A Better Mom

I’m not what people would call a calm person. In fact, I’ve been called a hummingbird on speed. I am in constant motion and full of a constant stream of thoughts, very few left unsaid. It sounds funny, and sometimes it is. I’m a hit at parties and a bringer of levity at meetings and conferences. But when I’m just living my daily life as a stay-at-home-mom, it’s exhausting and scary. And it is a problem that is stigmatized and misunderstood as evidenced by the reactions to this article on Parenting.com and the ensuing talk shows like Anderson Live and Katie where wine drinking and mood-stabilizing drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist are lumped in the same category.

I have generalized anxiety disorder, and after the twins were born, it became postpartum anxiety and depression. This meant that before treatment my mind was my worst enemy. My ability to imagine turned ordinary new-parent worries into disasters of epic proportions. It was imperative that I give the boys the exact same amount of formula. If I didn’t get them to take good naps now, they would never sleep well. Having pears on Monday meant not even looking at pears Tuesday so that they had a nice variety in their diet. To get to the living room from our master bedroom, you had to pass the mantle which had a corner that stuck out almost into the hall. Every time I passed that corner, I imagined accidentally knocking a baby’s head into it. I saw the blood gushing and heard the screams and cries. I never accidentally hit that corner, but it haunted me every time I passed it. When I went to take the boys to meet Michael, my husband, for lunch, I would pack three meals’ worth of formula in case there was a massive traffic jam, and I had to be with them in the car for hours. Seriously.

It only got worse when the boys got mobile, and I ventured outside to normal places like the park and the mall. My brain saw the germs on the play structures. I could imagine them jumping onto my sons and sending them to the hospital. Stairs were my mortal enemy. No matter how much the boys improved at navigating them, I still imagined them falling down them. My brain played out the whole scene. They fall screaming. I drop what’s in my arms and run to them. There is a lot of blood, and I tell the other twin to call Daddy on my phone. I grab band-aids and calmly apply pressure to the wound even as I know in my heart the injured child would need surgery and would never be the same. And it was all my fault for not holding their hand or telling them to slow down or being late and in a hurry. And the park? Play the stairs scene over for every piece of equipment. I tried to have play dates there and enjoy the company of friends and their kids, but I was always on alert and ready to run after a child heading for traffic or falling to his death from the slides. These things never happened, but I was sure they would.

The stairs at our Poland apartment had to be faced every day. And every day I imagined the boys tumbling down.

The stairs at our Poland apartment had to be faced every day. And every day I imagined the boys tumbling down.

I’m shaking, and my heart is racing right now just writing this. I can’t stop thinking of all the examples of this behavior.

The only way I’m able to get through the day and be out among the people is with therapy and medication. And even with that I still have the thoughts. They just don’t paralyze me or send me into an anxiety-induced crabby-fest. My anxiety manifests as anger; the anger is that things are out of my control. But I have coping skills, and I have support.

In other words, my medication makes me a better mom. My medication and techniques I’ve learned in therapy. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group at ppdchat. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding, superpartner spouse.  My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group at ppdchat and my fantastic spouse and my involved parents. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding spouse and my caring parents and exercise. My medication and my coping techniques and my online support group and my understanding spouse and my involved parents and exercise and having a hobby.

My point? Yes, I’m medicated, but no, I’m not using it as a crutch. I work hard to be a good mom. It’s an obsession that can lead me down a rocky road. So I use all the tools I can find to find that balance between striving to be what my kids need and keeping my spirit intact. It’s not easy, and anyone who tells you medication is the easy way out has never been where I am-at the top of the stairs facing another day of shutting off the horror show in my brain.

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26 thoughts on “A Better Mom

  1. This post is exactly how I feel, even about the stairs. The stairs are my trigger. Your last paragraph sums up perfectly how I think the PPD/Mental Health community feels about medication and what we wish the ignorant could understand.

    • I can’t count how many times the phrase, “Be careful,” comes out of my mouth. I wonder if people think I’m a helicopter parent when really I’m just wired that way. Thanks for the love. Glad to have you on my support team.

  2. I could have written this exact same thing – even about the stairs for me, too. It feels so good to not feel so alone. Thank you for writing this post and sharing it with all of us. xoxo

  3. Stephanie….you said this so perfectly. I can completely identify with having the same thoughts, fears, visualizations….and know first hand how consuming anxiety is on a daily basis.

    However, this is my first time really getting to “hear” this part of your story and how this impacts you on a daily basis. Reading this brought tears to my eyes because it helped me understand, love, admire, and respect you so much more than I already do. YOU ARE an amazing mom-one who works hard at it and is honest about how you navigate its nuances. Well said, my friend.

    We can be hummingbirds on speed together :)

  4. I totally get this post because those kind of scenarios *always* play out in my head. I tell myself it’s a good thing to a certain extent because I’m always ready to do whatever needs to be done *if* the scenario plays out but the level of anxiety that thinking like this brings with it can definitely interfere with your day and your life. No one has the energy for that level of anxiety 24/7. No one.

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

  5. I think posts like this help pave the way toward better understanding of people in your situation. Thank you for articulating so well something it helps to know more about.

  6. This triggered a lot of what happened to me in that postpartum period. It’s awful that we had to live through those thoughts. I do have to say that I disagree that medications make you a better mom. Medications treat the underlying problem. They help pull us out of the dark recesses of our minds and puts us back in the shoes that we once wore.
    I think that the battle makes us stronger…makes us more appreciative of life…which in turn makes us awesome mothers.
    i think that all of us are the best moms that we can be to our children and we continually strive to be.
    Sweets, you’re a good Mom because deep down in that funk, your heart was waiting to be released. you’re a good mom because you got help.
    Love you mucho grande.

    • Kim, I like that language distinction. I’m a better mom for working at. At, for me, one step in the work is to calm the chemicals in my brain. It’s not the drugs, it’s my health that makes me enjoy my kids and my life.

      It means a lot for you to tell me such things. I love you too. And so does Chuck.

      Sent from my iPhone

  7. Now I know why I love you so much. We are hummingbirds on speed. That is me to a tee. I just flit around. I too suffered from generalized anxiety disorder before I had the girls. I had no idea that this condition would predispose me to any postpartum mood disorder. I take my medication and use my coping skills to manage my anxiety. Unchecked anxiety leads to rage for me too. Huge hugs.

  8. I applaud your courage in sharing your story. I am so glad for you (and your twins) that you do everything you can to be a better mom. We should all do that.

  9. I was nodding vigorously in agreement throughout your post. That stairs scene is one that played over and over in my mind when I had PPA after my son was born, and it’s starting to come back again now (I’m 30 weeks pregnant with my second baby). Thank you for sharing your story. The more we all speak out, the more we break down stigma. *hugs*

  10. Pingback: Connection and recognition | tranquilamama

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