Do you know what it feels like laying your head down for the night thinking you weren’t waking up the
next morning? And I am not talking about sleeping through your alarm. I am talking about literally not
waking up. Dying in your sleep.
This was my nightly thought process every single night after having my son.
After I put my son to sleep, I would lay in bed, exhausted, with tears streaming down my face thinking I
would never see him again. How would he grow up without a Mommy? I couldn’t believe I would miss
his graduation or dancing together at his wedding.
The chances of this scenario happening was slim to none but I could NOT quiet my mind and reassure myself that there was a better chance of being struck by
lightning than dying in my sleep. My husband is in the military and once a month for a weekend, he wakes up early
for training on base. The mornings he would leave before I would wake, I made sure I had someone check in on me.
Because, “what if” I didn’t wake up and Jack was crying in the crib for hours and hours until my hubby came home? Nobody really knew what was going on. This might be a surprise for those who read this post. For those who
“checked-in” I would make an excuse on why they had to message me in the morning. “Wake me up for the gym!”
or “Let’s do brunch in the morning!” Did we go to either? No. I just wanted to make sure I made it through the night. In addition to the irrational thoughts I would have, I was unable to relax or sleep. I felt like I must be doing
something always. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby.
Checking on the baby. I couldn’t settle down or quiet my mind. This wasn’t the only irrational thought I had. I made my
husband purchase a device that if I were locked out of my car with my son inside, I could break the window and free him.
In our house, I would scale the wall in our hallway because I thought my son would fall out of my hands and flip over the railing. I could go on and on and on…I kept thinking that I just had a baby, was hardly sleeping and my
hormones were running high—I thought these thoughts and actions were normal. In fact, for months I told no one what I was feeling. I was afraid
that if I tried to explain my irrational thoughts, they would think I was crazy! I knew I wasn’t crazy, these thoughts
weren’t all the time. I really felt fine most of the time, just in those moments that my usually calm mind, betrayed
me. Finally, someone noticed. My son’s Pediatrician sat me down after one of the million doctor appointments I
made. He gently suggested calling my doctor and seeking help for Postpartum Depression (PPD). I didn’t believe
him. I wasn’t depressed. I loved my son. The Pediatrician got me in touch with the hospital’s therapist who worked
with new moms. That therapist was a voice of calm and reason during this terrible storm. I was diagnosed with
Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). I had no idea what PPA was. No one ever talked about it publicly. All you heard about
was PPD and the “baby‐blues.” But, the doctor let me know that PPA is extremely common with new mothers.
Postpartum anxiety plagues just as many moms as Postpartum depression, but not as many know about
it. This type of anxiety paralyzes moms from functioning the way they normally would.
You may have Postpartum anxiety if you are experiencing some of these symptoms:
- Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.
- You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will the baby wake up? Is
the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter
what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.
- You may be having disturbing thoughts. Thoughts that you’ve never had before. Scary thoughts
that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were. They fly into your
head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you
and they won’t go away. These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”
- You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries. You are also
afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and
you avoid them like the plague.
- You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door? Did I lock the car? Did I
turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?
- You’re having trouble sleeping. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.
- You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.
After receiving help, I slowly found life again. As I look back, I don’t remember there being a “light-bulb moment” where I became myself again. It was a gradual progression.
When I was suffering from PPA, I could take care of my son, but that was white‐knuckling it. Whereas a day like today, it’s a joy! I am thankful that I had the necessary support to get through to the other side. If I can help save one life by sharing my story, it’s worth it. If you are struggling, know that there is hope.
Reach out to those around you. Talk openly with family and friends. There are far too many mamas out there who are feeling ashamed and afraid. You are not alone. You will get better. And if you have a day where hope feels too far
out of reach, think of me and remember that I was once right where you are. You will move forward, I promise.
One step at a time.