I remember the moment my sweet baby boy was placed in my arms for the first time. I had done this three times before, so I knew what a joy it was. However, this time I felt….different. I didn’t experience an overwhelming feeling of joy. I loved him, yes, but I felt off. Almost immediately, I had thoughts of “What if he gets sick? What if my other kids infect him with a disease? He can’t be immunized until he’s 2 months old! How am I going to keep him alive?” Thoughts raced through my mind about his well being, the what-ifs, and the potential things that could go wrong. I had not been overly concerned with my other babies, but now I was convinced that something terrible would happen.
The first day we took him home, I quickly took a family picture because there was a small voice in the back of my head that thought, “If he dies, you don’t want to take a chance at not having a family picture.” I smiled in that picture, but I was far from happy. As the first few weeks passed, I found myself crying multiple times a day. I stopped sleeping and would pace the house through all hours of the night. Hearing stories of illnesses sent my heart racing and panic through my body. When my own children would cough or sneeze, I would curl up in the fetal position, crying hysterically. I would hide in the shower, crying. I frequently disinfected the house for no reason. I scrubbed and washed my hands until they were raw, cracked, and bleeding. And sadly, I did the same to my children. I made them sanitize, wash, and compulsively asked them about their health.
Throughout this experience, I blamed my sweet boy. If he hadn’t been born, none of this would have happened to me. My inability to handle previously easy and mundane tasks made me realize I couldn’t live like this. I often thought that my husband and children would be better off without me, and I would beg God to heal me and then feel angry when my pain wasn’t magically fixed.
When my baby was about 9 weeks old, I finally drove myself to my doctor’s office. I walked in, crying, and told them I desperately needed immediate help. Thankfully, I saw a doctor who prescribed me an anti-depressant.
Unfortunately, I had waited so long to seek out help that my panic disorder was severe. Because anti-depressants take a few weeks to be effective, I still obsessed about illness and experienced despair, anxiety, and panic attacks.
When my baby was just over 2 months old, I had a panic attack that lasted over 10 hours. I didn’t sleep for over 24 hours, and I was threatening my own safety. My husband drove me to the hospital, where I was admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric ward. This was one of the scariest experiences of my life, but it saved me. I learned deep breathing, meditation, and other coping mechanisms to handle my anxiety. I was officially diagnosed with postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, and a panic disorder. Having a name for the monster I was fighting was a relief. It helped me feel like I suffered from a real thing that wasn’t my fault. With my team of doctors, we made a plan that I could follow to overcome the anxiety and pain I was feeling.
By the time my baby was 9 months old, I had overcome my despair. I was happy, smiling, and capable of being a mother again. He’s almost 4 years old now, and he is the light of my life. We have a strong bond because I really fought for myself and my family throughout this experience. I am still on medication, and I may always be on medication, but that’s okay. My body and mind are not the same as they were before this experience, but I am so thankful that I have medication and can be healed. There is hope and happiness ahead.