parent opinion

'Why my mums group gave me postpartum anxiety.'

Going into pregnancy and motherhood I felt really confident that I had a good support network around me, because I knew lots of mums. 

I had friends who had had babies recently, friends who had just put their youngest into high school and everything in between. I was even part of a group of mums that already met regularly. I was sure I had the advantage of a brains trust of experienced mums who had already encountered all my questions and found the best solutions.

As I navigated pregnancy and my changing body, prepared my house and put together my registry list however, I started to notice a pattern. 

Every time I asked a question or mentioned a decision we were making, my anxiety levels started to spike with the overwhelming flood of information and advice I received. Often, I would ask a question about one topic, and find myself inundated with a cascading flow of instructions. 

I would ask how many ultrasounds someone had had in their pregnancy, and we would somehow jump to baby wearing. I can track the flow of conversation:

Oh, you don't need that many ultrasounds. 

Less intervention is better. 

You'll be wanting a natural birth and to avoid the epidural. 

Breastfeeding is harder if you have a caesarean. 

Babywearing is best for feeding out and about. 

One question turned into 10. One topic opened up a whole world of opinions.

Look, I am aware I probably opened myself up to this flood by asking questions and showing myself willing to hear inherited wisdom. But my inquiries or questions on a particular topic were quickly taken as an invitation for not just shared wisdom (this worked for me, this didn't), but the individual 'how to parent' guide of each mum I spoke to. 


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Part of being friends and being in community means taking the good with the bad, and these friends did have plenty of good. They brought meals and offered support and all the advice was well meant, with kind intentions and a desire to help. 

But my brain reached a point with the endless advice that it stopped being able to sort the good from bad, or smile and nod politely when people earnestly shared about something I knew didn't fit into our parenting philosophy. 

Instead, I quickly realised postpartum that there was a track running in my head of all the advice, suggestions and (I felt) judgements I had heard other mums utter.

When we started supplementing with formula early on for baby's low blood sugar, I asked a friend how to increase my supply. I got a warning that using a bottle would derail my breastfeeding journey. Exhausted and defeated by the troubles my daughter had latching, it felt like I was failing motherhood when I had barely begun.

When I put my baby in the bouncer to shower, I felt guilty because one mum had scorned all the 'baby containers' invented to stop us from holding our babies. 

Every time I reached for a disposable nappy over a cloth nappy because I couldn't face another piece of washing I felt the imagined judgement of the women I knew who had only ever used cloth nappies for her four children.

When I stopped breastfeeding a few months after battling for every gram my baby gained and then seeing her flourish on formula, I felt so much shame I didn't tell anyone for weeks. 


When I did tell someone, I immediately got the response that it wasn't too late to change my mind and keep feeding (as she was under the impression I had only just stopped). She told me pushing through to keep feeding would be the most worthwhile thing I would ever do. I felt nothing but more shame and that now familiar sense of failure.

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Then there were the forums. 

I part of an online forum for a popular baby tracking app and encountered other forums as I searched and researched particular topics. 

What I felt in real life with other mums was amplified a thousand times over by these forums. 

Mums could post and ask questions, comment on other people's queries and generally share their experiences. Great in theory, but when you have a whole group of people experiencing new terrors and questions and feeding each other’s panic it can quickly spiral out of control. 

During pregnancy I learnt all about 'kick counting' and would panic if too many hours passed with little or no movement. Being aware of your baby's patterns of movement is something that is recommended to pregnant women, but normal worries quickly blew out of proportion in the echo chamber of fear these online forums became. 


At each stage of my baby's development, I found a new fear to obsess over. Some of these fears I had barely been aware of before becoming a mum. 

In the early days I became terrified of Positional Asphyxia, words I had never heard before. This happens when a baby's body position (for example, chin slumped onto chest) stops the airway from working and babies stop breathing. This was my greatest terror — to find my baby lifeless and still. Car rides became tortured. 

When using carriers I would check and double check her position, barely able to relax. 

All the horror stories I heard ran through my mind and I was terrified of becoming another statistic, another warning story on these forums — 'this happened to a friend of a friend of mine.' 

Instead of these groups equipping me with knowledge to protect my baby, it opened my eyes to all the potential dangers and how helpless I was in the face of them. 

Eventually, I had to tap out of the fear machine. 

I deleted the app where I accessed the forum, stopped asking my mums' group for opinions and even, if I needed to look something up, would ask my husband to research the topic for me and present the best credible options and opinions. 

The echo chamber of terror was destroying my sanity and stopping me from enjoying my baby. 

I had to make the choice to stop feeding the beast.

This author is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. 

Feature Image: Getty. 

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