So here it is, I have postpartum anxiety.
If you spent any time with me, you probably wouldn’t know it. I go out and do normal things. I function like most people. But behind my smile, behind my relatively calm outward appearance is persistent terror. I would tell you it’s not like in horror movies where people are terrified of an intruder or a ghost or whatever the always outstanding plot is, but honestly, some days it feels just like that.
At first I thought it was normal. I assume more mothers fear few things more than something happening to their new baby. I knew that my history of anxiety and depression put me at risk, but I was keeping an eye out, as was my family. And for the most part, I think I was pretty normal. Yes, I maybe checked to make sure my baby was breathing a bit more than most moms, but it wasn’t holding us back.
And I really thought it was just a phase. I thought that once Elijah was bigger and more sturdy, I’d be less afraid of something happening to him. But I think the opposite has been true. As he has gotten older, my fears have intensified.
Wherever we go, I’m constantly assessing risks. Could he put that in his mouth and choke? Could someone take him on that balcony and drop him over the edge? Could someone with a horrible contagious disease have been in that pool? That store? That room? What if someone gives him honey? If I send him to daycare with his blanket, will he pull it over his face during naptime like he does at home? Will anyone notice? What if he gets dropped near that table and hits his head? Over and over and over.
I remember the first time we visited my family in our hometown, I sighed a big sigh as we left. I felt relieved because now if Elijah died, at least all of my family had gotten to meet him. And I think things like that all the time now. On nights where I’m frustrated with him, I think, what if he dies in his sleep and the last thing he experienced was his mother being frustrated with him? What if he dies at daycare and I wasn’t there to drop him off? After last night’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, I just thought, well, if he dies tonight, at least this was a really nice evening.
And somewhere in the middle of that thought, I had an epiphany.
This is not normal.
I should not be living my life in constant suspended fear of something happening to my son. I shouldn’t be judging my attitude or an event on whether it would be a good “last moment” for my child. This is not healthy and it is no way for me to live. And my son, who I love with such fervor that I’ve basically devoted my mind to keeping him alive, deserves better. He deserves a mother who isn’t scared of the world around him.
I just love this child so, so very much. He is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, the sweetest baby I have ever encountered and the fear of losing him is just so tremendous. I don’t know who I’d be without him anymore. I don’t know how I would even exist. And so if I find every risk and remove it, I feel like I can prevent things from happening. And if I imagine every scenario then I won’t let myself be surprised if anything ever does happen.
I realize that nothing about this is healthy and that waiting it out isn’t working like I had told myself it would. And so today I called my insurance, found out about our counseling coverage and am in the process of setting up an appointment with a local therapist. I don’t know if or how or when it will help, but I have to do something different. I can’t live like this and I know it.
So I’m getting help.