Super vulnerable moments ahead. Proceed with caution.
After giving birth, so many people checked in on me. My people are wonderful. My body went thru hell and my mind was there for it all; it’s only expected that folks would wanna make sure I’m ok. A few people even asked “Paula, are you experiencing any postpartum depression?” The audacity of them! To so boldly ask what I was avoiding discussing! And I answered “Nope, I’m not….” Which was technically true but I was secretly afraid I had lost my goddamn mind.
In my defense, taking care of a human is hard enough without having to discuss all that’s happening in my head. I would remind myself that I signed up for this but I had no idea what my mind and body was capable of when put under pressure. With all my previous experience, research, and over analytical thinking, nothing could have prepared me for this. In full disclosure, I’ve dealt with a form of PPD (postpartum depression) before with my oldest child. After his death and technically still in the postpartum phase, I suffered depression.
However, what I was experiencing with this after birth falls under PPA: Postpartum Anxiety. It’s defined as “a person [who] experiences excessive anxiety during the postpartum period, which is the period following childbirth. It can become so severe that it may interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday tasks.”
I didn’t know PPA was a thing until I realized that all of my anxiety was directly related to fears about my son’s life. After loss, it’s only natural that a new mother would have worries but I wasn’t sure if my worry was normal. I felt like I was losing it. My anxiety was compulsive, debilitating, and strange. At every turn, my brain was envisioning scenarios that I couldn’t convince myself were unreal: alien attacks, vampire break-ins, zombies invading. I know it’s wild but I couldn’t shake it. Sometimes, in these sorta day-dreams, I’m a total badass who saves my husband and son from the zombies who broke into our house. Other times, I’m left crying real life tears as I think about having sacrificed myself to alien probing so my son doesn’t have to. Or worse, I fail to save them at all.
Other times, the panic is more realistic and tied to something I’m doing at the moment. Like a car accident while driving on the highway, or falling down the stairs with my son in my arms, or him choking on something he wasn’t supposed to have because I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve envisioned it all so much and too many times to count. Each time, it’s just as scary and very traumatic. Early on, I found myself unable to leave the house concerned about what dangers awaited us. Even now, I check my surroundings for any sign of danger or double check things that had already been triple checked.
Recently, Khaleef was in the hospital for a fever that wouldn’t come down. I held my breath for days. Outwardly, I was being brave but inside I panicked. I thought about every worst case scenario. The worst one’s end with me ending my own life because I wasn’t able to live with the pain of life without my son. So when I’m asked if I had thoughts about hurting myself…. It’s complicated.
My mom once mentioned that it never fully goes away, the anxiety. The world is full of dangers and we can’t protect our kids from it all. We can however equip them to avoid danger, make good choices, and pray they always check when they say they will. I’m a long way from most of that but still in the thick of being way too worried almost every day. I’ll probably have to see a therapist again.
In the meantime, I am thankful for the people who I can talk to about it with. The people who listen, ask, and offer relief . And now you know. If you ask me though, “Hey Paula, you got PPD?” I’ll probably say ” No.” So ask me again.
Edited for clarity on 2/18/22
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