I know a girl who dreamt of the perfect birth and looked forward to holding her baby in her arms. Things were out of her control though and nothing went to plan. She and her baby survived the ordeal of the labour but were left pained both physically and emotionally.
The girl suddenly felt anxious about everything. She would check her babies breathing every time he went to sleep and resist sleep herself so that she could make sure his breathing didn’t stop. Every time she left the house she would worry that she would be in a car crash and not be there to see her baby grow up.
She had awful images pop into her head about accidents that may happen to her baby and then couldn’t get them out of her head. She had terrible thoughts about harming her baby either accidently or deliberately and even hid knives at night for fear of what she may do in her sleep. She didn’t understand these thoughts as knew that she loved her baby more than anything in the world and would do anything to keep him safe.
She hated other people holding her baby as felt he had to be with her. The first few weeks when everyone wanted to cuddle him were unbearable as she had to put on a forced smile and allow everyone to have their turn. All she really wanted to do was run into another room with her baby and hide away from everyone.
She read and re-read the instructions on the box of formula that she gave him once a day to make up for her lack of breast milk to make sure she got it just right. She knew that it was crazy and the instructions hadn’t changed overnight but she couldn’t help herself.
She didn’t tell anyone about this, not her husband, not her family and not her friends. She lied on the post natal questionnaire for fear that her baby would be taken off of her if anyone found out how much she was struggling.
She didn’t understand her feelings as loved her baby more than anything in the world. She had heard about postnatal depression but knew she wasn’t depressed. She was overjoyed to have a healthy baby boy and didn’t feel depressed about it. So why did she feel anxious about everything? It just didn’t make sense.
In time the anxiety lessened but never went away. She fell pregnant again and was terrified that all of her anxious thoughts would return. Sure enough they did.
Her babies are older now. The anxiety has never gone away completely but it has got easier to manage. She now knows that it is simply that –anxiety. She won’t let it get the better of her.
I know what you are thinking now. You are thinking this girl is me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But the chances are, it will be a girl you know, you just don’t know it yet.
Statistics show that one in ten women suffer from postnatal depression but I struggled to find statistics for women suffering from postnatal anxiety. A lot more research needs to be done in this area as it is not the same as postnatal depression and should not be confused with it. It is often someone you least expect to get it. They are unlikely to tell you how they are feeling as they are so scared of the feelings themselves. If only they knew that they weren’t alone and simply telling someone their fears could make those fears lessen.
Maybe someone will read this and not feel so alone now……..maybe, just maybe, this will reach that one friend of yours who needs it.
Please share this so that someone who is struggling right now knows they are not alone and it is ok to talk about it.
You can find more information on the Anxiety UK website.