxiety.  I wish they had told me that what I was going through wasn’t normal and that I wouldn’t be a failure as a mother for reaching out for help.  My hope is that as mothers, sisters, daughters and friends we learn more about Postpartum Anxiety so that we can help ourselves and those around us.  If you recognized your own experience here, please gather as much information as possible and then go talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.  Don’t suffer in silence. Get the help you need.  You deserve it. 

I wrote this as a guest blog for the site Pregnancy Baby 411.  This is an excellent source of information on all things related to pregnancy & baby.  Check it out for great information!
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