I waited and watched, aware all to well of where depression can take you as you navigate the journey of mothering a new child. Would I lose interest in cooking? Would I lose interest in reading? Would I just sit and stare, paralyzed, just sure I was doing it all wrong? Would I fall down into that dark place again where it felt like there was no hope and nothing beautiful. No. I watched and waited and it didn’t come. 

I kept reading. I kept cooking. I kept tuning into the news of the world with interest and understanding. I kept moving and doing and the depression never came. In fact I’m happier than I’ve been in months. In some moments incandescently happy. Glowing in the smiles and smells of my baby. 

Except sometimes I can see something crushing the baby’s head. Sometimes I worry that something might impale his soft spot. What if he suffocates in the night? What if I leave the house and there’s a fire that kills them when I’m gone? What if they go somewhere without me and are crushed in a car wreck? What if I get cancer? What if he gets cancer? What if what I’m eating is hurting him? What if this is toxic and it gets in his skin and hurts him and I don’t know until it’s too late? I pray every night that he won’t die and I turn over and check compulsively to see that he’s breathing. Again and again and again. Constant.

But still, no paralysis. Surely these thoughts aren’t true Postpartum Anxiety because I’m still going. I’m reading. I’m cooking. I’m interested in the world. There is no depression. I’m happy, even. And once I can get more sleep I’ll be OK. And once I settle into a routine of working and being a mom things will be fine.

Except sometimes I’m angry. Viscerally vibrating with anger so strong I feel I might break something. Angry that people aren’t helping me, angry that he’s doing it wrong, again. Angry at being so alone. Angry that I asked for help and they said no. I wasn’t meant to do this alone, don’t they see that?

But still anger isn’t paralysis. I must be OK. I’m cooking, reading, interested in the world. I will be OK. 

Until the move. I’d pushed off preparing until the last moment, telling myself that it was because Nathan and I couldn’t function with our home in upheaval, which is true. I put off the inevitable for as long as possible. 

Until people show up unexpected to pack our house. And I was too sick to help. The baby, sick as well, needs to nurse and be held and I have sit there and let people dig amongst my things, boxing them at will and seeing beneath the public surface of my home to my sacred space, dismantling it before my eyes. I have to leave my home for others to pack and live homeless with my boys while my things are in boxes. And it’s not about the things, but they are the catalyst. Losing my nest launches me out into a place I do not recognize. And suddenly it’s not OK. I realize after its begun that I’m paralyzed. It feels like a fog that gets thicker and darker. I can’t see more than what’s in front of me. And then I can’t see anything. Panic. I need to do something and I can’t figure out what to do.

I shake my head back and forth, hands rubbing my face, tearing at my hair. He tries to talk to me so I put my hands over my ears and rock back and forth, shaking my head, listening to the white noise of hands rubbed against ears. Rock. Rock. Rock. Don’t think. Can’t think. Need to think. 

And it happens again on the kitchen floor. And it happens again on the closet floor. And it happens again sitting in bed, this time holding the baby like a lifeline, grounding me to reality, needing me to be more than this shattered pile of nerves that can’t think. Panic attack after panic attack. Every day feeling the anxiety thrumming knowing that something will send me over the edge. And the edge feels so close all the time and so high up and I dread it.

Alone with the boys just being Mommy I’m at my best. They need me and I’ll do anything to protect them from feeling that they can’t be needy because I’m too needy.  But add in any other relationship, any other task, and all bets are off. 

It is now I realize my markers were all wrong. I can read and be anxious. I can cook and be anxious. I can be interested in the world and be anxious. I can be happy and be anxious. Postpartum Anxiety is a beast I hadn’t reckoned with and wasn’t watching for so it found me unawares.

So now I know and the journey begins. 

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