It was December, and my daughter was a happy 5-month-old. I had this new mom thing down, for the most part. Breastfeeding was hard, but I had found my groove. I am a chronic migraine sufferer, and sleep deprivation is a big trigger for them, so we were thankful to have a night nurse help nightly until the baby started sleeping through the night. Life was different for good and bad, but we were managing.
We’re lucky to be in Boston, because you can pretty much have anything delivered to your home — and that’s essential sometimes in the winter. We were waiting on some groceries to be delivered and realized the baby was sleeping. I asked my husband to put a sign on the door to alert the delivery guy not to ring the doorbell. When I looked at the sign he was about to hang, I freaked out! It said, “Baby Sleeping, Please Do Not Ring Doorbell.” I didn’t want anyone to know there was a baby in the house! Surely there were child predators out there everywhere — they might kidnap her! What if that happened?
Then my worries progressed. It was raining — what if the wind was so bad it knocked a tree limb through the nursery window? What if she stopped breathing in her sleep? I decided I needed to stay awake that night with the night nurse to make sure nothing happened to her.
That was an “aha moment” for me. I realized that those intrusive thoughts that flashed through my mind every hour weren’t really what I believed inside. Those thoughts were not what I wanted to think about day in and day out. I was deathly afraid of having another panic attack, because it felt like I was having a heart attack. I didn’t want to drive anywhere, so being socially isolated was easier than risking something happening to me or my daughter — I was living in a bubble. And I was deeply down. This was postpartum anxiety. I needed to find my “village” of people to help support me. It was time.
My husband gave me the strength to get help. He encouraged me, mainly because he was fearful as well. He didn’t want to see me like this. I used a combination of outside therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness to help me get through the hard days. I still had the anxiety — the intrusive thoughts and the edginess, but I felt like I had a toolbox of things to unpack when it came on.
The strange thing about postpartum anxiety is that it goes away just as quickly as it comes on. I woke up on Christmas Eve the following year feeling lighter. I slowly noticed my confidence building with getting out of the house and driving. The intrusive thoughts started fading and came on less often.
I hated what I went through, mainly for what it did to me and my family. But one thing it did was give me a new appreciation for the human spirit. There are so many people who can help and want to support you if you open up to it.