The Other Shade of Blue: Postpartum Anxiety and I

Let me start by saying that it’s taken 9 weeks and a dash of humility for me to finally put pen to paper about this subject. Yet what’s the point of running a blog if you’re not going to dive into and dissect the more difficult challenges that confront you in life? So here we go…

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Before I had my son (around 9 weeks ago as I write this) I had, like most, heard countless tales of the infamous ‘baby blues’. In my mind, they took the sole form of postpartum depression, an ugly mental oppression that made new mothers either want to harm their babies or prevented them from being able to muster any sensations of love towards their new addition. Note: I’m in no way claiming this is an accurate description, this is simply the impression I had gotten of this particular post-birth disorder through hearsay and media speculation. Which doesn’t really seem fair does it, to those of us experiencing something similar first hand?

Anyway, I was certain that wouldn’t succumb to anything so troubling. Despite having a history of mild depression and anxiety throughout my late teens/early twenties, I was confident in my ability to control any ‘unhealthy feelings’ in the same manner that I had in the past. I’d previously found success with therapies such as CBT, hypnotherapy and acupuncture to name a few. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m yet to relinquish control to prescription drugs, not because I think it’s wrong to do so, but because I have yet to feel that is the right method of treatment for me.

Anyway, I digress.

Throughout my pregnancy I’d managed my fluctuating emotions well and aside from one slightly rattling visit to my midwife with suspected reduced fetal movement at around 26 weeks, I remained mostly positive and confident about this new stage of my life. And then I gave birth.

My birth was an infinitely positive experience (read my birth story here) – truly, I was spoilt. After only 4 hours of unmedicated labor and 30 minutes of lightly assisted pushing, our first child was born, healthy and calm at 7:37am on a brisk Monday morning. Amidst all the buzz of the birth and the constant repetition of nurses checking on both my son and I, I didn’t find much time for reflection on everything that I ‘d just gone through. It was over and done with after all and now real life was about to start.

Yet something odd was starting to happen inside my mind, something that I didn’t care to admit to all the smiling and congratulatory faces surrounding my new family. 

It hit me almost instantly once the liveliness of the birth had passed and the quiet descended. I was riddled with fear. I still don’t know what sparked this response in me; it’s been speculated that the loss of my placenta sent my hormones into a nosedive, which sort of makes sense and would explain why the sensations were SO instantaneous after the birth. Wherever it came from, it was crippling.

I hadn’t thought of a single thing that I should/would be afraid of during my pregnancy. My stance was very much ‘let go and let God’ and I was supremely comfortable in that headspace. However this was different. I couldn’t see past this, which in turn sparked a new fear in me that I never would.

Before the end of the first night I found myself deathly afraid of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) specifically, which appeared seemingly out of nowhere and was a completely random fixation. So overwhelming was this new dread, that I enthusiastically gave up my new son to the night nursery, not because I craved uninterrupted sleep but because I didn’t trust my ability to keep him alive through the night. When my husband had to leave me alone at the birth center for an hour to go and feed our dogs, I all but begged him not to leave us and cried like a lost child when he left the room.

From there it just got worse. I forced myself to leave the hospital the next day, despite desperately wanting to stay another night and therefore have my son under the care of trained health professionals for as long as possible. Exhaustion set in and with it came a new influx of emotions and crying fits that I simply couldn’t control. Looking back, I should have reached out to my midwife right then. Truth be told though, I was absolutely mortified.

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