I asked my husband to pull the car over. NOW. We were on our way to a kid-friendly Christmas work party, and our toddler and infant were in the backseat. I didn't care. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I needed...air. I needed out of the car. I demanded he stop as though my life depended on it. Sounds of cars blurred past me. The very cold, very still silence on that semi-rural road in the dark night was my saving grace for that short but endless moment.
I took a breath and I was OK.
I’m not sure why I didn’t really connect the dots. I never--never--had a panic attack before. I didn’t realize it for a while. Wasn’t it normal to worry about baby? Baby getting sick? Baby getting harmed? ME getting harmed and unable to care for my littles? That’s normal… right?
Maybe. But what about the feeling that I was fraying at the edges? That I couldn’t leave my baby with my perfectly competent husband without reminding him obvious things--like don’t leave baby alone when you bathe her. Don’t forget to buckle her in, lest she die a tragic, five-o'clock-news-worthy death? He wasn’t even planning on taking her anywhere. Remind him again! These are perfectly appropriate things to nag and snap and judge at my husband about! Yes? No?
The symptoms of postpartum anxiety are many, and you need not feel them all, but I recall feeling captive in a helpless, hopeless sort of way. I never really thought of harming my baby, but I was gripped with fear each time I needed to walk down the stairs with him. I checked the doors at night--and during the day--multiple times to ensure they were locked. I rarely felt peace. I realized I was not being rational at times, all the more curious for someone like me whose work and skills involved levelheadedness.
Experts say some anxiety and some amount of “baby blues” are typical and not particularly worrisome for new moms. New moms have a lot of change and pressure and expectation from self and others, whether they are home with baby number one or any baby beyond a single. Estrogen and progesterone are also spiking and hitting lows over the course of the moments and days and weeks after birth.
If this even barely sounds like you, consider talking to your doctor. Even if you’re on the fence, speaking to someone can provide perspective. There are already enough things happening that challenge this time in your life. I wish I would have sought out assistance instead of toughing it out for so long. Each day I toughed it out is a day when I could have spent all that energy on something else--peace, sleep, memories, bonding, playing with the kids, a hobby, conversation with hubby--all the things that brought me joy.
Lynette is a mom of three children from 20 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.