The Two Scariest Moments of Her Postpartum OCD

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Today is part 2 of Becky’s story of struggling with severe postpartum OCD, in which she shares the two scariest moments for her during that experience. (Please note: If you are currently vulnerable, you may want to skip this story because sometimes reading about other people’s intrusive thoughts can cause you to have them.)

I was alone with my mom and my baby girl Hannah, spending an extra night at the lake house. I had been feeling the anxiety and fear rising within me all day long, but tried to suppress and ignore it. It was bath time, and I was sitting by the tub watching Hannah happily splash around and play with her bath toys. The thought just popped into my head out of nowhere. She was so small, vulnerable, and weak against my adult strength, it would be so easy to just push her under the water. I immediately began to panic, unplugged the drain, yanked Hannah out of the tub and screamed for my mom to help me. It was only then that I told her what I was going through.

For the remainder of that week, Hannah and I stayed with my mom and I searched for support groups to help me. When I called the birth center at the hospital where Hannah was born, I explained what I was feeling only to be met with the opinion of a misinformed staff member who told me over the phone that I was experiencing postpartum psychosis, a mental illness that is completely different from postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD. I couldn’t believe that this woman was so unaware and so uneducated about the various forms of mood and anxiety disorders that women face after giving birth. As you can imagine, this only heightened my anxiety and made things worse. I thought, “Maybe Hannah really is in danger.”

The second time that my anxiety reached a peak was during a weekend in the Adirondacks at my in-laws’ summer cabin a few weeks later. I had tried everything to ease my anxiety that morning. I went kayaking, swam in the cool and calming lake, took my dogs for a fast paced walk, but nothing worked. I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack all morning, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

It was time to get Hannah dressed, and my husband left the room for no more than ten seconds to grab a clean diaper. Here was my precious, beautiful baby, crawling toward me with a huge smile. I began to shake again thinking of my sheer physical power over her. She was so dependent and vulnerable. ” I could never act out on the thought, right?” is what I was thinking. With a trembling hand, I tested myself. I actually put my hand on my daughter’s head to see if I had it in me to push it into the pillows. I know I sound like a monster. It’s totally irrational, and of course, I couldn’t do it. Feeling like a criminal and absolutely terrified, I immediately told my mother-in-law and husband what had happened and insisted that I needed to go to the emergency room because my anxiety had just taken over, and I was worried for the safety of my child.

Reluctantly, my husband drove me the nearest hospital. I say reluctantly because he was worried about what would happen when I told the ER doctors what happened. Would Hannah be taken away? Would I have to be admitted to a mental hospital? Would I lose my job as a teacher? The truth is, I didn’t care. All I could focus on was making sure my daughter was safe, and getting the help I needed. If I had to be away from my baby for a bit in order to ensure these things, I was willing.

Thank goodness I was able to speak with a psychiatrist who assured me that I was not psychotic, I was not going to hurt my child, and that I just had acute anxiety paired with postpartum OCD that was making these irrational and horrible intrusive thoughts play over and over again in my head. When you can’t fight the thoughts off, they become real to the person experiencing them. They terrorize mothers into believeing that because they have the thoughts, they must want to do these things, when in fact it is just the opposite. He described postpartum OCD as a mother’s natural instinct to protect her child gone haywire. He explained that postpartum mothers who hurt their children are not frightened by their thought and/or are delusional. I left feeling much better. He got me on the right meds and referred me to a great therapist and psychiatrist, both of whom I still see today.

I was able to conquer my anxiety with therapy, medicine, and good exercise. I also reached a point where I could fully enjoy my baby, but it really did take time and patience even though I wanted to feel better immediately.

I wish I had known how common this is among new moms. I felt very alone, and truly began to question who I was as a person deep down. I’ve never been violent. I love animals and children, am empathetic, and love my family and friends to no end. I would have never ever imagined that this could happen to me. I learned that the thoughts were not there because I wanted them to happen or even worse, that they were going to happen.

I’ve been great for many months now, with only the occassional intrusive thought that I can shake off pretty easily.

I will not deny that I still have some bad days, even weeks, but learning that I am not alone, that my thoughts and fears are not uncommon, and that I can find support from other women who’ve had postpartum OCD like me has made all the difference.

~ Becky G., Syracuse, NY

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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 for sharing, Becky. I had similar intrusive thoughts and never realized (actually, never believed) that there is a difference between the intrusive thoughts and actual follow through. I kind of put myself in a different category than women who had ‘just’ intrusive thoughts, because like you I put my hand out more than once just to see. But of course I didn’t actually follow through; I used to think it was just luck but after reading your story maybe I have to rethink that. Maybe I’m not so evil after all? I’m grateful you reached out and shared your story, because it is helping me work through the memories of mine.
    Thank you for being brave!

  2. Praise God for these women who can come forward with their stories and for this website. I have been battling PP Anxiety/OCD for the past 3 years. As of a few weeks ago I just realized I wasnt alone and that this is very common. I havent seen a counselor;fearful of what they may say. Struggling alone for this long has been my own personal hell. Thanks to this website I have taken the steps to get better. You have no idea what a blessing this has been to me and others. I wish I could give you the biggest hug!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know all to well what it feels like to feel like a monster. This is my second time going through PP OCD. The first time it lifted when my daughter was 18 months. But this time it has last much longer my son will be three in May and it’s still going on:(. Unlike you I have not found any meds that work and I am still trying to find a therapist that can really help me. I have however educated myself on the condition I have found that to help some. I hope that one day I will be free again of this horrible disease. And that I can take all the pain that is has caused me and help other women. I do have a question for other suffers out their for me the hardest part is dealing with all the self induced guilty. What has helped you to move past this?

    • Heather; I can totally relate. It has taken me a long time to cope with the guilt, which fed my anxiety like meat to a tiger. Anne Lamott says “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past,” and I think forgiving myself was a long journey of accepting that PPA/OCD happened to me and was now a part of my story. I had a hard time integrating all that happened into my sense of identity. I felt raging guilt. Slowly accepting that I can’t change it, learning more about how different aspects (like intrusive thoughts) are normal for this illness and NOT my fault, and turning it into good (by helping others with PPD/A/OCD) have all helped.
      For me, it took (let me count) six years to fully let go of the guilt. I had to change the way I thought about my PPA/OCD. I had to think words like “difficult time” or “rough journey” rather than “suffering,” “damange,” or “forever.” I had to talk to myself differently about what happened: not “think positively,” but think realistically and with more balance.
      Hang in there. And keep searching for a treatment that helps. xo.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I truly appreciate it. I have had similar thoughts that I haven’t always been able to express. I remember one of our first walks as a family, walking down a steep hill and holding the stroller. I thought, “What if I let go?” And pictured it over and over in my head. I haven’t shared that with anyone before and it still haunts me. I am so glad you are on the path to recovery and that you did the right things to care for you and Hannah. She is lucky to have you as a mother!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. Unfortunately, 3 years postpartum and I still have crazy thoughts occassionally but they dont scare me like they used to. There are not many stories out there on PPD/OCD so I am glad you were able to share your story.

  6. Brittney Jennings says:

    Wow, thank you so much for posting this. I can say this is so close to my story, it is scary. If someone told me I had Postpartum Psychosis while going through PPD and PPOCD, I think my anxiety would’ve been completely out of control. As always with this blog, it feels so great to know there is a huge support system out there. Thanks Katherine and Becky!

  7. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate your doctor’s insight that mothers with Postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD are scared of their intrusive thoughts… And that that is actually a positive thing!
    Many blessings as you continue your recovery.

  8. I could have written this. I had the same bathtub experience. Word for word, exactly the same. It was a turning point for me, too.

    I’m so glad you got help, and that you had the courage to share your experience. If you ever feel like you’re alone in your struggle against this, know that I went through it too, and I totally and completely relate to everything you wrote. Big hugs.

    • I am so glad that this story has resonated with many of you. I know that the most comforting this during this horrible experience was knowing that I wasn’t alone. I, too, still have good days and bad…but the vast majority are good. Just remind yourself of the loving caring mother you really are, and take solace in knowing that it will get better.

  9. Becky, thank you for sharing. You’ve said what we all need to hear…that we are/were not alone. There can be safety in numbers, so to speak when we share our feelings and knowledge.. I admire you as I know it is so very hard to share such a story.

  10. This may sound ridiculous, but this is a breath of fresh air. My daughter is 17weeks and I just recently started feeling this way. I feel like I’m going crazy and there’s no one to help me. I think its time to get help. Thank you.

    • Thank you for sharing. It really helps to know other mothers go through similar struggles. I too had intrusive thoughts but never dealt with them and now at 17 months postpartum am now seeking help. I only hope it’s not too late.