There are so many moments throughout your pregnancy. So many, that you never thought you would have to prepare for? You may have heard the stories about how severe your heartburn will be or how your lady bits might rip in half, but seriously you think to yourself, “That won’t happen to me.” And as sure as you’re saying that about the pregnancy and the labor/delivery, you’re saying the same thing about the least talked about a reality many women face.
You always hear about Postpartum Depression or The Baby Blues but what about Postpartum Anxiety? Come to think of it, do you ever really hear other mamas or couples talking about it like they do the birth story? No, you don’t, and it is indeed one of the saddest things you’ll realize should be talked about more often. You might not experience it for yourself, but your mother might have. No one in your family may understand but that girl you used to know in high school who just had her baby might. And if we never mention it or openly discuss the matter odds are you’ll feel alone just like I did.
It started in small little spurts when my baby girl just turned a month old. My husband would be driving, and baby girl and I would be sitting in the backseat. She was nestled in her car seat which I had tightened and refastened ten times to ensure she wouldn’t be jostled around, and of course, she was also fast asleep. Her tiny hand wrapped around my finger just made it that much more real that she was and is by far the most precious thing I have in my life. But what if the semi-truck next to us comes into our lane on the freeway without any caution? What if the driver in front of us was going faster then he should have to break all of a sudden, and we get into a five-car pileup? I know it’s horrible, but that’s how it started for me.
I would shake it off but had replayed the numerous worst-case scenarios in my head until the outcomes became too gruesome to think about. It sounds downright crazy, but I couldn’t help it. It progressively got worse, and I wouldn’t say anything until one day I had to let it out. I remember just asking my husband if he ever had moments where he played scenarios in his head like short films in a way that gave you the opportunity to figure out what your reaction might be. He said yes, and then I spilled the beans. I told him about some of the scenarios that played in my head and how there were moments I’d be carrying our daughter and would feel so petrified that I might accidentally drop her. I was scared that if I let her out of my sight for even a slight second that someone would take her. As unrealistic as some things were and as realistic as other scenarios were it felt so possible that I would start to feel sick to my stomach over everything. The paranoia and anxiety consumed my time with her but did it in the silence of my thoughts.
Stairways freak me out, public places with large quantities of people are overwhelming, and the thought of being an hour away from her while I’m at work is gut-wrenching even though I know she is in a safe place and capable hands. There are still many times I have to close my eyes for a second and tell myself to get those terrible thoughts out of my head. I felt like I felt broken for the longest time. I felt alone because everyone knows Postpartum Depression is familiar but I didn’t feel the way other women feel when they describe that. I just felt anxious about everything and couldn’t get the negative “possibilities” out of my thoughts until I decided to speak up and let my partner know.
My husband is so supportive and when I told him about my fears and my feelings he assured me that he understood and even if my husband didn’t it helped to know he was hearing me out. He told me how he had thought about some of those things too, but he knew that it was a form of anxiety working its way into the new aspect of his life. Being a parent is one of the most amazing things you will ever do, but it is also one of the scariest!
My question for new moms or dads and for those who are veterans in the parenting game is why are we not talking about this!? I am incredibly open which is why I feel more inclined to share the bad stuff as much as I share the good. It is so mind-boggling that I have not ever heard another woman talk about this unless it’s negatively. I have only heard people say how they can’t imagine how someone could ever feel negatively about their baby or think of such horrible things. After all, having a baby is super easy and not to mention you get a vacation from work! (There’s a little shade for all you crazies who think maternity leave is like going to the Bahamas for three months) Wrong! Having a baby is beyond fantastic, but it sure can be a challenge in ways you never anticipated. There are so many adjustments that can indeed be positive, but there are times that it is just outright hard to figure out.
In some aspects, I can understand the fear of talking about it. People will think you are crazy. They might even believe that you are a terrible parent for ever thinking or feeling this way, but that’s because we don’t talk about it. Mental health and wellbeing are essential in all stages of life, ESPECIALLY after a significant life change like having a baby! I strongly encourage all men and women to talk more about mental health even if it means bringing the darkness and the hard subjects into the light for the first time. The only way we can support each other as friends, family members, or partners is by being open about the things that affect us most including our mental state. It won’t happen overnight, but it can indeed make a difference for that new mom wondering why she feels this way or for the mom on her fourth child who is just having a rough patch. All it takes is a listening ear and an open mind to create a more favorable environment for mental health, and the possibilities will be endless.