Tragedy & Misery Intertwined: 9/11 And the Birth of My Postpartum OCD

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9/11 attacksToday, September 11th, is a very moving day for me. Among the remembrances of what happened in New York City, at the Pentagon and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I also remember the beginning of what became both a devastating experience and a true blessing in my life — my postpartum OCD.

Eight years ago today I was in the maternity ward at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, having just had my first baby, my beautiful Jackson, just a few days before. I was in the hospital nursery, visiting Jackson and checking on whether his bilirubin levels were low enough (he had jaundice) to allow him to be released that morning from the hospital. My husband walked in to the nursery to tell me that someone had attacked the Twin Towers in New York. I thought he was joking. As all of the hospital patients and staff and doctors came to realize what was happening, a strange buzz took over the hospital. New York, DC … no one knew if Atlanta, not much further down the Eastern seaboard, would be next.

I remember begging the nurses in the nursery to get hold of the pediatrician who would decide if my son could be released and get whatever approval we needed so we could get out of there. Threatening them that I was leaving and taking my baby with me, with or without their permission. I remember going back to my room to throw my things in a bag and seeing the second tower collapse on TV, while my husband was relaying that the first tower had already gone down. I remember bundling Jack up in his Piedmont Hospital onesie and a random blanket,with no time to dress him in the adorable “going home” outfit I’d so carefully picked out for him from Baby Gap as I had planned. The shirt from that outfit, never worn, featured, ironically, a little blue shirt with two airplanes doing loop-de-loops.

I remember my husband driving down Interstate 85 at 100 miles an hour to get us home, the center of Atlanta so surprisingly empty, as most everyone had already abandoned the city center by then. I remember in those first several weeks of his life, the songs I sang to Jack were “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” rather than “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Itsy, Bisty Spider”. I remember wondering what kind of world I had just brought my son into.

That experience, among other things, sowed the early seeds of my postpartum OCD, which unbeknownst to me would burst into my life with such cruelty just a few weeks later.

For so many reasons, I will never forget 9/11. God bless America.

Photo credit: © ExtravaganT – Fotolia

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. Thank you Katherine for sharing. I remember my OCD kicking in too, as I was postpartum with my youngest (we also had a 7.2 earthquake out here in Seattle when she was just 2 weeks old, compounding my anxiety).
    Today I'm counting our blessings on 9/11 as my sister was almost bumped from her flight to Los Angeles that day onto the hijacked plane that went down in Pennsylvania. My brother works for the Naval Reasearch labs near the Pentagon. We couldn't get a hold of either of them for hours, while we waited in terror. My heart continues to go out to all families on 9/11. Hug and kiss your family – tell them you love them. I will never forget. — Heidi Koss-Nobel

  2. Wow, that would knock the breath out of even the strongest mother alive! It made everyone so anxious and changed so many things. I can't imagine dealing with that after just having a baby!!
    My Aunt and Uncle work very near the twin towers. Everyone was very relieved (to put it mildly) when we finally heard from them hours after the collapses. They had to walk for hours to get home. Never forget what matters and to tell the people you love how you feel!

  3. As always, Katherine, your story is an inspiration, and your openness and example of true compassion–and bravery.
    Ironically, I remember sitting on the roof deck of a brownstone in Brooklyn, staring at the two beams of light shooting up into the sky, memorializing the fallen towers. Every night that week I would climb the stairs to the roof and stare at Lower Manhattan, hoping to feel something–anything–as long as it wasn't what I was used to feeling every minute of every day. It was 2005, my son was nine months old, and I was neck-deep in PPD.
    I'm okay now. You're okay now. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 9/11 is also an aniversary of sorts form me and my experience with PPD as well. It was not until I was well did I realize that my journey began with that fatefull day. I was pregnant with my 2nd child, my husband was a firefighter. He watched daily the coverage of the deaths and stories of fallen firefighters when I realized that those women on tv could so easily have been me. I endured months of intrusive thoughts of my husband not coming home from a day at the firehouse and could put myself on the tv screen as the mourning wife and mother. It is the pain that if I had known more about PPD while I was pregnant I could have gotten help earlier and my story could have been much different. While I feel blessed that no one in my family or dear friends lost their lives I do know that I lost my innosence that day. I pray for all those affected by that day.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I can't quite describe how your openness and perspective on the origins of your own story are a source of strength to me right now, but I needed to thank you.