After experiencing postpartum depression with my first child, I was ready and prepared just in case I had it again with my second. A mother is 50 percent more likely to get it with additional pregnancies if she experienced it with her first. My husband, doctor, therapist, and I were ready. We had an action plan. However, what we didn’t prepare for was extreme postpartum anxiety.
Anxiety Took Over My Life
The day my daughter was born was wonderful. She was here and perfect! The first 48 hours were bliss. I knew what to expect with a newborn; it wasn’t as foreign as it is with a first child. We went home with a completed family.
I had the typical baby blues the first few days. I wept at a car commercial. I looked at the tiny little baby in my arms and cried. However, I didn’t feel how I did with postpartum depression. Maybe I dodged that bullet.
On day 10, a lactation consultant came to our house because little miss was having trouble latching. My son was at school, and my husband was at work. It was just the baby, the lactation consultant, and I at home. When she was examining the baby’s mouth, a panicked feeling raced down my spine. My mind started racing with the most irrational fears ever.
What am I doing? I can’t have two children. Maybe I should give this woman my child. She could take her, and I could go back to just having one child. Oh my gosh, she just put her finger in the baby’s mouth. What if the baby is allergic to latex and has an allergic reaction and dies? What if this stranger in my house tries to kill my baby? What if she tries to kill me? Is this how I am suppose to die? I know it; this is it; I’m going to die today.
This voice inside my head was going CRAZY. I was shaking. The lactation consultant could tell something was wrong. She reassured me that little miss was just fine, I was doing a great job as a mother, and we would figure it all out.
The next few weeks things went from bad to worse, and I realized I was not fine. My thoughts kept racing. I was literally having the most irrational conversations in my head. I couldn’t tell anyone what I was thinking. They would either commit me or take this precious baby girl from me. I kept it all inside.
I spent most of my nights awake, not because of the newborn needing to nurse, but the irrational fears and thoughts in my head.
What is happening? Oh my gosh, what if my son goes to school and a masked gunman comes into his school? What if he catches the flu and brings it home to the baby? What if she ends up in the hospital and dies? Why does my baby hate me? Why is she crying all the time? What happens if there is a terror attack in Fort Worth? We don’t have enough food and water saved. We will die. I need to go to the store right now. We need at least 10 gallons of water for each person. I need to go. I can’t leave. What if I have a car accident and die? We need a disaster plan. What happens if the Christmas tree catches fire? I need to be able to get everyone out of the burning house. Maybe we should all sleep in the same room next to the door.
After only sleeping for a total of 14 hours the entire week, I knew I had to tell someone. I opened up to my therapist that maybe I wasn’t as okay as I was telling everyone. We quickly realized my anxiety had been heightened after birth. I did indeed have postpartum anxiety.
Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety
- Racing thoughts
- Worried all the time, REALLY worried
- Disturbing thoughts
- Afraid to be alone
- Checking things constantly
- Feeling captive
- No appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Know something is wrong
- Afraid of others helping
My husband and I debated if I was strong enough to do this without medication, relying solely on therapy, like I did with postpartum depression. I do not like to take pills because of side effects. We talked about what this would mean for our family. After many tears and much guilt, I decided it would be best for me to stop breastfeeding little miss at three months and get on a medication to help me.
I spoke with my doctor and was prescribed an anti-anxiety/depression medication. After the first three weeks, I noticed such an improvement with my mental state. I was sleeping. I could eat at the same table with my family. I looked forward to holding and feeding my baby. I was me again, well, the new me!
Each person experiences postpartum differently. There isn’t a textbook definition that covers every case. Some cases are mild and others severe. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, ask for help. There are great resources out there. Doctors and therapists are there to help. Or confide in a friend. Do not go through this alone. Getting help will not only help yourself, but also your family and new bundle(s) of joy!