Postpartum anxiety: a different spin on what I thought I was dealing with (postpartum depression). After the birth of my son, I had the baby blues for a little bit, but I spun into a clinical textbook definition of someone with postpartum anxiety right away. Let’s be honest though, I’ve lived with anxiety all my life. I just kicked it up a notch or 10 when my son was born.
I was overcome by this irrational fear that my son would die as soon as we were released from the hospital. DIE. Not just have an undiagnosed incurable illness, but I spent countless days shaking in bed over the idea that he would die in his sleep. Alone. Under my watch and in my care, my beautiful precious boy would leave earth before I would. Why? Because it’s happened before to a heartbreaking number of parents. Why? Because I was suffering from postpartum anxiety.
We’ve all seen the stories shared on local news stations and social media. Choking on a grape. Drowning. Car accidents. Falling and being permanently brain-damaged. These things happen. So I tended to fixate on it and prepare for final destination with my infant.
Every second, every blink was a chance for something to go wrong.
I was over the top paranoid. I micromanaged everything. I should have enjoyed more of my son’s early life, but this very real shadow of fear followed me.
It didn’t matter how many times I checked my son’s breathing at night. Or how glassy-eyed I’d be staring at the baby monitor. I would still cry at night over the possibility of living without my son. A life without his smile. A life short-lived due to a catastrophe. I prayed so hard at night to the Lord to “please keep him with me,” not because I was losing my mind. Not because I saw a tragic Dateline episode, but because of postpartum anxiety.
I carried it with me everywhere I went. It felt like a weighted backpack I couldn’t unclip.
On walks, I feared a swerving car coming toward the curb and taking the stroller out in a collision. I worried about my son leaning against a glass window and it breaking, sending him a hundred feet below. I thought I’d slip and fall with him in a baby carrier, and he would die instantly.
I made my husband check how things were hung on walls just in case they randomly fell off the hooks and landed on my son’s soft skull. A simple cry from trapped gas had me convinced my son was experiencing appendicitis or internal bleeding. In great detail, I pictured a stray grocery shopper coming and stealing my child out of my arms and no one hearing me screaming for help.
I had the wildest visions that took my breath away and ruined what could have been really amazing memories of our time together.
These visions were ten times worse in my husband’s care. Don’t get the wrong idea. He’s a terrific father, but anything out of my eyesight was questioned.
These thoughts, these visions, were intrusive. They were powerful. They convinced me I was an unfit mother. While everyone else was beaming with pride over their precious babies they birthed, expressing their undying love for them, I was worried there wouldn’t be a tomorrow.
It wasn’t normal, it wasn’t me, but it was postpartum anxiety.
It will forever be a part of me as a mother to worry, but for a long time, I let it rule my life. What I thought was me losing my ever-loving mind, was the REAL phenomenon of postpartum anxiety and obsession with death.
I hope anyone who suffers with the preoccupation of something bad happening to their child knows there are safe places to share these thoughts—without your parenting being questioned. I hope you know on the other side of that screen you’re on, that there are lots of ears waiting to hear you out and help you get the comfort and peace you deserve.
I know you don’t think it’s going to be OK, but it is . . . because good moms get scared too.