Transcript: New Mom Overwhelm – Practical Coping Skills for Anxiety
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called New Mom Overwhelm – Practical Coping Skills for Anxiety and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: In this week’s episode of First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m chatting with motherhood coach and mum of 3, Jenna Hodge. As you’ll hear, the commencement of Jenna’s journey into parenthood wasn’t an easy one, and all three of her pregnancies were unplanned. Jenna also discovered that child number two was on the way when her first was just seven months old, adding to an already stressed household.
Jenna’s initiation into motherhood certainly was challenging but I know you will find hearing her approach to what she was faced with and how she dealt with it very honest, open, and interesting. A recurring theme here, which I feel is a big takeaway for all moms committing their parenting journey, is the importance of being honest with yourself and others and not being afraid to admit when it becomes too much and you need help. Accepting that you are human and not perfect is a very important step.
I’ve also included some links to other First Time Mum’s Chat episodes in the show notes, which you will find of assistance if you are experiencing challenges with postpartum anxiety or depression, and I’ll let you know where you can find these at the conclusion of this episode.
Hi Jenna, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m delighted to have you here today, and can you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and what you’re passionate about?
Jenna Hodge: Yes, I am a mom to 3 little boys and I am super passionate about the health and wellness of both mom and child. So I help moms learn how to take care of themselves and their babies so that they can get their energy and their time and their sleep and their joy back in their motherhood.
Helen Thompson: How did you manage as mom with, with those 3 boys? Did you have any issues?
Jenna Hodge: Well, I had anxiety before I had kids, so when you add kids into the mix and get pregnant and give birth and go through postpartum and everything, that can sometimes make it worse. Adding hormones there too for sure. For me, I definitely dealt with postpartum anxiety, after my first. I had a hard time letting anybody do anything for him. Take care of him, hold him, watch him, do things for me so that I could do other stuff because anxiety’s a control issue and I already felt, because I didn’t know what I was doing, that I didn’t have control, so how could I trust someone else to have better control than me? So, I had very little trust and faith in humanity at the time that they could do anything for my child, ’cause I’m his mom and I can’t do it. So what makes you think that you can?
So that’s where I struggled in the beginning in my motherhood and since then, now that I’ve had three, it’s more so. It comes and goes in waves but I’ve learned how to manage it and how to cope with it and I’m aware when it comes up, I’m very self-aware. So I can kind of, I wouldn’t say prevent it from happening of course, but I can kind of slow it down a little bit or at least I’m so aware that, okay, I know I need to do these things to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.
Helen Thompson: You’ve obviously gone through it, so what sort of support would you give to a mom to help them, ’cause I know you’re a motherhood coach? How would you support a mom who had anxiety? What tips would you give them?
Jenna Hodge: Well, like I said, it is a control issue, so when you are humble enough to accept the fact that that’s a weakness of yours and you can admit it, obviously admitting something’s the first step to recovery or healing or progress or anything like that.
It doesn’t make you weak necessarily. It’s a weakness, but you were not weak. So don’t fall into that trap or that lie of, something’s wrong with me, or I’m weak, I can’t handle this, blah, blah, blah. You’re not broken because this is something that is challenging for you. Everybody’s got their stuff. Everybody’s got something that doesn’t come easily to them and it comes easily to others and vice versa. So this just may be your thing, but it doesn’t mean that is the end of your story. It doesn’t mean it’s never gonna get better, doesn’t mean it can’t get better.
Just starting there, accepting it and admitting it, and also being willing to open up and admit it to other people around you, that are in your life. Your husband or family or friends or a counselor, somebody to hold you accountable and to be aware of it really helps because then one, you don’t feel alone and two, you have someone in your corner to maybe tell you things that you may not be aware of in the moment.
Helen Thompson: Those are good points ’cause I think if you do have anxiety, it can be very distressing for you and for the baby, and particularly for your own relationship that you have with your husband or your partner because they’re trying to support you and if you don’t express how you’re feeling, they find it hard to help and to support you.
So, you said you had three kids. With your second and third one, was it any easier than it was with the first?
Jenna Hodge: Anxiety wise, my second is actually my easiest transition. Obviously it’s first time, so that’s hard for most people. You would think my second would be my hardest because my first two are so close in age, so I had the two under 2 thing. That whole experience for me, my pregnancy, my birth, and my postpartum with him was actually so much overall healthier, smoother. I was physically healthier, therefore I was more emotionally healthier, if that makes sense, so I didn’t really struggle with it that much. There were times where obviously it was hard with two little ones so close in age, but not the same age, so they weren’t twins. It was still a lot of all the emotions and physical needs at one time. That was challenging. I would just have to be very self-aware of when those moments would happen not to get too caught up in the moment and let the moment control me, which is hard to do, very hard for any human being. Whether you struggle with anxiety or not, just a parent alone, there’s a lot of triggering, overstimulating things that happen that only one human being can take at a time.
If you have more than one child, already, odds are stacked against you in a sense, so it’s a lot. Like I said, I just had to be very self-aware of, okay, this situation is very chaotic. The situation right now is stressing me out. I’m feeling myself starting to get some rage inside of me boiling and it’s not my children’s fault. They’re too little to really deliberately disobey me right now. It’s just a set of circumstances I’m in, and I just have to either remove myself if I can for a minute, to give myself a break or just really try to work on my breathing and slow down because if you are all tense and hyped up, your kids feed off of that a hundred percent.
I don’t care how old they are. They’re human just as much as you are and they pick up on things. Like I said, my first two were little at the time. It still didn’t matter, they could tell even if they couldn’t communicate it and things like that. Then with my third, it was more of a postpartum depression thing than an anxiety thing. I just felt really low and for a while, which kind of sucked. My pregnancy was hard because I was raising two toddlers at the time I was pregnant. So that’s challenging physically. Therefore, it made me emotionally challenging because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do with them. I felt like I was restricted a little bit. That was frustrating for me that I didn’t have a choice in that matter. Then when he was born, it was kind of a chaotic mess at the time when he was born. Then it was at the beginning of summertime, so now I had three babies all at once alone.
There was no routine and no system. My husband had to go back to work and the very beginning of his birth, right before he was born, I had just gotten violently ill with a awful stomach bug, few days before he was born. Then I had him, and then I came home after I had him, and then my boys got it. So as soon as I got home with a new baby, when people were supposed to come over and help you guys out, you know, now we have 3 kids, now me and my husband are outnumbered. Three very little kids and no one can come over now because no one wants to be around a stomach bug, you know!
So I went from just having a new baby to here you go, you’ve got a parent immediately. You don’t get to lay down and heal. Not only birth, but then this awful stomach bug you just had, not even a week ago, while being 9 months pregnant. I was just very depleted physically and so that affected me emotionally because my hormones were all out of whack. So yeah, it, it was a longer period of adjustment with that third one than the first two.
So depression and anxiety can be sometimes interrelated, one can cause the other and vice versa. So that was kind of my experience. Pre-kids, I had anxiety that kind of turned into depression. Then I think post kids, I think it was the opposite.
Helen Thompson: Wow, you had a tough time with your third one. Having a stomach bug and having two kids. W as your husband around? That must have been tough on you both.
Jenna Hodge: Yeah, it was tough. He never, did he get sick? I was so traumatized by the whole event because I got it, then one of them got it, then I think maybe he got it or the other one got it, then the other one got it again. So it was two weeks, I think, of this whole process. We were just in survival mode, honestly, both of us, we had no choice. Thankfully, my newborn was the only one who did not get sick. I was limited because I still had to take care of him and I was breastfeeding, we still had to get up in the night, multiple times to feed him and so it’s kind of a haze, it’s kind of a little bit of PTSD.
Anytime my kids to this day say their stomach hurts. I’m like, no, I’m immediately brought back to that because of course, most of the time when you have stomach bugs, they hit you in the middle of the night when you’re asleep. I was already like I said, waking up multiple times in the night, feeding a newborn, just healing from birth and all that.
So we were so depleted and sleep and rest and you can’t get better if you don’t rest. So like I said, we were kind of in survival mode and had to do what we had to do, and there was no room for any hostility because if there was, it didn’t do any good, it didn’t make our situation any better. So it was what it was at the time. No one could really help us, so we just had to help ourselves as best we could.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, you managed to get through it and I know it was tough, very tough. A first time mum hearing this, they’re probably thinking, oh my gosh, how the hell did Jenna get through that? What tip would you give if a mom’s going through it? You know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but you probably don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel because you’re so stressed.
Jenna Hodge: Well, We’ve had, unfortunately, our fair share of stomach bugs since then. Not nearly as bad, but when they happened, it brought me back to that moment and I had to remind myself, okay, that ended, this is going to end, this sucks right now. This sucks even maybe today, this might suck tomorrow but the good thing is these things usually don’t typically last that long, I just have to accept today for what it is and just kind of take one day at a time. The thing that I don’t like about those kind of illnesses is they’re very contagious. So I just go into protective mode of, I’m gonna make sure I do everything in my power that this person is the only one who gets sick and no one else gets it.
I’m kind of on guard and prepared for okay tonight somebody else could wake up with it or I could get it ’cause I’m all in it. So I’m just kind of prepared ahead of time and it’s not the best mindset to have. I’m more of a, I’m gonna prepare here for the worst because then if it doesn’t happen, then it’s good news, which is not necessarily a good thing to have. I wasn’t like down in the dumps, but I just give myself a moment when it happens. Alright, this sucks. Now what am I gonna do about it and I just make a plan and move on because dwelling in this sucks. Like I said, the moment is what it is, you can’t change that. All you can change is how you respond to it. Your kid’s being sick, regardless of what it is, it’s not fun or you being sick, it’s not fun, but it’s a time to like, okay, I’m gonna stop trying to make all these things perfect and make all these things happen today because I know today’s not a normal day and I’m going to accept that and let those things go for today. Especially if you struggle with anxiety like me or you’re super type A type of person you like to plan, you like to be productive and if your day just doesn’t go the way you want it to because of something like this, and there’s always gonna be something. It may not be an illness, but something will come up, especially when you’re a mom that you’re not expecting, that you may not have control over and you just have to be prepared for those moments. So as long as you have a good system in place, on the good days, on the regular, on the majority of the days, ’cause the majority typically are not these kind of moments, then when those things happen, you’re prepared, you’re not caught off guard. Also just realizing hey, no one’s exempt from this, no one is an exception to these things. We’re all human, illnesses happen, cancellations happen, disappointments happen, plans change, that’s life.
You can’t walk around think you’re invincible from things happening, but you also don’t wanna live every day doom and gloom or scared of the what ifs because then you’re just gonna get yourself into an emotional rutt and it’s gonna carry out into your kids and who you come across. If you’re just aware, okay, here’s the possibilities, I hope they don’t happen right now or in the near future, so I’m just gonna live today, for today and make plans for the best, knowing that if something happens to change those plans, it’s not gonna wreck my world.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s practical advice. It is also interesting what you said earlier about when you are stressed and when you are worked up, your child picks that up. I teach baby massage and I’m always telling parents, if you are stressed or if you are feeling depressed, just take a big deep breath in and put your hands on your baby so that they feel you breathing and feel you relaxing, and they’re picking up on the feeling of you relaxing. It will help both of you to relax more and it will help them to lessen the crying or lessen the stress that’s going on for them.
And I think breaths. Breaths, as we all know, breathing is very important. But it’s how you, it’s how you
Jenna Hodge: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Helen Thompson: guess, If you’re sort of, if you learn how to, I mean, it’s hard to do ’cause I find it hard, but if you learn how to breathe, but not sort of, not just breathe like you do every day, but just deep breathing, it can really help.
Jenna Hodge: We teach our kids that now too, as they’re a little bit older when they have little tantrums and stuff and they start to freak out about things and it’s like, okay, I know that they can’t get to rational side of thinking about whatever’s going on until they slow down their breathing. They’re not gonna be able to focus.
So my husband taught them this thing and the first time he said it, it made my four year old who was currently crying and upset, start laughing. So it kind of broke him out of that emotional moment for a second. He said to sniff like you’re smelling the flower and then breathe out and blow out the candles and he blew out really fast to make him laugh and made it funny. Immediately it jerked my four year old’s attention, oh, that’s hilarious. Then it got him to like, okay, I stopped for a second, I can stop crying about this, it’s not that bigger deal? It’s okay to feel it, but it’s not okay to let that dictate your actions, which is what I was doing at the time. Teaching the kids how to regulate their emotions and whatnot and also the touch thing is so important because, especially if you are having anxiety, when you get physical touch, especially like a hug or some kind of compression that can help regulate your nervous system and calm you down, calm your heart rate everything.
That’s why a lot of children who are on the autism spectrum, it helps ’em have weighted blankets or things like that because that pressure on them, or like I said, that constriction a little bit on their bodies can help calm their nervous system down. So anyone who deals with anxiety, asking for a hug. I’ll notice when I start to feel like my heart’s racing and sometimes it comes up when I’m not actually upset about anything. Mentally I feel fine, but I can feel my body start to get a bit of angst in it, and I don’t feel like I have control over my breathing or my heart rate.
I just ask my husband, can you just gimme a hug for a second and immediately always calms me down, even though I may mentally be fine, I’m not upset, I’m not freaking out about anything, but my body’s freaking out for some reason and I don’t feel in control, so as soon as he does, about 30 seconds later, I’m good.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I find that when I work with kids, as you mentioned, the temper tantrum. When they’re having a temper tantrum, the worst thing to do is to get involved with the temper tantrum. I just say to them, look, just have a breath, just have a think about it and just have a breath and then let it go and not pamper them and force them into calming down. If you force them into calming down and say, look, I’m going somewhere else, it is not gonna work. If you just say to them, I’m just gonna take a big deep breath now let’s practice doing that. I love what you said about breathing in and smelling the flowers and then blowing out the candle. I think I’m gonna try that one because I think that’s a really good way to help them to calm down and also to help you to calm down, which is important as well. It is not just the child, but it’s you as well. If you’ve got anxiety anyway, and if your child is stressing you out, the last thing you wanna do is to stress them out even more. Even just going into another room sometimes, but letting your child know what you’re doing and just saying to them, okay, I’m just feeling a little bit stressed right now, I know you are too, I’m just gonna go into the other room and I’m just gonna take a couple of deep breaths and I’ll come back in 10 seconds. If you count to 10, I’ll be back. That way it calms you down, but it also calms them down ’cause they’ve gotta think, oh, mom told me to count to 10. I better start.
Jenna Hodge: Yeah, yeah, I love that and I actually did that the other night, except my husband I knew, I was a little bit overstimulated by my children and when he came home from work, I’m on the tip of the ice. I said this in a factual voice, I wasn’t emotional about it, I wasn’t yelling at him. He just walked in, it’s not his fault. I wasn’t crying or a wreck, I just said, I’m at the tip of the iceberg right now. I need you to keep them outta the kitchen so I can just do this, get these dishes done real quick, can you help out with this? I’m just letting you know, I don’t wanna explode on them and they haven’t necessarily done anything wrong that day, but it was just a lot for me all at once in one day.
Like I said, we’re human, we can only handle so much. I knew I had almost reached my limit and I knew if I breached it, that would not go well. So I think communicating to your husband or whoever’s around you helps a lot too. I’ve heard some people in their marriage, say when their spouse comes home, I only have 20% to give at the moment, or I have 50 or the other person would be like, okay, I got the other one right now. Or they say, oh, I only have 30 and then you guys realize, lower your expectations, try not to do as much, ’cause you both are in a vulnerable place at the moment or something.
Yeah, it works just as well for communicating with your kids as it does for your spouse or those helping you, the other adults around too, because it’s healthy to communicate those. So you’re not just holding grudges or resentment or trying to stuff your emotions down to where all of a sudden it’s all gonna come spiraling out either on them or your kids or whatever.
Helen Thompson: It is teaching your kids to do that as well. They hear you doing that. It’s teaching them to do that. Even if it just means one parent would just take them and play a game of soccer or if they didn’t feel like playing football or soccer, just to take them and say, oh, come on, let’s sit down quietly and read a book, mom’s in the kitchen preparing dinner. So if you are coming home and you are stressed, at least it’s giving you that time to calm down if you’re taking your kids and encouraging them to do something quietly, even if they don’t want to read a book, just say, okay, well, let’s put on some music.
I was gonna say watch a TV, but I don’t like the idea of plonking them in front of a TV, but I do know as a parent sometimes you’ve just got to let them chill out in front of the tv but limit that and do other things like putting on music. I remember working with a kid and when it was sleep time, he didn’t want to go to sleep. So I just put on some Enya and when I put on the Enya, he goes, oh, Enya means sleep time he said to me, and I said, yeah, that’s right, Enya means sleep time, so let’s just sit quietly and read a book and I’ll put some Enya on and see what happens and within 5 – 10 minutes he was ready to go to bed because he sensed that as soon as I put on that quiet music, that meant quiet time, that meant relaxing. It encouraged him to relax because he heard that music and he goes, oh, that music means quiet time, that music means I need to breathe and relax and it helped.
Jenna Hodge: Yeah. Like a good cue for him.
Is there any tip that you haven’t mentioned that you would like to give to a first time mum?
This is probably one I give any mom because it applies just in general for life, but especially a mom that deals with anxiety is to accept the season that you’re in and I emphasize season because very few things in life are absolutely permanent, especially motherhood, there’s so many seasons. Oh my goodness. As soon as you get used to something, it changes. So don’t think newborn phase is gonna be forever ’cause it’s not. So except this season that you’re in and instead of trying to control what you can’t control in that season, figure out what can you control in that season.
So stop trying to make your toddlers where you’re at in that season of toddlerhood, your life to look like as if they were in school full-time. They’re not there yet, you’re not there yet. So stop trying to fit this lifestyle into where you currently are basically, and figure out, okay, this is my current state of affairs, this is how many kids I’ve got, this is their ages, this is what my life is like, my wants and my needs, whatever. What can I control with this season that I’m in right now? I focus on that because it gives you back that power and that confidence and that control of okay, this is what I can maintain. This is my responsibility. Instead of feeling like everything’s spiraling and you can’t grab a hold of anything.
Helen Thompson: If anybody wanted to get in touch with you and have a chat about your coaching, how would they go about doing that?
Jenna Hodge: Well, I’m on Instagram and TikTok @purposeintended, that’s my handle. Then my coaching page is www.purposeintended.com/workwithme. purpose intended is my blog where I shared like all my stuff in my early motherhood days and then my coaching page is just the slash workwithme on that.
Helen Thompson: Do you have a 10 tips to help you to adjust to a new baby? I think you have that on your website. I’m sure I saw it.
Jenna Hodge: Yes, that’s one of my blog posts. Yes. Mm-hmm.
Helen Thompson: I saw that on there and that’s why I thought I’d mention it if any of the listeners want to get your 10 tips, they can go to your blog post.
Jenna Hodge: Yes.
Helen Thompson: Thank you, Jenna I appreciate that. I really enjoyed talking to you and I wanted to get across, that you’ve suffered it too, so every mum goes through anxiety at some point. So thank you for sharing your experiences on the podcast, I really appreciate it.
Jenna Hodge: Yes. Thank you for having me.
Helen Thompson: Jenna shared some great tips during our chat, and I do hope that you’ve picked up some good coping strategies from her as she shared her journey. I’ve included links to Jenna’s website and social media, as well as her 10 tips to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Baby blog post that was mentioned in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/133.
I’ve also included links to some other First Time Mum’s Chat episodes relating to postpartum anxiety and depression, which you will also find of benefit. I share each episode on the First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page, and you’ll hear me chatting live with folk I’ve interviewed from time to time. Please support me by following me and I look forward to meeting you during one of my lives.
Next week I’ll be chatting with Dr. Cindy Rubin, who is a general pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist located in the Chicago area. We’ll be talking about what you can do when your baby bites you when breastfeeding, and much more.
Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all of our episodes when they’re live.