Mental Health · Wellness

Lessons from my two year old: Postpartum OCD and Anxiety

A year ago I wrote the following post. It was incredibly hard to talk about my struggle with postpartum OCD and anxiety, but I’m so glad I did and it was incredibly therapeutic. I wanted to celebrate my son’s first birthday with honesty, and that’s what I did. Motherhood is not black and white, there are shades of grey. The grey is what we need to share more of. You are never alone, in whatever battle or journey motherhood and parenting takes you. To celebrate my son’s second birthday (how have two years gone by?!) I wanted to share this post on This Bumpy Adventure.
Stigmas can park it, it’s time to celebrate the shades of grey!

May 6, 2016

You haven’t lived.

A man once told me after I told him I didn’t have any children. I didn’t really understand what he meant, I smiled and told him,

One day.
Well, it’s now “one day.” And I get it, I am alive, I am living and I am humbled.

My son, Ben, turned one year today. And in his one year on earth, he has taught me more about myself than I could ever imagine possible. I have travelled, lived oceans away from home, won some and lost huge. And my one-year-old has now shown me what life is all about. He peeled off the layers I had built up over my 31 years right down to my seed. I’ve learned that nothing is as it seems, nothing is easy and the best things come out of our darkest moments.

One thing that I have kept close is my struggle with postpartum anxiety and OCD. I didn’t even know it was a thing. About two months after Ben was born I started losing control, and entered into a dark, anxious place. I felt lost, alone, and cheated. I struggled with fertility, and after wanting something so much for so long, I was riddled with terrible anxiety and darkness.

Silently I worried, until one day I sat up in bed with a sleeping husband to my left and a sleeping newborn to my right and I just couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t even know why. It was past the typical baby blues period, it was far beyond hormones. So I started Googling, because, you know, that’s the best thing to do in the middle of the night. I started reading horror posts on forums about postpartum psychosis, depression, and anxiety. All negative posts, all things that made me feel even worse than I already did. I slammed my phone down. Got up and had a shower. I levelled with myself, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

I saw my doctor that week and she confirmed that I had postpartum anxiety and OCD. She told me if I felt I needed it I could take a prescribed medication. I wanted to sleep on it. I have felt so strongly about staying natural, and I didn’t want anything getting through my milk to Ben. I knew, though, that if I didn’t do something I would have to take the prescription. I needed something. This crying, dark, anxious mess was not me. That night I got a notice for a baby yoga class just down the street at Toronto Yoga Mamas. I had been almost too anxious to leave my home most days, but knew getting a pass might force me out.

And it did.

My very first class, Ben stayed sleeping in his bucket seat and I entered the lavender-scented studio, I parked us at a mat by the window. Sun flooded in, shined on Ben, and for the first time in months I wasn’t in the dark. I felt hopeful again just by being there and I took a deep breath. Other moms and babies started filing in, with top knots, bucket seats, and exhausted looks in tow. The yoga instructor started the class with a radiating smile, and asked us to each share what we were thankful for that day.

Coffee, one mom said, laughter flooded the studio.

5 hours of sleep, said another.

I don’t remember what I said that day, but I can assure you whatever I did say was a direct translation for,

This Class.

We went to Baby Yoga every single week, sometimes every day–you could say I found a new thing to obsess over, instead of anxiety. We went for months until Ben started crawling and we were too busy making messes and play-dates. But those months at Yoga Mamas, being in a room filled with my village, having my downward dogs and my Shavasana, is where I found my footing again. It’s where I took the time to take a deep breath, let it, out and really look at my son to appreciate the lessons he was teaching me. I slowed life down. I stopped trying to control, I stopped worrying, and I let go. For me, yoga was enough.

For the longest time I felt cheapened, like my first months as a mom were tainted, and that maybe I cheated Ben a little. Then I look back, and realized that it was my journey in becoming the mom I am, and the mom I will be. I needed that struggle, just as I needed the struggle to become pregnant. Life’s a journey, no one said it’s a smooth ride without it’s fair share of bumps.

Ben is our spirited boy. He makes me want to be more like him. He wakes up with a smile on his face, and something say. I’m not sure what he’s saying yet, but I’m sure soon enough he’ll let me know. He takes chances, explores every angle, and knows what he likes. His belly laugh is reserved for Sammie Dog, his smile is contagiously for everyone and anyone. He is smart, dances like no one’s watching, and has a fierce temper–easily tamed with blueberries. His hug washes away any doubt I have ever had, ever. He makes me love harder, smile wider, and wait longer.

You know what they say: time flies. And as cliché as it is, it is true. This was the longest and shortest year of my life. Some days felt like decades, while most months felt like they didn’t even happen. Without me even noticing, my tiny seed has grown into a beautiful boy, filled with wonder and possibilities. I can’t wait to find out what other lessons he has in store. Until then, every day I try to wake up with a smile, knowing that I have lived. I have Ben. And I am never alone.

 

Happy Birthday My Sweet Boy, Love Mama.

I’m Char, Mike’s wife and Ben’s mama. We live in the east end and love long walks on the beach with our spunky wiener dog Sammie. My weeks often straddle a fine line as a stay-at-home mama, while hustling as an arts educator and freelance content writer/ illustrator. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be under the pile of laundry with my toddler, prepping materials for my next art workshop.

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