'postpartum anxiety and motherhood'
"How was your day?"
"I held the baby."
"I just held her."
"Just held the baby."
"I held the baby."
"Ok, mostly held the baby."
"Just held her."
I "just held the baby" for quite a long time.
It felt like that. Putting it simply, I was terrified that if I put her down or let anyone else near her something would happen. Something terrifying, something I wouldn't be able to help and would never forgive myself for.
"What if she stops breathing?"
"What if she doesn't wake up?"
"What if she falls or is dropped?"
"What if whoever is holding her is sick?"
So many "what ifs." So I just didn't put her down and I did my best not to have to engage with others either. I held her all day - while I was doing housework, cooking, photographing, making art. I held her all night - reading, watching films, and journaling to stay awake. I held her oftentimes foregoing sleep and eating because I was so afraid to put her down. I became distant with those I was closest with and became increasingly nervous about the prospects of others, even family, being near her. I held her through the entire summer and much of the autumn. I held her until I thought I might break from the stress of worrying so hard.
No one ever mentioned to me that postpartum might not fall on either side of the commonly touted divide - either blissfully perfect or an experience fighting postpartum depression. No one ever mentioned that other postpartum disorders can arise - ones with a variety of symptoms, that although they may not threaten your relationship with your newborn baby in the same manner, can take their toll on all other aspects of life. Although plenty of women suffer from other postpartum complications such as anxiety, OCD, and other mental health struggles and although I had to pass a screening before leaving the hospital to assess my postpartum depression risk, no one ever mentioned that postpartum does not always look the same.
Postpartum anxiety didn't look the same. I felt so bonded to my baby that initially I was hesitant to accept that my experience was anything but normal. All new moms worried about their babies, especially first time moms. I figured between moving, planning a wedding, and settling into my new roll as a mother I was reacting to these added stresses. But after months of "just holding the baby" I realized that there was more to these emotions and fears than everyday stress and worry. It took a lot to accept that there might be something else going on beneath the love and connection I felt with my daughter. It took courage and self confidence to tell myself that it was okay to have these feelings but it was also okay to accept help in moving past the anxiety.
Her website here.