Six and a half years ago, I was a first-time mom who’d just endured a hellish pregnancy – blood clots in the uterus, broken water at 19 weeks, hospitalized bed rest, and a premature birth at 28 weeks. My daughter came home from the NICU after 68 days, and my life was consumed with parenting a preemie with additional health needs while also maintaining a demanding full-time job.
Throughout my pregnancy and daughter’s hospitalization, I constantly heard “You’re doing so amazing!” and “Your positive attitude is inspiring!” It was really just an act – I was pushing myself through it, focusing on my daughter and getting her here safely and out of the NICU. But after my daughter came home, the adrenaline wore off. I started to feel very overwhelmed, but I thought expressing that would be a slap in the face to every NICU parent who didn’t get to bring their baby home.
I felt myself sinking, but I made lots of excuses. Bed rest was hard. The NICU was hard. My daughter had repeat hospitalizations. I stopped eating. The anxiety took over. I kept my jaw clenched all day long, so tightly that I cracked several teeth. I started sitting on the floor of my daughter’s bedroom all night because I was too afraid something bad would happen if I slept. I had daily panic attacks. I couldn’t stand living like that, but couldn’t see a way out.
Then the fantasizing started, the same one over and over: a car accident on my way to work. I’d be hurt enough to require hospitalization. In the hospital, I’d get to sleep and be quiet, and I wouldn’t clench my jaw to the point of extreme pain. I wouldn’t have to go to work, or take a shower, or sit in traffic. My husband would take care of my daughter, my job would pay me sick time. I would just get to lay there.
When I started actually calculating how fast I’d have to be driving to achieve this scenario, something inside me finally said, “Help. I need help.”
I went to see my doctor, and when I walked into her office she sat me down, handed me tissues, and just looked at me. I started crying, telling her everything I’d been trying not to feel. About how hard it was to get out of bed. About my cracked teeth. About wanting to crash my car. About not eating, and not feeling right, and how I just wanted to be myself again. She listened to me, and when I was done she said, “I’m sorry you’ve been suffering. You deserve better than this.”
She was right. And New Mom, you deserve better than this, too. If your baby had a rough start to life, you don’t have to think, “This is a small price to pay.” It’s a huge price to pay. You don’t have to live like this. Anti-anxiety medication is what worked for me, but everyone is different. Every experience is different. After my second daughter was born, therapy played a huge part in keeping my anxiety under control. Don’t be afraid to try everything you can to feel better. Your baby wants a mother who is healthy.
On this Mother’s Day, take the first step to being happy. You deserve it.
Heather Spohr is a writer and philanthropist who blogs at the award-winning siteThe Spohrs Are Multiplying. She’s a nationally recognized fundraiser for the March of Dimes and president and co-founder of Friends of Maddie, a charitable organization that supports the families of critically ill babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. She has spoken at numerous conferences, on CNN and before members of Congress.
Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on all things related to emotional health around pregnancy & childbirth, is a service of Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of postpartum depression and similar illnesses. Please consider making a donation today, Mother’s Day, so we can continue and expand our work supporting maternal mental health. Thank you!