After the birth of my second child in October 2014 I suffered from postpartum anxiety. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression but I think they need to have a separate diagnosis for postpartum anxiety because that is what I had. It was overwhelming, all consuming, knock me to the ground crying anxiety.
A few weeks before I was due I started to feel very anxious. I was a stay at home mom to a 2 year old. I didn’t like that I was solely in charge of her during the day when I could possibly go into labor. I had a pretty easy first delivery. I didn’t have a traumatic experience that would leave me feeling anxious about doing this again. Things went smooth the first time so I should have been okay but I wasn’t. I didn’t like being alone. My daughter didn’t count. I felt I needed an adult around. My mom was good about coming over but I would get anxious when she would leave.
I thought about what would happen to my daughter when I went into labor? Of course I had catastrophized that I would go into labor suddenly and need to be rushed to the hospital. I was physically and mentally uncomfortable. I kept thinking I would be okay as soon as I delivered him.
But I wasn’t…
Far from okay I was struggling from overwhelming anxiety the moment I entered the delivery room. I assume most women feel some anxiety as they enter the delivery room knowing that shit is about to get real. I remember having anxiety when I was admitted to the hospital with my daughter but this was different. Maybe the first time it was all so surreal because I never did it before and I was able to go in with denial and block out what was really happening but this time I couldn’t.
I made the mistake of asking for a strong epidural because the one I had with my daughter wasn’t strong enough. I had the “ring of fire” sensation after every push. Basically I had the pleasure of feeling my vagina tear to my asshole. It wasn’t fun. This time when the anesthesiologist entered the room I said, “give me the good shit. I don’t want to feel anything for a few days.” Unfortunately, he listened to my crazy ass. This time I didn’t do so well with it and I felt very nauseous and out of it. This is how I feel when I am anxious, so I think it triggered the panic button in my brain and I had to fight my anxiety during the whole 11 hours of labor.
Then I delivered a beautiful, perfect and healthy baby boy so I should be good now right??? No, it was still awful. I remember getting to my recovery room around 1 am and the nurses immediately bombarded me with questions and test. I just wanted to shout, “I think I’m about to lose my shit here”. I wanted to ask for Xanax but I was too embarrassed. I didn’t want them to know how crazy I felt. I didn’t want them thinking I was a shitty mom. I also knew if I popped a Xanax I couldn’t nurse my baby and I wanted to nurse him. So I suffered in silence. I told my husband and he was reassuring and told me I would feel okay when I got some sleep.
But I didn’t.
I delivered at 11pm and at 2pm the next day I still couldn’t walk thanks to my super drugs from the anesthesiologist. I didn’t like feeling trapped. I didn’t like feeling like I couldn’t get up and get the hell out of there if I wanted to. That morning my lovely husband offered to get me my “last meal” of McDonalds pancakes. To be specific its the big breakfast with hotcakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, hash brown, buttermilk biscuit and OJ. This is my “last meal” because it is what I would order if I were an hour away from being strapped to the electric chair. Anyways, he went to get me this and I had a full blown panic attack in the hospital room. I called him as he was getting in his car in the parking lot and I begged him to come back. He did and after that I wouldn’t let him leave my hospital room expect for one time to meet the pizza delivery guy in the lobby and I almost had a panic attack then. I thought I would feel better when I got out of the hospital.
But I didn’t.
The first night home I thought I was going insane. I thought I was hearing noises outside and that something bad was about to happen. My husband wanted to go to the grocery store 5 minutes away and I freaked out that he couldn’t leave. I had so much anxiety I wanted to jump out of my own skin. If I could go back in time I would give myself a hug and shove a Xanax in my mouth. I had never felt like this before. I was a mess. I was so scared. I felt like my world was falling down around me. I didn’t think I would ever feel normal again. I felt constantly on edge. I was just waiting for a big panic attack to hit me and send me to a mental hospital. I didn’t think I could go back to the person that I was. My husband was off work for a week and I thought I had a week to get my shit together. I didn’t let him leave my side for a week. His last day off he took my daughter to a park 5 minutes away and I thought I was going to have a panic attack being home alone with the baby. I thought I would feel okay by the time he went back to work.
But I didn’t.
The night before he went back to work my parents stopped over to see the baby. I broke down crying and let them know I couldn’t be alone. My mom promised me she would come over every day and stay from the time Steve left until he got home. I felt relief but I also felt guilt for how much my anxiety was impacting everyone. The next day I called my doctor and got an appointment that day. I got on Zoloft. I was still nursing and this is what they recommend you take while nursing. I also made an appointment with a shrink and got an appointment that week. I loved my shrink and I started seeing her two times a week. I didn’t mess around. I knew I needed help and I got it. I cried in those first therapy sessions and I didn’t think I could ever beat this and be okay again.
But I did.
For the next month my mom came every day Steve was at work but slowly over time she started coming a little later or leaving a little earlier. After a month I felt so guilty about taking all my moms time that I decided to take Xanax. It was great. It was what I needed to get through the day alone and not need my mom. It helped me build my confidence and in a month I was able to stop taking the Xanax. I wish I had used it earlier. I pumped and dumped the whole month and then I went back to giving him breastmilk after I stopped taking the xanax. I regret the decision to not take the Xanax earlier. I even regret the decision to pump and dump for a month. I ended up pumping for 6 months. Looking back it wasn’t worth all the stress on me. My sanity is worth a hell of a lot more than rolling the dice on if my breastmilk will give my son a few extra points on his IQ score or a few less colds as a toddler.
I remember when I finally felt normal again. I went out to dinner with my girlfriends 2 1/2 months after I gave birth. We were out at a Mexican restaurant for a friends birthday. I was nervous as hell driving there. It took all I had to get my ass out of the car and walk into the restaurant. The birthday dinner was for my friend who recently lost her mother to cancer. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have mustered the strength to get there. But once I was there and around my friends I laughed and gossiped and I had a lot of fun. At one point I stopped and thought to myself how lucky I was to be back in this place were I could really enjoy my friends and a dinner out and not feel like I was on the verge of losing my shit.