My Horrible Postpartum Anxiety Scared The Baby Fever Out Of Me

102662497I was never one of those people who always wanted kids. In fact, it was not something I gave a lot of thought to. On that particular issue, I was a fence-sitter at most. However, once my partner and I decided we wanted to try for a baby, I was firmly in the two-or-more camp. Having had siblings growing up, I just could not imagine my own child not having the fun and fights that comes with having a brother or sister. And so I embarked on my child-bearing journey, with happy thoughts of lively dinner table discussions, and a backseat full of little ones.

I remember my pregnancy being a really blissful period. Ok, so I threw up pretty much every day for at least six months. Still, I was one of those glowing, happy pregnant ladies that you read about. In fact, my mood was so level that, for the first time in over six years, I was able to stop my anti-depressants without feeling it in the least.

Oh yes, did I mention that I suffered from depression before I got pregnant? Well, I did. It was not too severe, but just enough that I was on medication to keep me from dipping into that deadened, apathetic place. Being a research-oriented person, I had read quite a bit about depression and pregnancy, and I knew about the heightened risk of postpartum depression for those who had previously suffered from depression. I had talked with my partner about it extensively, and planned to resume my medication immediately after having my baby. I thought I was prepared. I was wrong.

The delivery of my baby was difficult, and breastfeeding afterwards was a bit of a nightmare. By the time I came home from the hospital I was exhausted and worried about my baby getting enough to eat. Is there any new mom who hasn’t gone through that? But that’s when my postpartum self  threw me a curve ball: postpartum anxiety. Depression I was prepared for, but this? This was something entirely different.

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  • meghancnyc

    Not a selfish decision at all, rather a brave and thoughtful choice, one only a truly loving parent would make. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this. I can’t tell you how absolutely vital it was for me to read about other’s experience with PPD and anxiety when I was going through this myself. You are helping someone out there today and you don’t even know it.

  • Zettai

    This decision is NOT selfish. You are doing it to protect your current family and the possible future one. Your kid will be fine without a brother or sister because they will have friends, cousins, nieces and nephews. I really applaud your decision.

  • anon

    Thank you for this. I also suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of my daughter. She is two years old now, and I often think about having another but the memory of that first year is still so fresh in my mind. I don’t want to go back there and put her or my husband, and myself through that again. Its refreshing to hear from another mom who is dealing with the same feelings of guilt for wanting an only child. But I see it as, have two kids that I am only semi-there for, or one happy healthy child and mother? I understand you completely!

  • jendra_berri

    Not selfish! Not one little bit. You owe your child exactly zero siblings. I mean, Jesus, you gave them life at great personal expense, and you sustain their lives and love them every day. You are under no obligation to reproduce more than you can handle for the imagined benefit of siblings.
    And it totally is an imagined benefit. For every good sib relationship out there, there’s a bad one. And there’s apathy, fall outs, rivalries, favouritism, bullying and all the rest. You’re not guaranteeing a lifelong friend, just another family member which may or may not enrich life and which may or may not ruin life. Total crapshoot.
    You have children out of a desire to have them and a knowledge you’re up for it, whatever may come. Barring those two things, screw it. Do what’s best for you. That’s your right.

    • carosaurusrex

      This! Totally agree. I think that wanting to give your child a sibling is a cruddy reason to get pregnant. You aren’t giving your older child a best friend, you’re having a kid and hoping that he or she gets along with your other kid as an adult. I have one sister and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t talk to her if it weren’t for my nephews and wanting to ensure their safety and well-being.

  • Kay_Sue

    It’s not selfish in the slightest. You’ve made a rational decision, comparing the potential outcomes for yourself, your partner, and your child. I’m sure you’ve also considered that hypothetical child too. Doing what’s right for your mental health isn’t selfish.

  • Kresaera

    I had severe PPD with my first baby. When my husband and I decided to try for another one, I talked to my doctor about it at my very first visit. My son isn’t my husband’s child, so he wanted one of his own, of course. My doc assured me that we would get my depression under control BEFORE I had the baby and I wouldn’t feel anything close to what I had before. I was leary of course, but I did as I was told, took my medicine and when I had my daughter, I was happy as a lark! It was completely different from when I had my son.

    I can relate to you. I’ve had the constant panic attacks, bad depression, and I couldn’t imagine having those panic attacks while taking care of a newborn.

  • Shannon

    I was diagnosed with postpartum depression a few months after my daughter was born. That was after I did my damnedest to convince myself I’d get better on my own. I guess I thought admitting I had a problem meant I was weak, which is nonsense.

    I feel like I had so much anxiety too. I had the debilitating intrusive thoughts where suddenly I would envision horrible things happening to my baby. I would cry for hours. My heart would race. I would feel so tight in my chest and I would get double vision. At night, I barely slept anyway ( my daughter had colic and reflux) but the times she did catnap (around the click, just bloody catnaps.. For like 4 months) I would lay awake and just stare at the ceiling and when I could hear her starting to wake, it was like lightning bolts sizzled through my veins. Like i could actually feel the panic seething through me. I would anxiously clean the house, pace for hours. Needing something to do.

    I breastfed for a month but had to stop because it took me a couple days to get a couple tablespoons out. I Know in my heart that if I kept pushing myself, I would have killed myself. But at least I had a sil that not so subtly informed me that I was letting down my baby by stopping breastfeeding.

    We are trying for #2 right now. I really want my daughter to have a sibling. But I tooootally don’t blame you. You are not selfish. I have to admit that part of me is terrified. Like I’m walking slowly in a huge field and there’s a huge bottomless pit in front of me, and it’s going to swallow me up. But it’s something I’ve got to face because I want her to have a sibling. I plan on telling my doctors that they might as well give me an IV drip of celexa as soon as #2 is born, lol. I just have to prepare myself as best as I can

  • ananomama

    As others have said, this is completely not selfish, and a choice that you should feel you can make. However, I hope that you have at least considered discussing these issues with your doctor. She may be able to give you information on medication to take during and after pregnancy to help you avoid similar symptoms if you decide you eventually want another child. The choice to have another child should be yours, but you should not have to feel like you a prisoner of your own mind.

  • Me

    I have a long history of depression. Your experience postpartum was almost identical to mine, right down to the loss of appetite (Looking back eating was one thing I could control). The anxiety, omg. It was debilitating. I also didn’t expect that. It is scary and I swore to my husband that we wouldn’t have any more kids until we moved closer to family. A move and few years later baby #2 came. I was ready for the onslaught of anxiety and depression and ready to call my doctor at the first big sign of trouble for some meds. It’s been 4 months and I feel fine and as normal as one can with a baby and preschooler. I hope that if you decide later to have another it will be better. Because I would never wish that hellish nightmare of postpartum anxiety on anyone.

  • Rachel Sea

    I think it’s very sensible. I’ve had acute anxiety and panic attacks, and it’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had, I thought I was losing my mind, and possibly dying.

    Only kids are not doomed to be lonely, that’s what friends are for. And you never get a guarantee that siblings will be close, my mom’s little sisters are twins, and they don’t even speak to one another. One is a liberal, lesbian, pagan, and the other is a right-wing Christian who is not shy about telling the world that her sister is going to hell unless she accepts Jesus as her personal savior.

    If someday you find yourself wanting a bigger family, maybe fostering or adoption will be right for you.

  • Larkin

    Definitely not a selfish decision. I have issues with anxiety and mild panic attacks already, and I’ve often wondered if having a biological child is the best path for me… knowing that it could potentially make that 100x worse. Thank you for sharing, and I’m so glad you’re through the woods, so to speak… there’s nothing wrong with choosing your health and well-being over the health and well-being of an imaginary future baby. Sounds like a very well thought out choice to me.

  • Melissa

    I had postpartum anxiety too (although not to the extent you describe) and can identify with much of what you went through, so thank you for posting this. I had never experienced anxiety or depression before having my daughter, and I passed the postpartum depression screening questionnaire at my 6 week appt. with flying colors. But that didn’t mean everything was A-OK for those first couple of months. Like clockwork I would start to get a knot in my stomach every afternoon, and then a sense of impending doom would take over and last through the evening. I couldn’t describe it or name what it was I was dreading, which made it feel impossible to talk to anyone about. I was exhausted most days, but never could relax enough to take naps. The anxiety subsided after I went back to work at the end of my maternity leave–being back in a more familiar routine helped a TON–and then disappeared by the time my daughter was about 4 months old. Now I’m expecting my second in a couple of months, and will definitely not suffer in silence this time around if that same anxiety returns.

  • Amanda

    So brave of you to share what you have been through! You are an inspiration. Talking about postpartum mood disorders is so important. Thanks, Alex!

  • Turtlegirl3

    I’m so glad that I’m starting to see postpartum anxiety being discussed. I suffered from anxiety attacks for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy and as much as I was hoping they would go away after I delivered they came back with a vengeance. I didn’t read hardly anything about pregnancy and anxiety from any of the popular books or websites and I read a lot! And when i was last in my OBGYN’s office I was reading an article that it’s apparently pretty common, but not really discussed. Everyone asks about depression, but not anxiety. I could barely get out of bed some days and I was terrified of so many crazy things. I couldn’t handle it getting dark at night, and I couldn’t read any news story about someone dying. Fortunately it went away after about 4 weeks and with the help of anti-anxiety drugs.
    But, I too question if I even want to get pregnant again because of how stressful it was. I gave up breastfeeding because the stress of it made it impossible to eat enough to keep myself alive, much less eat the additional calories required for BFing. It is a feeling I don’t know if I want to possibly endure again.

  • mom

    Thank you for sharing, depression and anxiety due to having children really needs more public attention. It took over 3 years for my depression to be bad enough that I knew I HAD to get help. I passed the PPD test no problem a after giving birth, I just thought I wasn’t really meant to be a mom, I hated being a mom. My poor child had 3 years of an ambivalent, irritable, easily pushed to rage, mom :-( now on meds and in therapy I’m getting socked with 3 years worth of anxiety at once. I was too numb to it before. Ah, how our hormones betray us!

    I too was on the fence, but once decided, assumed there would be two. We shall see.

  • Peneloope

    Oh my gosh. I had no idea this was something that happened! I’m so sorry you had to go through this, and I absolutely think you’re doing the right thing by prioritizing your mental health.

    I have been trying to get pregnant for 8 years. I’ve suffered from anxiety & panic attacks all my life, but I had never heard of postpartum anxiety. I have an appointment next week to meet with a fertility specialist to try, AGAIN, to get pregnant, but this article makes me want to research adoption again…

  • Cheryl

    Can you breastfeed/be pregnant when on anti anxiety/depression meds? I have bad anxiety now and my husband and I are TTC. I want to get on anxiety meds but I’m afraid I will just have to quit them once I get pregnant.

  • Justme

    I have also decided not to have any more children because of the PPD and anxiety/OCD I experienced after having my daughter. There are a myriad of other reasons as well, but what I kept coming back to were those miserable days and nights that I spent in that dreary, hopeless fog. I can’t go through that again, nor can I put my husband through it…and most importantly, my daughter deserves to have a sane, present and functioning mother. I can’t risk debilitating myself and potentially damaging my daughter’s childhood for something that I’m not sure we want or can afford.

  • J

    Thank you for this article, it’s something that needs to be discussed openly, as it’s so frightening when it happens to you.

    One thing I wanted to mention to the mums out there who have experienced post partum anxiety- sometimes it’s better the second time around. I had a truly awful first six months with my daughter- I was waking up throughout the night with panic attacks, could hardly eat and just generally felt scared out of my mind for months. I finally got help (medication and counselling) and started to feel close to normal again by the time she was about a year old. But right around that time, I found out I was pregnant again- not planned at all! It was so frightening- I was petrified that I would have the same experience. The day I found out I was pregnant again I broke down crying with my husband….I wasn’t sure I could go through it all again.

    But I am lucky to have an incredibly supportive husband and we made a plan together which included me going back onto medication right after the delivery and having the support of a counselor throughout the pregnancy. And I had a wonderful labour, delivery and post partum period. It was everything I had dreamed about before I got pregnant with my first. Even though I was tired, I was not scared, and I just felt so happy and in love with my little boy.

    I know this isn’t the case with everyone and I can totally understand if someone who experienced severe anxiety with their first baby doesn’t want risk having another. I don’t know what I would have chosen if I hadn’t gotten pregnant by surprise. But if you have had post partum anxiety and are considering trying for number two, take heart that it’s not always the same the second time around!

  • esuzanne

    I can completely understand your decision. I had a similar postpartum experience, and it was absolutely terrifying. I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach for 2 weeks (not even water! Thanks, IV clinic), I was so panicked that I had to remind myself to not hold my breath constantly, and I could not understand what the hell was happening to me. Holding a nursing newborn in one arm and a puke bucket in the other was so not awesome and definitely not how I imagined the first days of motherhood would be. I was lucky to have an amazing OB who helped sort me out quickly. I’m not sure I want to risk experiencing all that again. My husband feels the same.

  • Guest

    Thank you for sharing this honest account. PPD and anxiety are not talked about enough and so many feel like they are suffering alone.

  • Courtney Lynn

    You’re making a very smart choice. I HAVE to stop at 2 kids. I suffer from depression and mild anxiety anyway, but 2 kids in 2 years has raised my stress level through the roof! I can’t do it anymore. My son is now almost 2 and getting easier (even with the toddler tantrums) and I’m ready for my daughter to catch up, as cute as she is now. I just want to feel like me again.

  • Guest

    This topic definitely needs to be discussed more. Thanks for such an open, brave piece of writing. It will help parents all over who are experiencing the same issues.

  • Minnow

    Thank you so much for writing this. It could have been about me, it was so true to my own experiences, right down to the two hospital visits. While I’m so sorry that you had to go through that horror too it helps to know I am not alone in my experiences. Your daughter is so lucky to have a mother who cares so deeply about her.

  • journalgal2

    This is me, minus the medical care that, in hindsight, I should have sought. My daughter is four now and I just can’t wrap my head around being able to have a second child. I don’t think I can handle it. It makes me feel guilty, of course, that I’m depriving my girl of a sibling but I try and assure myself that it will be OK. The tough part for me is that my husband very badly wants a second child, and I just don’t feel I can do it. It’s a touchy point for us right now and I haven’t been able to discuss it in depth, because he won’t understand.

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