The biggest struggle I have had since having Postpartum OCD is feeling misunderstood and, at times, alone. It feels like your thoughts and feelings are yours alone and make you a bad mother. By writing about my experience I hope I can help other moms struggling with intrusive thoughts and Postpartum OCD to realize they’re not alone.
When I first started to notice my symptoms we were away on vacation in Florida, our baby was four months old and COVID-19 was starting to make its way around the world. Travelling is already something that makes me anxious and adding a baby and a looming pandemic to the mix was not the best situation. I started feeling obsessed with my baby; I felt like no one else could take care of her properly and became very possessive. I kept us on a strict breastfeeding and napping schedule that meant I barely gave myself time to relax and enjoy the vacation. I started having intrusive thoughts about my baby. We would be walking to a shop down the street and my husband would start running with the stroller trying to take the baby for a fun ride and I could visualize with vivid detail the stroller falling over and my baby falling out. Then I started thinking “what if I lose control of myself and drop my baby off the balcony” and I started to feel like there was something wrong with me.
When we returned home from Florida, I continued having intrusive thoughts and it made me struggle to feel close to my baby. I was scared of watching her by myself, scared that I would fall down the stairs while holding her or have a mental break and harm her. I felt unfit to be a mother and ashamed of the thoughts I was having. I even started to feel like my family would be better off if I just left.
I would become so obsessed with everything being so perfect to make up for my intrusive thoughts. The house had to always be spotless, our day always had to have the same routine for napping, feeding and bedtime. Everything had to be done a certain way and even my laundry was perfectly folded and put away in order every time.
I started googling the thoughts I was having and realized I wasn’t alone, some people even wrote about having the same thoughts as me. After some research I realized my symptoms lined up with Postpartum OCD. I decided it was time to tell someone about what was going on, so I told my husband. It was difficult for him to understand since he wasn’t very familiar with Postpartum Disorders, but after we talked about it and researched some more he supported me and helped me build up the courage to speak to my doctor about it.
Having intrusive thoughts is one thing, but having to talk about them is another. I was scared of being judged and having my baby taken away, but my family doctor was amazing. She referred me to a Postpartum Doctor who screened and diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD.
Following my diagnosis, COVID-19 became a full-blown pandemic and social distancing and quarantine set in. I had to face my fear of being home alone with my baby every day for 6 weeks straight. We couldn’t go anywhere; shopping was of course off limits and we were still on the tail end of winter so it was too cold to spend too much time outside. Thankfully, since I had opened up about everything I had an amazing support group even over FaceTime.
There were delays in getting the professional help I needed due to COVID but since things started opening up again I’ve started to get help from a few different resources.
Even though saying these things out loud (or writing them) is still difficult, accepting them instead of shoving them down and hiding them has made things so much better. I’ve come to realize that the thoughts and feelings I sometimes have aren’t from me and don’t reflect on me as a person or as a mother, they’re symptoms of Postpartum OCD and eventually, it will get better. So if you’re like me and can relate to any of this, don’t push it down. Talk about it with loved ones and talk about it with your Doctor, there are resources available to you for help. You can start with reading the book “Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts” (available on Amazon), then go from there.