I wasn’t expecting to see you, nor your more elusive sidekick, O.C.D. – but alas, here we are. Considering the “Baby Blues” I suffered through during my first trimester, I was prepared for hormones to deliver a classic case of PPD following the birth of our Dear Otis. Instead, my postpartum infliction has taken a different face. For better or worse, you are here so we need to find a way to coexist.
Before we go any further I should disclose that I have filed a petition for your eviction. It comes in the form of 100mg of Zoloft daily and a spot on a waiting list to see a therapist. The end goal is for us to one day go our separate ways, but for now, let’s discuss how we have become entwined and the effect it has taken.
I always knew you were there, even before pregnancy. My imagination would wander to the point of irrational fears quite regularly. Fear of flying; fear of subways; fear of crowded places; fear of dying in general. You were annoying but I never let it limit me. I would see you there snickering in the corner as I popped an Ativan or made a mental note of where the emergency exits were at the Beyoncé concert.
Your cackle would subside and my life would continue as normal.
My best friend, Kristen, a trained therapist, always suggested I seek more lasting assistance in addressing your recurrence; however, therapy is only covered by our health plan up to a certain limit and it’s hard enough to see the dentist on time, let alone a stranger to discuss an ambiguous disorder that (until recently) only bothered me sometimes. I should have listened, though, because you only grew more obese as you nibbled at my fears and worries, snacked on my doubt and drank my hormonal irrationality.
Otis was born 5 week early. Scary.
His body went limp 7 days after we returned from the hospital. Scary.
Sick kids admitted us for a week, concerned about brain injuries and neurological problems. Scary.
We witnessed our newborn go through blood tests, ultrasounds, EEGs and MRIs. Scary.
The tests didn’t show anything obvious, but there were some noted spikes on the EEG and 4 small bleeds on the brain. Scary.
They sent us home and said “we will just have to wait and see”. Scary.
This was your fuel. This was your big feast before you reached full capacity in my life.
My husband saw you coming before I did. He told me my obsessive Googling and research was bad. He told me my frustration and over-analysis of our newborn’s behaviour was not helpful. Your presence was made apparent to me during several breakdowns, sometimes in my husband’s loving arms, sometimes alone as I examined our baby with the intensity and scrutiny of a hardened detective.
Reassurance from parents and friends that Otis was perfect triggered our dance. Compliments from strangers, “He’s so well behaved” just made you whisper in my ear even louder, “He’s not normal, there’s something wrong. Wait and see. You just have to wait and see”.
A fever pitch was reached on the night my husband demanded to know how bad you had become. I revealed that I regretted the choice to try for a baby and that I wished I had had an abortion when I had the chance.
I answered my husband’s questions honestly.
Yes; I had thought about hurting myself.
Yes; I had thought about hurting our baby.
They were thoughts that I knew I would never act on, but they were there.
Anxiety, you tickled his cheeks in that moment as I saw, for the first time, my husband look genuinely scared. You made it feel dangerous to love my new baby. You impacted our bond. You played on a loop in my head that he’s flawed and that he’s not what I wanted; that I shouldn’t risk loving something that’s potentially damaged, but that doesn’t make any sense.
You’re hurting my life and it’s impacting this new family’s grasp on normalcy.
You feel like that time our landlord died and we had to move, you feel like that time I overheard my ex cheating on me, you feel like that time my dad walked in on me with a guy, you feel like that time I was caught cheating on a test, you feel like that time I waited on blood test results, that time the police stopped us, that time our dog ran away, that time I thought I lost my wedding ring, that time I got my period at a funeral, that time my sleeve caught on fire at the cottage, that time a truck full of guys harassed me.
All of it, over and over again. Fuck off.
With all that being said, I should acknowledge something that Kristen explained to me.
You, Anxiety, exist in an effort to protect me. You put up my antenna to keep me safe. You create an illusion of perceived danger and risk so I can avoid disappointment, danger and disaster. You’re on overdrive.
Anxiety, please don’t change the course of my ship; rationality would be a much better captain. Sadly the brain gives priority to the loudest alarm bells, and right now, that is you. I see that your intentions are good, however you are not serving my life right now. You are hindering my ability to have peaceful moments with this chubby Otis cherub sleeping beside me.
So please leave, Postpartum Anxiety/O.C.D.. Be gone, evil spirit. Hit the road Jack. Jesus take the wheel? We’re going to try and talk this out in an hourly session, we’re going to try drugs and maybe even sage-burning – but what would be the best would be for you to listen to this quiet, humble acknowledgement of your presence and simply slip out the back door. For now, in this moment, it’s me, baby and you, getting through each day as best we can. Perhaps you could at least try to be less of a royal pain in the ass.
Erica Moore is an Interior Designer with a degree in Fine Arts and Literature. She is a wife, and mother to 2 dogs and 1 baby. She is also a very hilarious human being. Check out her blog and keep up with her on Instagram.
Featured Image by UK based collage artist Charlie Elms