We Deserve to Enjoy This: No More Postpartum Anxiety

Hey, head’s up! This article contains discussions surrounding depression, anxiety, and ideation and may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

Ashlie Jefferson

The urge to throw my baby off of my balcony was strong. I didn’t want to do it, but it felt like a physical pull. Something I couldn’t avoid. And it would be so easy. Just one little toss, and he’d be gone. What would it sound like? Look like? Would he cry in the air? Would there be a mess? What comes next? Surely, I’d have to kill myself too. But how? I didn’t think the balcony was high enough to kill an adult. Maybe it was better to just avoid the balcony (and the stairs, and the stone hearth in the living room…) for the time being until I figured it out. I’d just sit on the couch where it was safe.

After the birth of my oldest son, these thoughts dominated my life. I was overwhelmed, and it was difficult to do anything other than obsess. I would also cry over the tiniest decisions, like which pajamas to put him in, and I couldn’t stop fighting with my husband, who just didn’t seem to understand that the weight of the world was on my shoulders and I had no way out.

I’d heard a lot about the “baby blues,” and I recognized that I was going through a major life change, but, even in the thick of it, something told me this wasn’t normal. I had a huge support network of close family and friends who were more than happy to help, but any time I started to mention feeling worried about my baby getting hurt (the best way I could articulate it at the time), I was told what I was feeling was normal, so I started to believe them. Even when I went to my six week OB follow-up, I started to say, with a shaky voice, that I kept thinking about the baby getting hurt. I was cut off mid-sentence with a cheery, “well, that’s normal!” I didn’t push the issue, because I had told myself beforehand that I wasn’t going to cry in the doctor’s office that day. Happy new moms don’t cry in the doctor’s office.

I don’t know how, but we both made it out of that first year alive. It never went away but it did get better over time. Then, I found out I was pregnant again. I was excited; I’d always wanted two! But in the pit of my stomach, something was wrong.

I remember lying in bed with my husband and feeling the baby kick for the first time. As soon as I told him about it, a thought crept in. “You’re going to feel so stupid when you go to the doctor next week and find out the baby has been dead since your last appointment.” The idea stuck with me for weeks, despite what dopplers and ultrasounds showed me. I finally discussed my worries with a friend who told me that this was not normal, so I told my OB again.

I burst into tears in the office. Loud sobs. I started Zoloft that day.

Since then, I haven’t thought about hurting my kids or myself, I’ve given birth to a perfectly healthy baby, and I’ve even been nicer to my husband. I get to enjoy things now, and I’m never going back. I know that suffering is NOT a normal part of parenting, and I want to tell all new parents this: If you even feel like something could be a little off, talk to someone and make them listen. Don’t discount your feelings. Your mental health is important, and you can’t take care of your kids without taking care of yourself. You deserve to enjoy this.

Parents who have experienced postpartum anxiety or depression, what do you wish you knew in the beginning? What would you have done differently?