January 2016 was the month I found out I was pregnant with my first child. It was also the month that spun me into a tangled mess of crippling anxiety.
The pregnancy got pretty intense early on. I started feeling that morning sickness – all day. Weeks turned into months and I only could stomach instant oatmeal. I’m serious. I’d lay on the couch and watch videos about whales because I was too nauseous to move and even watching Joey make tomato sauce on Friends made me want to hurl. My husband ate a few tortilla chips one night and while I didn’t even see him, the crunching sound sent me into heaving over the living room couch. I dropped from around 190 to 160 by the first week of April.
I started to feel better, slowly, at least better enough where I was confident I wouldn’t throw up because of the overwhelming smell of an elderly woman’s perfume. Finally getting out of the house, I went to Walmart with husband, who had taken all grocery responsibilities since January. I made it through the entire trip, and then as we were checking out, I started to feel sweaty and sick.
I had a light blue jacket on because it was too cold without one, but too hot in Walmart since the furnaces didn’t kick off yet. That and the fact that I had lost so much weight in an unhealthy way, I was overheated and malnourished. I told hubby that I was going to sit down and wait for him because I felt dizzy. As I started to walk towards the Subway located within the store, my heart started racing. I could hear it in my ears, the pounding. With sweat sliding off my forehead, something was wrong with my vision, blackness started to creep in. Panic flooded me because I knew I was going to hit the floor, but I didn’t want to hurt myself. I mustered all of my strength and quickly found a seat in Subway. I knew people were staring, I’m sure I looked like a drug addict or something, but I didn’t care. My vision was still blurry and my ears were ringing. I couldn’t even get my mind to think about anything specific. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk.
Slowly, light came back to my eyes. Hubby was done checking out and found me, grasping my shoulder, asking me if I was okay. I couldn’t hear him. He sat down and my ear ringing subsided. I was able to take a deep breath and after a few minutes, we went home and I called the nurses line – who told me to eat more protein.
From then, I made sure to have food in my purse at all times. Cereal, cooked spaghetti in a sandwich baggy, chips, juice, etc.
But the damage was done and anxiety became the friend I didn’t invite to the party. With my health and my allergies, my anxiety used those weaknesses to scare me. I was in charge of this life. I was never afraid of death, even then, I wasn’t scared. I was scared of doing something that would kill the life inside of me. Every morsel of food I put in my mouth, I had to make sure it was safe. I called every food company to ask about their cross contamination. I would eat and read the ingredient list over and over. I limited my food to just what I knew was safe. I denied most cravings unless it was clear it was nut free.
I didn’t see the anxiety then, but I do now. I also didn’t see the postpartum depression, which I now know comes in many forms.
The anxiety about food disappeared the day I gave birth, but new feelings emerged. I couldn’t sleep. My newborn was a darling and hardly cried the first few days, and yet I was wide awake, heart racing and jumping at every sound. Everyone was a threat in my mind, when they’d walk in. I’d hear phantom cries and even when I begged for silence to sleep, even that kept me awake. I sobbed as my husband took care of baby for hours while I tried to rest, but laid awake.
This exhaustion didn’t help how disconnected I felt from my son. He was a stranger. I felt numb towards him. He was cute and yeah, I knew I loved him. But in my exhausted state, I remember staring at him, thinking “Would I miss you if you died?”. Though he was quiet, I thought that maybe by taking him back to the hospital and giving him to the nurses, I’d be able to sleep. Deep down I knew it was not the baby’s problem, so I pushed forward.
I prepared myself for the long nights, for the diaper changes, for the showerless weeks. I was ready to ask for help when I was desperate for it. I did not know about how horrible breastfeeding was – the swollen pain, the latch, the tongue tie, cluster feeding. I did not know that asking for help is complicated. Your friends and family can’t help you when your struggling internally.
My baby was easy to care for. Though he didn’t sleep, even as he got older, he hardly cried. He was easily soothed by milk and cuddles. Our home was clean. My husband was attentive and helped with all physical things except breastfeeding.
I feel like crying as I try to express what I was going through. It’s impossible to explain, but easy to relive. It took a long time for me to feel better – for the love of my son to blossom, and I didn’t get a decent night sleep for at least a year. Baby had started to sleep through the night around 11 months, but my mind couldn’t reach a deep sleep until well after that.
Just when I start to feel like my normal self, and gained back the weight I lost, my doctor asks me if I am considering trying again during my annual examination.
To relive what I went through, the thought scares me into tears. If I consider adoption or foster care, similar fear comes to mind. The first time, I went in blind. We got pregnant because of a biological urge and with little clue with what the future held, that was what we faced – or what I faced. Now that I’ve gone through it, why would I want to put myself through it again? I was blessed with one beautiful child. Do I really need more?
Thank you for all the support from this post. I want to help everyone understand that I didn’t even know I had PPD or pregnancy anxiety until I was in a car accident in September. I started attending therapy because I was nervous to get back in the car and I realized that I had anxiety about it – and then it dawned on me that I had suffered from anxiety during pregnancy. When doing research about this undiscussed pregnancy symptom, I was able to get my hands on information about PPD and realized that was probably what I dealt with as well. I don’t think this is a often talked about topic, which is why I wanted to share it with you all. I’ll hopefully share resources in a future post for fellow struggling mamas.