I have a confession to make. It’s a bit hard for me to talk about. Not that I’m necessarily ashamed, but it seems like it’s always harder talking about the tough stuff. It’s much easier to show pictures of happy kids, a happy family, a cute project. The truth is, I’ve been dealing with postpartum anxiety.
I first noticed it one week after my little one was born. My husband and I were getting ready to take her to her one week doctor appointment. I suddenly felt like my insides were shaking or buzzing. I felt overwhelmed, like there were a ton of things that needed to get done, but I couldn’t organize my body to do any one of those things. My husband could tell something was wrong.
When he asked what was wrong, the floodgates opened.
What if we forget something?
What if she cries the whole way there?
What if there’s something wrong with her?
What if we get in a car accident?
What if we don’t like the doctor?
Ryan put his arms around me. His solid, calming presence what I needed. Can you control any of that? he asked. Of course I knew the answer. There it was, the root of my anxiety. Control. I wanted to control everything around me to keep my baby and my family safe.
But I know it’s impossible to do. When my nephew Declan died of SIDS on Valentine’s Day in 2012, it became apparent to us all that no matter how much control we think we have, bad things can and do happen. I know his death is also a major cause of my anxiety. The reason I periodically shake my baby’s arm while she sleeps, or tickle her feet while she’s in the carrier. And the reason I will probably sleep on the couch next to her in the swing until she is 6 months old. But, even then, I know it is really out of my control.
For the rest of the day Ryan stayed close. He held my hand the whole way to the doctor, squeezing tighter as the tears streamed down my cheeks. He rubbed my back as I broke down in the doctor’s office. And he knew better than to protest when I told him to drive through Starbucks on our way home.
There are still moments when my body feels unsettled, like my heart is beating out of my chest. But, with the help of Ryan’s quiet reassurance and support, many, many calls to my mom, and the strength of His word I am starting to feel much better. I know that postpartum anxiety is only temporary, and that it IS something I can control.