I wrote this to be shared with Momma Trauma. I'm not sure how much of it she'll use there, or in what form, and I know I get different readership here anyway so I wanted to share the story here as well. I just discovered MT's site last week as part of The Amethyst Network's networking. Momma Trauma addresses pregnancy and birth-related traumas of all sorts, from loss to traumatic births to postpartum psychoses.
Regular readers here will know that I
had been through several miscarriages prior to my first live birth. I
experienced a lot of depression during and after those, and credited it
to grief, although I knew that there could be chemical components to it
too. When I did realize I was going to carry to term with this one, I
was shocked to find that I was still depressed. I was depressed for most
of my pregnancy, in spite of being extremely excited that I was finally
going to have a baby. I anticipated that I might have postpartum
depression, and tried to have a support network in place just in case.
have a family background of depression, bipolar, anxiety attacks, and
even severe panic-induced breakdowns. But aside from the depression I
mentioned here, I had never experienced any of those things myself. I'd
never had an anxiety attack let alone chronic anxiety.
my baby was born, I was jubilant. Our circumstances were actually
really bad, my husband was working two jobs because we were broke, and
it was the middle of winter. But I was not depressed. I was delighted to
have a baby.
I was terrified of hurting him. I have eight younger siblings and had
been helping with babies for two decades before I had my own baby. I
knew how to handle diapers and baths and feedings and all those things,
and yet I still found myself feeling scared all the time. I was afraid
that he would stop breathing in his sleep. I was afraid that as I laid
him on the bed that his arm would twist under him and break as I set him
down. When I had him in the sling as I made dinner, I was afraid that
he would reach out and touch a pan or get cut on a knife or something
before I could prevent it. I was terrified that he would get badly hurt
and that it would be my fault. Not an accidental kind of fault, but a
totally preventable kind of fault. None of these were rational fears,
but they all ran around in my head on a daily basis.
never told anyone. I assumed that I was paranoid about this baby
because of the years of miscarriages and the waiting for him. Of course I
was hyper-protective of this baby! And I could tell that they were
irrational fears, so I didn't tell anyone because I felt stupid for
having them. By the time he was about 6 months old they went away.
years later I had a second baby. I had not had difficulty conceiving or
carrying him. The delivery had been straightforward and good. But I had
experienced pregnancy depression again, and I had the postpartum fears
again. This time I couldn't justify it to myself, because I didn't have
the same set of circumstances coming in. I had HAD a baby before and
everything had been fine with him. I couldn't think of why I would feel
paranoid this time around, but I did. And it was the same
things...stopping breathing, breaking his arm...knives in the kitchen...
real things did happen. Like when he was 3 months old but had gotten
strong enough that he kicked so hard that he tipped his bouncer over. He
had been on the floor and was scared but not hurt. I was not much
distressed by this, I comforted him, and just accepted that he had
gotten too big for the bouncer and didn't use it anymore. But I was
still scared that I would hurt him somehow.
Again, when he was a few months old it faded.
baby was two when I listened to a podcast where a woman talked about
having had postpartum anxiety. I had never even heard of such a thing.
Her case had been so serious that she was institutionalized for several
weeks (away from her baby). I was grateful that my anxiety was not that
severe, but I also felt so validated in my experiences. I wished I had
told someone. I wished I had known what it was. Now that I know (and
it's only been a year that I've known) I have started telling people.
Nobody should have to deal with this kind alone. It's scary and
unnerving and it would have been nice to know that I wasn't crazy.