The floor was soft, but stable beneath my body. Eyes closed, I laid there counting to 10 as I breathed in and to 10 again as I breathed out. My husband sat on the bench at the foot of our bed, offering the silent support I needed from his presence. Our son, slept peacefully in his room not even 15 feet away. The house was calm, and outside, night was setting in. Yet, inside my mind and body, anxiety reigned.
I don’t think anyone would’ve considered me an anxious person pre-pregnancy. Trust me, I’ve asked. Like anyone else, I had rational fears, but those things didn’t cripple me. They didn’t cause me to lose sleep or think illogically. Postpartum anxiety, however, did.
My pregnancy was fairly normal. Every check-up appointment came and went without any major concerns. My blood pressure was perfect, my baby was growing really well, and I felt great.
In my third trimester, things turned south. Quickly. My body went haywire and I developed not one, but two, life-threatening issues practically overnight. And still, I remained fairly calm. When my nurse told me to come in to the hospital at 36 weeks to be “monitored for a bit,” I wasn’t paralyzed with fear. I put our already-prepared bags in the car, waited on my husband to get home from work and we drove there together. The possibility of having our son that day was obvious, but more exciting than scary.
We were at the hospital for an hour before my doctor got on the phone with me and told me she was leaving the grocery store and would see me soon to deliver my baby. (Major props to her for not scaring the daylights out of me.) I was really sick. I knew that something was wrong, but I had faith and confidence that everything would be fine.
Even as I sat on the operating table, getting my spinal block set up, I joked with the anesthesiologist and panic was nowhere to be found.
Our son was born less than 45 minutes after that call with my doctor. He spent a month in the NICU for respiratory issues, and I spent that same month praying, waiting, visiting, crying, and rejoicing at his bedside.
When he came home, I remember my husband telling me that he was impressed with how well I handled our son’s NICU stay. I looked him in the face and told him that internally, I hadn’t handled it well at all, but I was damn good at putting on a strong face. I cried. He understood.
Daytime would come and go. Our baby had an oxygen/heart rate monitor that I could check anytime. We had a video monitor in his room. I could see him anytime.
But each day ends with night.
And, each night brought on sometimes oppressive anxiety. My son slept through the night at about two months. I wouldn’t sleep through the night until five months.
Eventually, it became clear that I had post-partum anxiety and potentially some PTSD. Logically, I knew our son was fine. He was home and becoming healthier by the day. But anxiety doesn’t let logic win. Anxiety strips you of any logic and even though you stare at the near-perfect numbers on his oxygen monitor, you can’t let go of a feeling that tragedy is imminent.
Through some professional counseling (which I am totally an advocate for), I learned my body and mind had been in fight-or-flight mode for so long that I was finally coming off that adrenaline and dealing with the realities of what happened in the hospital. I enjoyed every moment with my son, but when night fell or when he wasn’t within arms reach, I was robbed of any good feeling. We’re not talking about first-time-parent nerves. It was hard to explain, too difficult to relax and so incredibly frustrating. My son was fine. I knew that. I just couldn’t shake the anxiety that crept in and kept me from sleeping or drew me to the ground to breathe away the fear.
But now… I’m able to manage that anxiety. And, looking back, I hate that postpartum anxiety for so many reasons (and not in a 10-things-I-hate-about-you kind of way).
I hate you, postpartum anxiety, for irrational thoughts that I knew weren’t my own.
I hate you, postpartum anxiety, for causing me to feel less than my normal self.
I hate you, postpartum anxiety, for the panic, the emotional roller coaster, the fear. I really truly hate you.
But I’m stronger than you.
You no longer wake me up at night or impact my thoughts.
You don’t get any more of my time. My time, my thoughts and my life belong to me and my family.