It’s really hard to talk about. It’s really hard to accept. But…I am. Just typing “postpartum anxiety” is giving me anxiety.
Will people think I’m crazy? Will they think I want to hurt my daughter? Do they think I’m an awful mom? No, you’re being stupid. Relax. But…what if?
I just chalked it up having two losses and being paranoid. Being over protective. Being a mom. Right? I guess the thoughts I have are a little more than that. Most of the worry circles back to somehow relate to Brooke.
That time Kevin swam in a lake I just knew he’d get that Brain-Eating Amoeba and Brooke would grow up fatherless. Or that time we went on vacation to the beach for a week with my family and we had to walk on a boardwalk to get to the beach and there weren’t any handrails and I almost couldn’t bring myself to take her to the beach because what if I fell off the boardwalk carrying her, we landed in the marsh and died? What if I fell on top of her and killed her? Nearly every time we walk anywhere I think about falling and her dying. No, you can’t carry her. What if you fall? And god, what about that study from Johns Hopkins University that found a link between excessive B12 while pregnant and children with Autism? I took an extra B12 because I always have and what if? What if she’s just been crying the entire day at school? What if her teachers don’t like me and she isn’t anyone’s favorite? Or what about the fact that she’s in the 4th percentile for weight? Am I not producing enough milk for her? I know I pump about 70 ounces outside of her nursing, meticulously track it, and she never acts hungry, but what if she is? I’m sure the pediatrician will tell me I have to supplement at our next appointment. I’m certain I’ m not doing something right. On vacation she cried when I laid her in her pack n play to sleep at night and I just knew everyone thought I was an awful mom. They probably think I don’t feed her enough. She woke up crying throughout the night on vacation and I just knew I was turning her into a sociopath because of that study about the underdevelopment of serotonin, oxytocin and endogenous opioid receptors – you know, the essentials for happiness, when left to cry for too long. Not to mention I was ruining everyone’s vacation because I couldn’t calm her down fast enough. The AC stopped working upstairs and I knew she’d die from SIDS sleeping in the heat. I watched her…all night. To make sure she kept breathing.
So, that’s why I’ve been quiet. It’s really hard to talk about. Really hard. It’s immobilizing. I have this incredibly loud voice in my head making functioning quite difficult and I feel so very alone with it. I know my thoughts are irrational, but I.CANNOT.QUIET.THEM. Eating can dull them, but not silence them. Perhaps it’s because my anxiety shifts to weight gain and not about screwing something up with Brooke. So many people have told me I’m a natural. I’m patient. I just have this ease about motherhood. A level of comfort. And I do. God, I do. It’s my calling. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I’m more in love with it than ever. It’s when I’m alone and I think. It’s when I can shut my brain off. It’s worse when I stop. So, I don’t stop. I don’t sit down. I don’t relax. I always find something to do: laundry, bottles, cleaning, pumping, etc. I just keep busy to keep the thoughts at bay.
Brooke’s been sleeping through the night with the exception of waking up once, rarely twice for the last month just to nurse. She goes immediately back to sleep. I on the other hand, am not sleeping. Some nights I just lay there awake and think about everything I’m doing wrong or could go wrong, some nights I cry, and some nights I just watch her monitor. When I do sleep I have nightmares. The other night I dreamt that Brooke fell 20 feet through a railing and died. I watched the EMTs suction her brain up. I woke up gasping for air and running to her room.
Kevin told me I’m not me anymore. He told me he hasn’t had me since our first loss. Looking back, he’s right. I’ve always just chalked it up to having two losses. It changes you. My whole pregnancy was basically a panic attack and I don’t think it has stopped. At the end of Kevin and I’s conversation I agreed to call my OB. So, I did. It was a hard call to make. I left a voicemail for the on call nurse and I was in tears at the end of the message. It was the first time I’d admitted it. The first time I’d said it aloud. That made it real. I finally heard back today (oh you know, 6 days later…) and they’re suppose to talk to my OB for a consult and call something in for me.
My battle isn’t over, but at least now I’m aware that I’m in a battle.
I wish I could say something awesome that would give you peace. Alas, I have no such powers. Just know that you don’t sound crazy, you sound like a good mother. I think it’s natural to worry, and even if you feel your anxiety is excessive, you have to realize that you’re only human, and humans have foibles. What matters most is you’re taking great care of your baby, and I know she can feel your love radiating from you.
I’m am so glad you are talking about this and reaching out xox I had “falling and killing Maeve” worries for the first few months as well. It’s so morbid but you just can’t stop. It’s terrifying and draining. I hope you can talk out your fears and work through finding a balance with less anxiety. You are an amazing mom. Your daughter is so fortunate to have you as her mother. You are doing an incredible job.
Recognizing you aren’t yourself, that you aren’t who you want to be, and that there is a problem you need help with are huge first steps. I recently wrote a post about my first appt with my therapist and psychiatrist for PPD if you are curious what it’s like. I know I was really nervous and ended up feeling so relieved. The first time I had felt hope in months. Good luck to you!
Know that you are not alone in this. I’m proud of you for making the call and moving forward with getting help. It’s something I should’ve done 7 years ago, and still should do. I’ve learned to live with it, if one can live in a constant state of anxiety. I chuckled a little bit about your anxiety of Kevin swimming – just yesterday my 6 year old son went to a water park at the lake nearby, and I gestapo-style questioned my mother if he got water up his nose, and how often to they check the levels of bacteria, so on and so forth. I’ll be watching him like a hawk the next 7 days. It doesn’t make sense in our normal minds – but once the anxiety takes root, anything and everything feels like it can and will happen to our children. It’s a hard pill to swallow – but you are not alone, and you will get through this.
You are doing the right thing. Being a mom is so scary, and you will always worry what you are or are not doing right. You sound like a great mom and you shouldn’t have to live in such a state. Being on meds doesn’t make you any less of a mom. Remember to put your own life vest on first! There’s no playbook, you’re doing great.
How have you been feeling lately. I’m a mom who is also suffering. My baby is 15 months now. Symptoms are better but still present.