Becoming a mother was the best choice I ever made. We grew from a couple to having five children in less than two years. I have never regretted the choice to have kids.
When my anxiety and depression began to act up during pregnancy, I sought help from the midwives. They had me wait a few weeks(we were also struggling through a season of grief) and when it didn’t begin to lessen, I started on anti-depressants for the first time in a few years. It helped immensely and I thought I was out of the woods. I was ready for postpartum depression. If I knew what was coming…I would be ready for it! I prepared my mind for the possibility of not connecting with Bug. In case I ended up fatigued and exhausted by nothing except being, I knew what to do. I had experienced depression before, quite a few times.
What I wasn’t ready for was the obsessive compulsive behaviors my depression and anxiety would manifest as.
I was ready for all the signs I read about in the pamphlets; hopelessness, emptiness, an inability to bond, ect. I was not ready for severe anxiety and obsessive thoughts that would take over my mind.
I didn’t know that this was a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder. In my mind, OCD looked like what Adrian Monk had on Monk. I wasn’t obsessively washing dishes or my hands. I just assumed it was normal anxiety of being a mother.
Because didn’t every mother set alarms to wake up at least every hour and make sure their kids were still breathing?
Didn’t every mother have to pull over multiple times on a ten minute ride to make sure the baby was still breathing?
Every mother has thoughts and visions of horrific car accidents every time they got into the car, right? Didn’t every mother avoid public because of the possible terrorist attack in a town of 1300 people? Didn’t every mother plan exactly what they would do in any situation, from a meteor strike to a volcano…in Western Mass of course? And then obsessively consider every possible “What if?” that could follow that plan? And do all that instead of going out with friends, sleeping, eating?
That’s what people kept telling me. It was just “normal motherhood anxiety.”
When my therapist mentioned almost a year after starting she thought I could have a diagnosis of OCD that was heightened by hormones postpartum. I had always had the thoughts, but I just assumed they were a side effect for anxiety-what I had been diagnosed with for years. When we talked about it further, we found a few compulsive behaviors I also have that weren’t what I had pictured as OCD behaviors, thanks to the way it’s presented in movies and television shows.
We began to address those specific behaviors and thoughts and it slowly lessened. I’m not sure if it will ever leave completely, but I’m happy to report I no longer wander our home at night, listening for each person’s breath. And I usually only wake my poor husband up once a night now…just in case. (
We’re still working on the need to call multiple times to make sure he’s alive if I don’t hear from him.)
Postpartum mental health issues are very serious.
While I understand the well meaning advice that it’s “just baby blues” or “normal motherhood anxieties,” sometimes it’s simply not true. Between 10-20% of women will develop some form of PPD. This site is one of my favorites to look at when talking about the warning signs-as it says it’s written “in plain mama English.” It also includes the warning signs for postpartum anxiety or OCD. I encourage you to read through if you are a new mother, pregnant, or close to a new mother.
As I always end these mental health posts, if you or anyone you know is struggling with these symptoms or any mental health struggles, please contact a doctor and help them get(of get yourself) help. I first talked to my midwives about it and they put me in contact with a therapist. Treatment is available and you are definitely not the only person out there dealing with this.