Will My Postpartum Anxiety Be as Bad This Time?

After giving birth to my first child, I knew I didn’t have postpartum depression. I’d seen a close friend go through it, and she was distraught: disconnected from her baby, borderline suicidal, and full of pain. That wasn’t how I felt at all. My tears were the happy, sloppy kind. I was brimming with joy and love, unlike anything that had come before. But I knew something wasn’t right because I was also in a panic. 

Though I didn’t find caring for my baby to be terribly difficult, I was overwhelmed by the notion of being responsible for this tiny person’s very life. Semi-logical fears about my baby smothering in the crib or drowning in the bath ballooned into irrational paranoia about her meeting graphic and unlikely horror movie fates. I shall not list them here because (a.) they’re crazy and (b.) I’d hate to provoke another mama’s anxiety with my crazy. But let’s just say my brain was endlessly creative, coming up with terrible new ways I could lose my baby. I think part of me believed that if I forced myself to think through every possibility, then I could prevent bad things from happening. If worrying is a sign of intelligence, as I read recently, then I must be a f*cking genius. 

When my apocalyptic visions didn’t go away, I eventually saw a psychiatrist. Actually, two. Both strongly encouraged me to consider going on medication, but I held off because I was nervous about talking meds while nursing (probably the anxiety talking). While there are antidepressants that are considered safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding, I just figured I’d try to wait until I was done. 

Then, miraculously, about two years into raising my daughter, my anxiety ebbed. This may have coincided with my perfect, precious baby blooming into a pain-in-the-ass toddler, and I thank her for that. I got much too busy picking up toys and repeating, “The food stays on the tray!” to spend so much time in my head.

Flash forward two more years. I’m now 8 months pregnant with my second. In many ways, this pregnancy has been easier than my first: no bed rest, no gestational diabetes, and a whole lot less to do and prepare.  I thought perhaps my good fortune would carry into the postpartum period and keep my anxiety at bay.  But just in the past few weeks, I feel it rearing its freaky head again.  I’ll have a waking nightmare about my daughter being ripped away by an ocean wave, or stolen from me “Taken” style. I recognize these feelings and fear there is something hormonal going on that will continue to stimulate my anxiety, just in time for baby #2.

And then what will I do?  If the stress is more than I can manage, I think I’d be willing to consider medication this time, or at least I’d see a doctor sooner. But maybe I’ll get lucky and my anxiety won’t get any worse. A girl can hope.

Photo: Getty