Per a suggestion from my family doctor I have made an appointment with a counselor to discuss the possibility of me having postpartum anxiety.
I’ve heard people in my life that are close to me mention that they suspect I may be struggling with ppa so I took the final recommendation from my doctor as a hard sign that maybe I should look into the possibility that there might be some truth to it.
SO in preparation for my initial visit I have been thinking about how to describe my feelings to my counselor.
I think it’s kind of like a tree. There are several branches that all come together to one structure.
One branch comes from the fact that it took me 2 years to even get pregnant. I always thought of myself as a mother and being pregnant, having children & raising a family but I never imagined it would take me so long to make that happen once my wife & I decided we were ready to start our family. There was SO much build up to his arrival – even before I was pregnant – that I am fully focused on him & that fact that he is FINALLY HERE!
Another branch grew when I found out I had gestational diabetes. I got my diagnosis it was a Friday. They told me the results of my 3 hour test showed me positive for gestational diabetes. I never saw this coming. I thought only people who were over-weight had to worry about diabetes (another lie of our society in having us believe that only obese people have health issues – but that’s another topic I’ll go into another day) and this completely rocked me. It was a Friday afternoon. No offices open until Monday. I had all weekend to worry & wonder about how the foods I would be eating over the next 72 hours would be hurting & poisoning my baby. I didn’t know ANYTHING about carbs, blood sugar, proteins! NOTHING! I never knew that even FRUITS had carbs! I felt like nothing was safe to eat! I was frozen. I tried talking to the people around me & they all said “don’t worry” & “everything is going to be ok” or “it’s really not a big deal”. It all sounded like they were saying “this doesn’t matter” “you are worrying for no reason” “we don’t care”. I literally felt like I was the only one in the whole world that was actually worried about my baby. I felt that everyone else was just blowing this off as a non-issue! That evening I laid down in bed, crying, put my hands on my belly & made a promise to my baby ‘I give you my deepest promise that I will always take care of you, no matter WHAT! I love you & I will do whatever it takes to protect you for as long as I’m alive”.
Looking back – I realize what I really needed to hear in that moment was someone to say “WOW! This is very scary but let’s sit down & see if we can find some good recipes online to get you thru the weekend until you can meet with the doctor.” I needed someone to AGREE WITH ME that the news was frightening & to tell me that it was ok for me to be worried about this baby’s health! Not to just brush it off & say “everything will be fine”. I didn’t know how to express that need at the time – I actually only came to this realization last night – my son is 16 months old – so there’s some hindsight for you – right?
The next branch came on my son’s 3rd day of life. “There are 2 holes in your son’s heart”. Everything the cardiologist said after that was a blur. I could hardly hear his words over the sound of my own sobbing. I held onto my baby so tight I don’t even think wild horses could have torn us apart. All I kept thinking to myself over & over was “I wanted this baby so long and so badly & I couldn’t even make him a good heart”. The heart is the first thing that’s made, you know? The very first thing I made for my baby was incomplete, flawed. This was his first impression of me. The first thing I ever made him & the result was – faulty. I’d failed him immediately out of the gate. How could I ever make this right? How could he ever trust me now? Nobody agreed with me that this was terrifying but instead just kept telling me “everything will be ok”.
My fourth branch of my ppa came when our son was about a month old. I got a text “OMG! (one of our high school classmate)’s SON DIED! HE WAS ONLY 5 MONTHS OLD! SIDS?!” Like any mom (new or veteran) I squeezed my son a little tighter that night & found a little more patience than usual when he woke up crying in the middle of the night. Fast forward to 2 weeks before my return to work. The sitter we’d lined up said she needed to talk with us. The baby died at her house. She said it was SIDS. We talked about it & we felt that we still trusted her to watch our son. After all, there’s no way anyone can prevent SIDS! The day before I returned to work my former classmate reached out to me. Her son suffocated from an unsafe sleep environment. My heart stopped. How could this be? We were so careful in choosing the person who would care for our baby! This sitter neglectfully put a baby at risk & he died because of her choices & then she lied to us about what happened! How could I trust anyone with him now?!
We found another daycare & it has cameras that I can log into & see him anytime I want during the day. This is a nice feature & it usually comforts me to see that he is doing ok & having fun. But when I look in & see him crying or upset it is beyond distressing to me seeing him have to wait minutes at a time for someone to get over to him to meet his needs. I feel sick just watching him there crying, needing, begging for comfort. Sometimes if I see that he’s been sleeping in his crib for an unusually long amount of time I have called the daycare to ask that a teacher check on him to make sure he is breathing.
This is my tree:
I worry about him stopping breathing when he’s asleep. I worry about him choking on food when he’s eating. I worry about him hurting himself while he’s playing. Toys break, kids put things in their mouth, they choke! They take bites of food that are too big. They choke. They die. They fall down & hit their head on corners of tables, pull over furniture – they die. They play with blankets, get wrapped up & die. Babies die. Toddlers die. Children play in water & drown in under a minute. They die. Car seats are installed incorrectly. Seat belts are fastened incorrectly. Cars crash. Kids die. Why am I the only one that knows this?! Why am I the only person who knows that children get hurt and die?!
I’ve watched him die 1000 times in 1000 different ways in my mind & the pain in my chest is so bad that it hurts to even breathe.
It is MY job to watch FOR him until he learns to watch – speak FOR him until he learn to talk – see FOR him until he learn to look!
What does it feel like to have PPA?
It feels like I’m watching acid rain pour from the sky & I suggest we go get umbrellas while everyone looks at me like I’m insane.