I have thought about writing this post for some time, but I was scared that everyone would think I was crazy.
Actually, I WAS crazy. After my precious little Bronx was born, I completely lost my mind to postpartum anxiety.
Bronx was born early, without any warning. My labor and delivery went incredibly fast. And as soon as he was here, he was whisked off to the nursery and put in an oxygen tent.
I went into shock. I had no time to process what was happening and I was instantly put into hyper-vigilant fear mode over my newborn son’s health. I didn’t sleep for three days. Finally the nurse gave me some Ambien to get me to sleep, but I only stayed out for three hours.
I went for the next few months completely sleep deprived. Even though the doctors had sent Bronx home with a clean bill of health, I was terrified that something bad was going to happen. I was constantly having panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep and I was afraid to be alone in the dark. I cried about everything. My anxiety and my fears were reinforced even more when Bronx couldn’t keep his feeds down. He was tested for a variety of conditions and was even kept overnight in the hospital, but ultimately was sent home again completely healthy. I was so relieved, but by that time my nerves were totally shot.
I started to get scared of leaving the house. I was afraid for our family to go anywhere together because if something happened, then we would all be in harm’s way. I was also overwhelmed by spending almost everyday alone (my husband often worked long 16 hour days) at home with a toddler and a premature newborn. I was a total wreck, and I didn’t know what to do.
I called a resource hotline for postpartum illnesses, but they were no help. The only place she could refer me to was the mental health facility where my husband works.
Are you kidding me? My poor husband did not need his co-workers thinking his wife was a loony toon. I tried explaining to the lady from the hotline that this was not an option and then when I realized that she didn’t have any more answers to my problem than I did I just started crying hysterically. She asked if I was okay. I didn’t know what to say to that. What could she do if I wasn’t? I managed to choke out a yes through the sobs, and then I hung up.
I really had no options. No realistic ones, anyway. It was either I let the anxiety consume me and keep me from functioning as a wife and mother, or I overcome it on my own and take back my life.
I fought it. It took a few months, and I had to find ways to cope with the anxiety. I started making myself leave the house with the kids. As daunting as that seems when you have no help, it actually made me feel better when I got back home and realized that I could manage an outing with two little ones on my own. I also started hitting the gym. It is amazing what endorphins have done for me. I still get anxious from time to time, but I have restructured my thought process to make things more rational. And, as I get further and further away from all the events that triggered my anxiety in the first place, the fears have gradually lessened.
I wish that there had been someone or somewhere I could have turned to so I wouldn’t have had to fight this all on my own. I know that postpartum depression has been getting a lot more attention in recent years, but I don’t think postpartum anxiety gets the same recognition. That is unfortunate for moms like me who feel like they are all alone.
We shouldn’t have to be.