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Post Partum Anxiety

I thought I knew what postpartum depression felt like.  And maybe I did.

After my first little guy was born, my Husband reminds me that I felt awful–and I probably did.

But, what I do know is that nothing–absolutely nothing–prepared me for how I felt in June of last year.

My son, Asher, was born 4 weeks early in a fast and furious delivery.  He was beautiful, just like his two big brothers, except for his two silly little feet that would not pink up.  Nobody thought much of it, assuming they would follow on their own timeline just like he had that morning.

But, hours later, those two feet were still an angry plum color–like a storm in the black of the night.  There was something terribly wrong with our newest sweet boy.  In a whirlwind, words like “septic” and “shock” and “may not make it” swirled in the space between the neonatologist and my understanding.

He was so sick, but he got well.  That really is the very beginning of my story with postpartum anxiety, the ugly twin of postpartum depression.

Asher was transferred in the middle of the night via ambulance to a better equipped hospital.  I was left in an empty hospital room until I could be released in the morning.  Complete and visceral fear wracked my body, mind, and soul.  My body couldn’t contain the violent sobs that flowed without my control.

Somehow (grace and mercy, probably) I got through the 3 weeks Asher was in the hospital fighting an intense infection.  I feigned being a great mom to 3 boys for about another 2 weeks after that at home.  And then for some reason when the threat was gone, I fell apart.

I don’t even remember how it happened, but I began to live every single moment in utter fear.  I couldn’t carry a conversation with my husband because I was so preoccupied and consumed with irrational fears.  I was very fearful, in particular, that I was developing a quick and fatal illness…one that has no cure and no relief.  I can’t even name it here, because saying it still brings me great (yet still irrational) fear.

By the time it became apparent to my husband that I couldn’t care for myself, let alone he and our boys, I was in really bad shape.  Luckily, I had a drastic and steep decline–so he noticed and got me into a doctor and counselor immediately.  I’ll never forget the day we went into the doctor, I was so exhausted and despondent I couldn’t sit up long enough to be examined.  I just laid on the examination table and stared off, tears dripping onto the floor.  I had wanted to lay down in the waiting room beforehand, but my husband whispered that maybe it wasn’t socially acceptable. :)

At the doctor, I was prescribed some medication and then went to my first appointment with a counselor.  She thought that it would benefit me to have a whole weekend without having any parenting responsibilities.  I thought she was ridiculous.  That was not going to solve my problems–I thought my biggest problem was that I was developing this awful disease.

But, somehow my children were cared for–I’m sure my husband and family made it super fun for them.  I, in the meantime, started the medication and slept the majority of the weekend.  I didn’t feel like I could ever move off that couch.  I hoped I never had to.

Monday, though, I had to begin back towards real life.  It felt impossible.  I don’t know how I did it, but I know that I inched my way through the next two weeks with a lot of help from friends and family.  After about two weeks, the medication began to become effective.  I saw my first rays of sunshine since it all began.  My fears lessened to just below completely and horribly unbearable.  Within two weeks after that, I felt more like myself than not.

We went on a vacation at the end of the summer, and in my mind that is when I really became “me” again.  I remember distinctly thinking, “I feel good.”

I continued to see a counselor weekly through the summer until the holidays.  I still take a daily medication and see it as a complete gift from God, allowing me to think clearly enough to get to the root of the problem.  I’m sure I had a touch of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder along with Post Partum Anxiety, but it shocked me how vicious a foe the anxiety was.  I was looking out for feelings of depression and hopelessness.  I was completely blindsided by my feelings of utter fear and gripping and consuming anxiety.

If your postpartum mental health issues don’t look like textbook Post Partum Depression, please do not be afraid to talk with your doctor and explain how you are feeling.  The symptoms vary greatly, and the onset varies as well.



About Hayley

Born and raised in the cornfields of Indiana, Hayley (aka: The Tiny Twig) has very recently moved back to the Hoosier State. She and her husband have two preschool aged little boys, 23 months apart. They are mistaken for twins all the time, which she think adds to the charm of having two crazy boys! She tries to balance living a life of beauty with living a life of adventure, and is slowly realizing the two coincide more often than she thinks. Wanting to bring the profound, the excellent, and the glorious into even the mundane things we do everyday in life, Hayley can be found blogging at The Tiny Twig.

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    Hello, i just wanted to also thank you for sharing your story. I’m in the grips of exactly what you went through. I had two kids, never experienced any ppd. Then I had my third, a month early, went through nicu, I kept up. Went through first 6 months, everything was great, handling three small kids like a pro and then crash. I got ppa. For four long months I have been living in fear, constantly convinced I have a terminal illness. I get crazy symptoms, I have to battle with myself every day to convince myself I’m not dying. Its horrendous. I am grateful and inspired by others who have gone through this darkness and come out the other side. I’m working so hard to do this, but its such work and I haven’t tried medication yet…Thanks again for sharing. Erin

  • Bree

    Thank you for sharing! In hindsight I probably had elements of PPD with all 3 kids of mine. I can also say there are about 3-4 times in my first 10 years as an Army wife where I could have probably used some chemical help for depression. My children are now 7, 4, & 2 and 6 months ago I began to suffer from horrible anxiety/panic attacks. I do believe it’s partially hormone related. I believe I never quite “bounced back” from baby #3. I’m actually going to the Dr. on Wednesday to discuss chemical help. I feel relieved & actually excited when I think of getting meds to help because it means I can stop striving! For the past 6 months I’ve been trying to balance myself with nutrition & chiropractic care. While I believe nutrition has helped a great deal it’s now becoming more of a issue than a help. I’ve become almost afraid of food & what’s in it. I’m tired of struggling with the “I’m going to die at any second” and “every twinge and silly palpitation is clearly evidence that I have some horrible & fatal disease that all the dr.’s have missed” & “my children are going to lose me at any second” thoughts… I’m ready to be present again with my family & enjoy life… maybe really for the first time consistently. I knew I wasn’t alone in this crazy journey but it’s really good to read stories like yours to remind myself I am not alone. Thank you!

  • Sarah D’Imperio

    This is such a great post! a friend just introduced me to your blog, your family is gorgeous!
    I had to share, my son is 11 but I distinctly remember my post-partum anxiety and I have literally never met anyone who had this experience. lots of blues, but my feelings were panic and anxiety. I couldn’t lay down flat on my back or I was sure I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t eat, I worried constantly and had horrible insomnia. I would never want to be in that place again. Thank you for being open and honest. You may have made another new mom feel sane!! x Sarah in NYC.

  • Emily Kate

    I am so happy you shared this. When I try to describe what I went through after my daughter was born I often say “Oh I had the baby blues” to try and downplay what happened. But your description is so very similar to what I felt. It wasn’t just feeling sad and lonely, which I was, but crippling panic attacks that kept me awake at night, my heart racing. I didn’t even know they were panic attacks at the time. I thought I was going crazy. It scares me to think of having another baby for fear that I will feel that way again. But the wonderful thing about other people sharing their experiences is now I feel empowered to make preparations for the possibility and a plan of action (for my husband to help execute :) ) for if it does happen. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Clair Dickson

    I’m so glad to see anxiety being talked about along with depression! It is a dark and scary thing to go through. Thank you for sharing your experience in hopes that others will know they are not alone and there is hope to get through it.

  • staceywoods

    Love your heart, Hayley. I can’t imagine what you went through and the pain you must have felt. It know that having a newborn who is so very sick was more than enough to bear, on its own. Thank goodness for that grace and mercy, and that you’re feeling more like yourself again!

    I went through major anxiety the first time around, when Parker was born. I was afraid something terrible would happen to him. Gripping panic, sleepless nights… it’s all-consuming, just as you said.

    Thank you for telling your story here. We’re so grateful for your bravery and willingness to help other women heal as well. xo

  • Juliann Munson

    I did not experience ppd, but I did have PTSD after my husband was in a serious go-cart accident. I seriously became crazy with fear and worry that my husband was going to die everyday from something. Every time he left the house I thought I would never see him again. I knew I was in trouble when in a college class where we were talking about depression I began balling and cried/sobbed to the class about my experience with my husband. Just crying to my class and that actual class made me realize I needed help and things dramatically turned around from that day on. Thank goodness I was in that class at the time otherwise I probably wouldnt have realized something was wrong with me.

  • Jennifer Campbell

    Hayley, you dear, sweet lady: thank you, thank you, AGAIN, for being so honest and open about yourself, and making me feel like I’m not the only crazy person who can’t stop crying long enough to get my kid a cup of chocolate milk some days.

  • Brianna Carlisle

    Hayley thank you so much for sharing your story! I was already a fan of your blog but now I’m even more inspired by you and your transparency. ~Bri~

  • Jessica Sliman

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of courage :)

  • Sian Robinson

    I experienced something very similar actually and I’ve never read about anybody else having the same thing. When I read your post I gasped, that’s just like me! About 3 weeks after giving birth to my second child my best friends brother committed suicide. I was heart broken for this family I loved so much and shocked that someone I knew and had spoken to not long before was gone. My little one Lucas also had blue feet and a racing heart rate which seemed to sort itself out but i was terrified he had some heart condition and I would loose him. I was of course sleep deprived and hormonal but I think the shock of these things tipped me over into a different place. I became so afraid. Afraid I would loose my boys somehow. Convinced I was going get a terminal illness and my boys would loose me. Even when baby was asleep I couldn’t sleep and I felt in a constant state of heightened anxiety. It felt like my mind was torturing me with images of my children hurt, ill or worse. It came to a head when a salesman who didn’t speak English very well knocked at the door. He was asking lots of questions esp about my children. After I shut the door I was convinced he was going to try and steal my children. With hindsight I think he was probably flirting lol. That’s when I went to the doctor who sent me for counselling. Things got much better. I look back now and I can see what happened and why. It was comforting to read that I’m not alone in how I felt.