I Refuse To Lie About My Postpartum Anxiety This Time Around

I Refuse To Lie About My PPA This Time Around

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Postpartum anxiety robbed me. It hurts to remember the first months of both of my babies’ lives. There is indescribable joy in those memories, but there is also the anguish of a secret darkness that I carried within my mind, never allowing anyone to share my burden. My children are six and three, and even now, I am writing my story through the hazy lens of my tears.

Postpartum anxiety stole my chance to fully enjoy my infant sons without constant, relentless, debilitating worry. It wasn’t the kind of worry that all new moms experience when we bring home helpless, beautiful, tiny babies. It’s normal to have some anxious feelings when you realize that you have to help a baby become a good person.

This was something else.

Every day for several months, I dealt with intense anxiety that caused a physical fear response in my body. This fear sometimes kept me up the entire night to use my phone’s stopwatch and count my baby’s breaths. I sometimes did this 8-10 times a night.

My postpartum anxiety incapacitated me. When my second child encountered some feeding difficulties as a newborn, I sat on the floor of the shower hysterically crying, imagining how I would ever be able to continue to live if he never started eating and just starved himself to death.

Somehow, I convinced myself that this anxiety could work in my favor. How could I ever let anything bad happen to my baby if I was so, so hyper-vigilant? I never even asked for help because I thought if I admitted that I was afraid of losing him, everyone would assume I was having thoughts about harming my baby, and someone would take him away from me.

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Once or twice, I reached out to my husband during acute panic attacks. He had no idea how intensely I was struggling every day. I made sure of that.

I lied. To him, to my family, my friends, my doctors. Nobody knew what was happening inside my mind.

I knew I could get away with it because I was able to mask my postpartum anxiety fairly well during the daytime. As long as the sun was shining, and the world was bustling, I could latch onto a modicum of hope that my healthy baby was going to be okay. I never once admitted the more terrifying thoughts to my doctor, my husband, or my best friends.

Nighttime was my enemy. Almost every night, when my husband started lightly snoring, and my babies were settled into their little beds, I started to shake and cry. I knew what was coming next.

I closed my eyes and tried to get just a few minutes of rest between feedings, but I couldn’t stop the onslaught of vivid mental images. All of the horrible things that could happen to my baby rolled through my mind on a loop.

When I’d finally fall asleep, I would be jolted back into consciousness by the horrible thought that maybe someone came in the window when I was asleep and took my baby. I’d rush into my oldest son’s room to make sure he was still there. Sometimes I carried him into our room to sleep next to my husband, while I sat in a glider in the corner, just watching my family sleep.

Instead of just enjoying my babies, I cherished the moments like I was going to lose them. Gratitude is important, but this wasn’t gratitude. It was an illness, and I deserved help.

When the first rays of sunshine would peek through the curtains, I could finally relax a little bit. I’d fall asleep just before my husband woke up for work, and he was none the wiser.

Postpartum anxiety stole my mind from me and stole those precious first few months. Twice.

Instead of just enjoying my babies, I cherished the moments like I was going to lose them. Gratitude is important, but this wasn’t gratitude. It was an illness, and I deserved help.

I wish I had asked for it.

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When I think back on the days when my first two children were tiny, the joy is woven between strands of inescapable terror caused by my own mind.

I suffered for about six months with each of my babies before the fog just kind of…lifted.

I don’t know how else to explain it. I just started feeling a little bit better each day until I was myself again. “Myself” still struggles with generalized anxiety disorder, but it is mostly well-controlled. I only suffer this way right after I have a baby. It also happened to a lesser degree after each of my two miscarriages. Postpartum hormonal changes can be hell on a body. I am so sad that I lived in hell for no reason. There was help for me, and I couldn’t make myself ask for it.

I am pregnant again. Of course, I am looking forward to meeting this baby and seeing the little face that will complete our family, but I am also dreading the arrival of the dark cloud of horror that feels inevitable to me.

I don’t want to suffer that way again. Since this is our last baby, this is also my last chance to know what it’s like to enjoy those early months. I have two other children who deserve a mom who can make rational decisions for them. I owe it to my boys and the baby on the way to make sure I do everything in my power to stay healthy this time.

And most importantly, I owe it to myself to stop telling myself that I can “power through” a mental health crisis. I can’t cure my PCOS or my psoriasis through power of will, and I can’t cure my anxiety either. I don’t have to suffer that way again.

Postpartum anxiety has taken enough from me. I can’t guarantee that it will all be perfect this time, but I won’t suffer like that again without putting up the fight of my life.

This time, I decided to get ahead of it. I had a conversation with my husband. I saw the pain on his face when I admitted how bad it was last time. He had no idea. It’s the only time I’ve ever deceived him. I’m so relieved to have him in my corner this time. I never should have shut him out.

Instead of trusting myself to have the presence of mind to bring this up with my doctor if it happens again, I brought it up with my OB early in my pregnancy. He made a note to go over some options with me closer to the birth. At every appointment, he asks how I’m doing and I am honest. As long as I continue to feel okay throughout the pregnancy, we will talk the day I have the baby about what is safe for me to take while breastfeeding. We will discuss when I should call and ask for more help. He will schedule weekly then monthly follow-up calls with the nurse for the first year.

I’ve also got an appointment on the books with my regular doctor. She knows my history of anxiety, and she will work with my OB to help me manage it better this time.

Postpartum anxiety has taken enough from me. I can’t guarantee that it will all be perfect this time, but I won’t suffer like that again without putting up the fight of my life.