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When Does Postpartum Anxiety Stop Being Normal?

In a post earlier this week, I confessed my biggest fears since having Eli. Both while writing that post and while talking with some friends, I’ve been toiling with another worry: that my concerns represent a bigger issue.

I was very aware from the start that my history of depression and anxiety could predispose me to postpartum depression/anxiety, but after the hormone storm of the first few weeks, I was feeling pretty normal and any concerns about PPD faded away. That is until the past few weeks, but even then, I didn’t think the issue was run of the mill PPD because, well, I’m not depressed. During the day I am unbelievably happy. I have the most beautiful baby, I have a loving husband. My life is great.

It’s at night that I notice the struggles.

Nighttime is tough for two reasons. First, it’s when my mind wanders. It might be because it’s quiet or because during the day I’m better at shoving things out of my mind, but at night I struggle to turn my brain and worries off. I lay down to sleep, close my eyes and immediately start visualizing terrible things. My current nightly freak out is the image of me quickly looking back at the baby while driving and then turning around just in time to see us crashing into something. This sequence replays over and over in my mind while I lay still, listening to my baby breathe.

The other reason the night is an issue is because I notice that I’m becoming angry at night. My son is 3 months old and still wakes up to eat at least twice a night, no matter what. He cannot be soothed back to sleep and if you try to do so, or even if you give him a pacifier to try to get a few more precious moments of sleep, you are met with screaming. Hysterical, crazy loud screaming. I realize this is relatively normal since he’s a baby, but my internal reaction isn’t. I get angry.

There have been a few times where the screaming has made me mad enough that I had to set the baby down and walk away instead of finishing the diaper change. I would never hurt my son, but there are times in the middle of the night where I start to understand how a good mother without a good support system could end up hurting their kids. That is probably the worst thing I’ve ever written and I feel like a monster for it, but it’s the truth. There are nights where I get angry but by the time I go back to sleep the anger has melted into guilt and then I think, what if this is when my baby stops breathing? What if his last moments are filled with his mother being impatient and mad?

I just feel so blessed to have this beautiful baby and the idea of something happening to him completely devastates me and I don’t know how normal it is to not be able to not feel that way. I would imagine that all mothers worry about their kids, I just don’t know that every mother stays awake listening to her baby breathe. Or whether it’s normal to need your husband to check your baby while you’re driving and if you’re driving alone, poke the baby to feel him move.

I’m having a hard time seeing the line between normal and abnormal because this doesn’t feel like the anxiety I know. It doesn’t feel at all like depression. I don’t know how to label it, nor how to conquer it. I just know that I’m starting to get tired of carrying so much fear and guilt around with me all the time.

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