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Letters of Light

Ashlee

Ashlee Henriebw

It has been nearly seven years since I have delivered a baby. I still remember the love and joy each one of my four children brought the day they were born. I never could have imagined the intense love I would have for each of my children. But along with that love came a deep and intense feeling of anxiety. I felt an overwhelming responsibility to protect each child from anything and everything, including a small cold. Anxiety kicked in with each pregnancy somewhere near the end of the first trimester.

After delivering my babies the intensity of the anxiety got increasingly worse. I stayed awake at night worrying about every sickness or sniffle that might be going around, and what would happen to my child if they contracted it. My mind would jump to an unrealistic scenario each time in my brain. Even though I knew in my rational mind the stories I made up in my mind weren’t true, I could not turn my brain off. I would wash my hands until my hands bleed trying to protect my children.

This anxiety started to control everything I did. It robbed me of a lot of peace and enjoyment during my children’s early years.

I hid so many of my fears from everyone around me. I did not want people to know the real reasons my hands were bleeding from washing. I didn’t want people to think less of me. Shortly after my third pregnancy I knew I was struggling worse than I had with previous children. I remember working up the nerve to ask my doctor for help. That was a scary day. My anxiety brought with it a huge fear of medication, especially while nursing. The doctor I went to gave me a prescription and sent me out the door. No follow up, appointment or call, Nothing! I was so discouraged

I spent many months enduring the debilitating fears in my head. The journey out of the hard times was difficult. With a lot of support from my husband and time my anxiety lightened. Usually this healing didn’t come until far after my child’s first year.

I didn’t realize until after Em passed postpartum disorders present in many different ways . I never knew anxiety and OCD was a part of the spectrum of postpartum depression. I was not educated on postpartum in any way. I can’t help but wonder how much more peace I could have had during those amazing years if I would have had more professional help.

Em’s struggle and fight has encouraged me to be more open with my own experiences. I also lost my mother after a long battle with depression. A depression that was magnified during her pregnancy with me. I realize now that change can’t come until we end the stigma! We need to let go of the fear that prevents us from reaching out for help. We need to speak up and not feel afraid of judgment. We need medical health care providers who are educated and committed to keeping our moms healthy so that we can in turn have healthy kids.