If you’re a mom who has ever experienced any type of postpartum OCD, anxiety, or depression, and you’re anything like me, you may feel like you’ve been “robbed.” I get that. I get that so much! You have been robbed of happiness, of freedom, of the time to bond following your child’s birth. And that isn’t fair.
I was able to have that storybook love you always hear about with my first son, Brayden. I went from being a scared 21 year old with a surprise pregnancy, to a mommy who was completely overwhelmed with love. When I had Brayden, I felt my world stop and my heart explode. Nothing that had happened before him mattered, he was now my life.
When we decided to get pregnant with Easton, I was a little nervous about being able to love both equally, but I was also sure I would adjust to being a mom of 2 easily. Once the anxiety/OCD kicked in though, I was terrified to even be near Easton. I could not relax around him. My anxiety was working overtime against my instincts. My instinct was to cuddle and kiss Easton, but my anxiety made me want to keep my distance to “protect” him. The pain of not having that “overwhelming” feeling of love with him was unbearable. Would we ever recover from this? Would he resent me for struggling so much? Was I capable of not being fearful around him?
I obviously love all of my children equally, but my journey with each of them has been different. With Brayden, it was natural and easy, like a fairytale. With Easton, I had to work. NOT work to love him, but work to make my mind stop sabotaging our relationship. Building an unbreakable bond with Easton took a lot of conscious effort. Being near him made me scared, so you know what I did? I wore him. I wore that baby in my Baby K’tan for MONTHS. I refused to let my anxiety dictate whether or not my child developed a secure attachment with me. I also breastfed him. For 6 months, he nursed exclusively. I decided that I would not allow my anxiety to stand in the way of our relationship. My approach isn’t for everyone, but that’s what worked for me. (Ps, I didn’t breastfeed Brayden or Ella, so I totally believe whatever works for you and your family is what is best).
My experience with mental illness included a lot of “fake it til you make it” moments. I went through the motions, I did what I was “supposed” to do. Inside though, my mind was either racing (at the beginning) or completely numb. I chose to push through. I chose to seek help for myself and for my children. Yes, they saw me cry, I’m human. They experienced a mommy who was doing her best, even when her best was laying on the floor in tears. But you know what else, they saw a mom with strength. They saw someone who overcame obstacles and learned from them.
OCD did steal about a year of my life, and that sucks. BUT it wasn’t for nothing. I’ve learned so much walking through that hell. I appreciate my children more. I understand how lucky I am to simply be able to lay with them at night and laugh with them. I’m eternally grateful for each moment I get to spend with them.
(This picture sums up my children’s love for each other and makes me know we are more than “okay.”)
So, are you wondering how this affected Easton? It didn’t. I lived in so much fear about how this was ruining our relationship. It stung for a couple months when he was about 1 and seemed to be a “daddy’s boy.” Was that my fault? Did he love my husband more because I failed to bond with him? Nope. He was just being a silly toddler. Easton comes to me countless times a day to suck his thumb and sit on my lap. He is constantly asking me to cuddle with him on the “chouch.” He jumps for joy any time I show up after being away from him for an hour or two. Our relationship has been fully restored. You know what else? I don’t hold resentment for that “lost time.” No, my postpartum experience with Easton was not what I wanted or expected, but we have come out on the other side stronger.
Healing includes letting go of the past. Please, try to hold on to the lessons, but let go of the pain. I know it’s hard. I wouldn’t wish postpartum OCD on my worst enemy, but I’m also determined to take my lessons from it and use it to make our lives better going forward. When Ella came along and I wasn’t anxious, I can honestly say that I was able to appreciate our time together more. I still lay with her for hours “just because I can.” It’s like, if you’ve ever had a really sore throat. All you do is long for it to stop hurting, which makes you realize how much you take a throat that doesn’t hurt for granted. I have learned not to take my time with my children for granted.
My advice to any mom currently going through any postpartum difficulties is to not be discouraged. I get the disappointment. I understand the need to mourn the loss of that precious time together, but I PROMISE your relationship will be restored. Your baby loves you. Your overwhelming love for your baby is what is making this experience so hard. So please, just keep going, even when it seems impossible.
Thank you everyone for reading!