Thankfully, people are finally talking about post partum depression and sharing their personal stories. More and more celebrities are starting to come out in the open and proclaim their journey’s of PPD and express their feelings, which is such a huge step because PPD isn’t anything new!
That being said, I hadn’t heard of Post Partum Anxiety. Of course, we know anxiety and depression go hand in hand but I feel like I was left in the dark about something I probably should have been warned about. A heads up. So here is mine to you, a cautionary tale, if you will:
After our traumatic experience with Chase in the children’s hospital, I was feeling really anxious. As I have said previously, I have always suffered from anxiety, but those 48 hours really sent me over the edge (my hormones, just after giving birth, didn’t make matters any easier. Let me tell you, even the coolest cucumber will be on an emotional rollercoaster after having a baby. If you haven’t had a baby already, get ready, this is no joke. And if you’re a mom, I need say no more. But read on, nonetheless).
When we got home, I had this overwhelming fear that my son was somehow going to die. Every second of the day, my mind raced, thinking and worrying about all of the possible ways he could get hurt or die and I felt it so strongly that I would get anxiety and panic attacks. I would hide in another room (usually the bathroom), and shake and cry but didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy. I literally felt crazy. I had these thoughts and unrealistic fears so frequently that I started to wonder if I, myself, was going to somehow hurt him when all other irrational fears passed (and I think THIS is why we don’t talk about these things).
For instance, I was afraid to give my baby a bath alone because what if he drowned? My mind went like this: “I would never let him drown, so I can put that fear aside, so what else could possibly go wrong? What if I let him fall in the tub?” Knowing I would NEVER do that, I would then get mad at myself, ashamed and embarrassed for having such a thought and I would wait until my husband got home to give him a bath so I wouldn’t be so anxious. I don’t know how much newborns retain, but I didn’t want Chase’s first memories to be of his mother sobbing and shaking and checking the temperature of the tub 800 times or come up with some OCD way of wrapping him in a towel afterwards or something.
I was afraid to iron a shirt in the same room as the baby because I was afraid he would somehow get burned, but again, I realized that was irrational. If he was alllll the way over there, HOW could he possibly get burned? So then I thought “would I purposefully burn him??” Of course not, so why would I have that thought in the first place. “I must be going crazy”. Needless to say, we had a pile of my husband’s wrinkled work shirts, which all ended up at the dry cleaners.
I was so ashamed and confused. I didn’t want to share these feelings that I had all the time because even though you hear of people talk about overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you think there’s no way anyone else is having thoughts like these and surely they’ll take my child away if I share them. A crazy lady who’s afraid she’s going to harm her newborn but also won’t let anyone else hold him? Lock her up!
Right after we got out of the children’s hospital, we had an appointment with Chase’s pediatrician. As stated in my previous blog post, Chase was slightly jaundice (in case you don’t know, some babies are born “jaundice” meaning your baby has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that’s made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the baby’s body through urine and stool but some cases are worse than others. It gives your baby that “yellowish” look. Sometimes they need special lights, almost like a tanning bed, and others cases clear up on their own). Knowing some babies need the light therapy, I asked our pediatrician if putting Chase in the sunlight would help move things along for him. He said yes, that can certainly help, so I took his words quite literally, went home and sat outside in the sun with Chase for about 15 minutes. Keep in mind, it was early November in North Carolina and he was in pants and a onesie, perfect for that day. After that time, we went inside and slowly but surely, Chase started getting red.
Panicked, I called a client of mine who is a PA (I called her 523 times over the first few months) and asked her what this could be. She informed me that yes, putting baby in the sunlight would help, but not directly in the sun like I did. “The pediatrician told me to!” I cried, “But he meant to put Chase by a window for a little while, not outside in the direct sunlight, he’s too little and his skin is too sensitive”. I started shaking and crying and knowing I had just caused my baby harm I asked her if I had hurt him: “Did he get burned, did I make it worse, will he get a fever and die???” Will he be ok??” She told me to calm down, “You thought you were doing the right thing.” But that didn’t make me feel any better. I proceeded to call another pediatrician’s cell phone who discharged Chase from the hospital (she has probably since changed her number…or blocked mine), interrupted her family dinner and left a panicked voicemail about how I left Chase in the sun and I think he’s going to die. She called me back right away, mid chomp of her chicken salad, and asked how long I had left him in the car alone. “Noooo, I cried”, and explained the story and she said “I thought by your voicemail that you had left him in the car! He’s going to be fine.”
I wasn’t buying it. I went up to my husband in the kitchen (it was his birthday, by the way) and as I shook, told him I thought I was losing it and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I knew that what I was feeling all day long was probably not normal. I said “I’m not ok” and he just hugged me. He told me everything was going to be fine, the baby was happy and “look, he’s not even red anymore!” I guess he was just hot from the sun he had never seen before. Poor kid.
I even called the pediatrician’s office one day in tears, asked for a specific nurse who I really liked (and asked for, personally, during appointments) and told her I thought I was losing it and needed an appointment. She very kindly explained that Chase’s pediatrician could not prescribe me Xanax and that I should call my own primary caredoctor. Thanks a lot, Lindsay.
For the longest time I felt this anxious or worse. I WAS prescribed Paxil but was too anxious to take it! I was afraid I would sleep too well and not hear the baby cry or that my milk supply would dwindle, even though they say otherwise.
I would get panic attacks when people would come over or try to hold Chase. I made everyone wash their hands (everyone should with a newborn), use purell, take their shoes off (still do), ask if anyone had been around anyone else sick, did they have all their shots, and I rarely left the house. Granted, it was wintertime and flu season and even the pediatrician told me not to take Chase into the grocery stores until he was a little older.
I know being cooped up in the house all the time didn’t help. Sometimes getting out makes a WORLD of difference. Even just driving to get a cup of coffee in the drive-through with the baby while he slept gave me a little perspective. (Chase LOVES being out and about now. I think he was relieved to discover the world consisted of more than 2 faces and 6 rooms).
The truth is, once I cried and told a girlfriend about the way I had been feeling and my worries and scary thoughts, she immediately shared similarly embarrassing (to her) thoughts and anxieties. Not everyone feels this way, but it’s important to know that you are not alone! I think the thought of isolation is almost as bad as the feeling of anxiety. We have to know there are other people out there who feel, or have felt, the same way. Our bodies go through hell and back from pregnancy to birth and the aftermath. Our hormones are sky high and then hit a brick wall. There’s no way you can keep a level head after that. Granted, some of us cope better than others, while some of us go whackadoodle! Up, down, left right and there’s no telling how you’ll feel or what crazy scenario you’ll come up with.
To give you some hope, (if you are currently going through anything similar) it took about 2 weeks for these irrational thoughts to start to subside. It did take months for me to start to back off a little with the baby and feel ok about others holding him. Some would argue that I’m still crazy and overprotective but I don’t care! He’s my son. I AM protective and don’t really care if I offend anyone when it comes to him. I’m not a bitch, I’m a mommy.