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My Journey Through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

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They say that hindsight is 20/20, that when we look back on experiences we can see them more clearly and understand them more fully.  Oftentimes this is the case.  But occasionally time can seem to only distance us from events while still leaving them fuzzy.

 
I don't know what I expected exactly when I brought my eldest home from the hospital after she was born.  I know I was excited about getting to use all my new baby gear.  I was excited about getting to cuddle her and photograph her and read to her.  But in terms of day to day life, I was pretty in the dark about how it would go as I think most of us are.
 
I remember exiting the hospital.  It was a lukewarm late May morning, and I had her totally bundled in all of the car seat winter gear.  The nurse tried to gently inform me that it might be overkill, but I kept it on her because I didn't want her to get a chill.
 
I hopped in the backseat next to her because that's how they did it on The Baby Story, so I figured that is what I should probably do as well.  I was panicked the whole time.  The car was jostling too much.  Her neck was at weird angles.  It was hard to see the rise and fall of her chest under all of those clothes.  But we made it into our driveway, and we opened the door to our home and our new life as a family of three.
 
The only word I have to describe those early days is intense.  Everything was heightened. The joy was intense.  The love was intense.  The confusion was intense. And the fear was intense.  In fact the fear was more than intense.  It was nearly overwhelming.
 
My biggest fear was that she would stop breathing.  I remember a therapist telling me years before that many new moms worry about their baby succumbing to SIDS, but he said they have to work hard to let things go because they can't control everything.  I didn't have kids then, so I just packed that idea away into the back of my mind, but now that I had a child, I started to consider it.  I couldn't make any sense of it though. How could I leave something like that to chance?  If being obsessive would keep her safe, then obsessed I would stay.
 
I wouldn't say for certain that I was experiencing postpartum OCD.  I think it was more severe postpartum depression and anxiety with a sprinkling of exacerbated OCD symptoms.  But I'm not a psychologist, and that surely doesn't seem like a diagnosis a psychologist would give.  Whatever you want to call it, the fear was unbearable.
 
I would stand over her bassinet and count her breaths repeatedly.  I had to count in even numbers.  And I would count 2 breaths.  And then 4.  And then 6. 56.  66.  86….  And every time I wanted to stop, I would think about how the next might be the last, and how if the worst did come about, I would berate myself for the rest of my life thinking, "if only I had counted a few breaths more."
 
But it wasn't just the breathing I was terrified of. It was every single decision I made for months on end.  I was sure that somehow I would find a way to mess this up.  I had been presented with the most amazing blessing of my life, and no matter what, I couldn't trust myself to be a good steward to that which I had been entrusted.   
 
Now, years later, after having found the right combination of medication, therapy, and grace, I relive those moments in my mind constantly.  Sometimes I feel regret that I let so much of that precious time be eaten away by fear and hopelessness.  But then I remember that it wasn't only my daughter who was born that late May day.  Her mom was born then too.  And just like the sensations of childbirth are pain, so too can be the sensations of mother birth.  
 
I'm fortunate that I live in a time when postpartum mood disorders are understood, and there are treatments available, and my hope is that when my daughters come to their childbearing years that not only will more be understood but that more will be accepted.  I pray constantly that the stigmas of mood disorders are broken down, but I'm trying to do more than just hope and pray.  And that's why I'm sharing this with you today.
 
Today is the National #DayofLight, a day when moms all over the country take to their computers to share their stories of postpartum struggles in the hopes that mothers in other parts of the country and other parts of the world read their words, hear their stories, and feel a little less alone in their own struggles.
 
One person can't make a difference in eradicating these struggles, but we can make a difference when we let people know they are not alone.  One mom, one story at a time.
 

 

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Amanda Knapp is a stay at home mom to her three little girls, ages five and under.  She writes about life and parenting on her blog, Indisposable Mama.

Comments (5)

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Thanks for sharing and encouraging more women to share their experiences with postpartum depression. Even though I expected and feared PPD since I had basically every risk factor, I feel like I'm dealing with it on my own and I don't feel like anyone knows how bad I am, mentally. I feel embarrassed to tell anyone. My experience (which I continue to write about) is Postpartum Depression: Feeling Bad for Feeling Bad.
SuzannasMom, thank you for sharing your story!  I saw a lot of myself in there.  I remember refusing to call it PPD.  It felt like I was dramatizing my situation.  Somehow I didn't think I "deserved" the title.  It wasn't until afterwards that I finally labeled it what it was.  
 
I think it's hard for us as moms to admit when we need help.  I was lucky that I was already in therapy before I gave birth, so I didn't have to make the decision.  But I can tell you that for me, treatment was key.  It helped so much to be able to talk to someone and get another perspective.  Plus, it was a small antidote to the isolation that can come with new motherhood.  And I took medications which was crucial for me.  
 
Once I made it through the other side, things got a lot easier quickly.  I always try to remind myself that I am modeling self care for my daughters.  That is what always convinces me to go back to help when I need it.
 
I wish you all the best, and I hope you find the peace and contentment you are looking for.
 
And thanks for reading!
Hello Amanda, I've just joined this site even though my daughters are 23 and 17 yrs. old. Mothering never ends.. I just want to again stress that if you have PPD, it is through *no* fault of your own. I have always been of the "suck it up" school (was taught that way), and even though mood disorders are prevalent in my family, I refused to even think about it. It was *three years* after the birth of my second daughter that I finally sought help. You are indeed blessed that you were seeing s.o. before giving birth. I an so glad that you are open and seeking help. It will indeed all be okay.
Oh, and BTW, the breathing thing... I became totally obsessed with that, to the point of not being able to sleep at all. So glad you are more proactive.
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