I’m writing this literally in the notes app on my phone. My baby is sleeping on my chest. Which means I am his hostage for the next hour! So I might as well make use of this time and write about something that has been on my mind for a while, in hopes that if anyone else is having similar thoughts or feelings they can know they are not alone.
I am obviously good at taking happy and pretty pictures, that’s easy. But it does not mean that I don’t have things that I struggle with, I am not a supermom, and sometimes its really, really hard, despite what is portrayed in photos.
I’ve heard of Postpartum Depression… it was something that concerned me so much having a history of mental illness and depression in my family. I actually lost my brother to mental illness. I even encapsulated my placenta to help my recovery after I had my baby because it is said to help with postpartum depression. So I have always looked for the signs.
But I don’t feel like myself and what I’m feeling, my “symptoms” don’t match those of PPD. But I feel like something is off. What is it? I actually bonded really well with my baby from day one and I’m totally OBSESSED with him. But I feel like I’m having other issues… almost OCD. In both behaviors and thoughts. My baby is now almost 7 months old. And what I’m feeling has evolved and gone through several stages.
In the beginning, it was absolute and constant fear. Fear that “something” was going to happen. I would lie up at night refusing to sleep just watching him. I was sure I would be one of those mothers whom something “bad” was going happen to them. I would lie awake on my phone Googling numerous combinations of all the bad things that could happen. I became obsessed with trying to prevent these imaginary bad things. Then I would start to think about how I would explain these things if and when they happened to me. “I fell asleep”, “I tripped and fell down a flight of stairs holding my baby”, “I accidentally let go of the stroller and it rolled into the street”, so many times I obsessed with this horrible possibility. I over sanitized everything he touched, bottles, pumps, binkis, I was afraid he would get a Staph infection from anything dirty. I would bawl crying into my pillow constantly really for no reason except that my own thoughts put me in a terrifying panic and I cried about things I made up in my head.
After a while, this got better, but the anxiety manifested itself in other areas. I NEVER slept when the baby slept. I would put him down for naps then frantically clean the house. Every time he slept I tried to clean as much as possible. And if he woke before I was done I felt like a total failure and obsessed about what I did not get done and how and when I could complete the task the next time. Another thing that I noticed is that I never wanted to leave the house. Interacting with people made me nervous and awkward. After the fact, I would over analyze what was done or said. I was convinced that “something went wrong” during almost every interaction.
Now, I have this constant overall rapid heart beating, mind racing feeling. Add to the fact that all of this is inside, and to discuss it with anyone means risking exposing yourself to people thinking your crazy or brushing it off as just a phase. I also thought of the extreme, that somehow it would be used against me if I ever told anyone. I’m so careful to do things perfectly. I don’t ever want my baby to think that something is off with mom. I smile and play and laugh with him as if nothing is wrong. I make his food from scratch, we nurse… all the while I gaze lovingly down at him masking the turmoil inside. It is only when I come to the brink of my feelings, when pushed, stressed or confronted with something not planned in my mind, my facade starts to crumble, and that’s what happens… I lose it, have a breakdown… momentarily.. because I can typically gather myself and put tape over the cracks and keep it moving. Once again never confronting the root of what’s going on inside. This is Postpartum Anxiety PPA, and it’s a real thing… and it’s really difficult to know if one is experiencing it.
Sometimes people can be really insensitive when trying to understand why someone who should be totally happy would have feelings like this. Which is why a lot of people don’t speak up, or seek help. They keep it inside, stay quiet. It can be a very lonely isolating place and that is the last thing anyone needs, especially a new mother. The best thing to do is find someone you can talk too. I’ve struggled with this and finally felt the need to “reach out” and talk to someone. Also if you suspect that someone might be struggling it’s ok to initiate a safe place and ask “are you ok?”. Listen without judgments, it’s ok to not have the right words, a warm embrace speaks volumes. It says… “I may not understand but I’m here for you and I love you.” I’m so glad I initiated the conversation and already I feel much better and hopeful that I can have a safe place to go with what I’m feeling inside and most of all its a first step to getting better.
These 1st years are way to precious to miss out on and I want to enjoy this special time to the fullest without anxiety but with a calm happy resolve. As I type this my son just clocked himself in the head with his bottle… he looked at me and was totally about to cry, but I started laughing, and now he’s laughing too, we are laughing together…moments like these!
If you think are struggling with PPA, you are not alone. Some of the symptoms you may experience are:
- Constant worry.
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen.
- Racing thoughts.
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite.
- Inability to sit still.
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
There are resources available to assist you with your recovery. Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International are great places to start if you are looking for information. I am not a medical professional and you should always consult your doctor for any medical advice. Thank you for reading and I hope this can inspire you to help or get help for you as a mother or a mother in need.