Paralyzed by Postpartum Anxiety


Sometimes I see a woman in passing and do a double-take because, for a split second, I thought it was her. I turn my head to look again and then snap back to reality.

Lately, this does not happen quite as often. Maybe it is the passage of time. More likely, it is because I encounter fewer people (therefore fewer doppelgängers) these days in the COVID world.

It manifests in other ways. Sometimes she pops into my dreams unexpectedly, materializing in my subconscious without notice.

Other times, it’s the little things in daily life. Like when my son picks out the book, she gave him before he was born — one of her daughter’s personal favorites. Or when I’m working out to Hip Hop Barbecue Radio, especially when I hear Tootsee Roll. There times where even putting on deodorant brings up memories. She would know exactly what I mean.

Thirty-two months have passed, and the guilt still hovers like a cloud. It may be less constant, but when it hits, it hits hard.

I skipped my friend’s funeral.

Thirty-two months ago, my friend died in a car crash. She was a wife and a mother to two beautiful babies – the first of which she told me she was pregnant with by making me solve a jigsaw puzzle. She was a Florida fan – which I mocked yearly on Georgia/Florida weekend by decorating her classroom with UGA coloring pages. I was repaid when she covered my car with them. She had a thing for Joe Manganiello, which strangely juxtaposed with her ability to design the perfectly calligraphed envelope like Martha Stewart. Her laugh was distinctive, her energy was endless, and her heart was thoughtful. She was my friend.

I skipped my friend’s funeral, and I have never truly mended from that choice.

The decision was not premeditated. My husband and I drove into town. I was dressed and ready. I had even pumped and prepared bottles. At the last minute, I panicked and bailed.

My friend had died and left her two babies behind in this world. I mourned for her the milestones she would miss, as well as the everyday moments. I lashed out at the anger that she wouldn’t see her son’s first steps or see her daughter off to kindergarten. She was now permanently separated from her babies, and in that moment, I was paralyzingly scared to be separated from mine for just those two hours.

I couldn’t leave him to attend her funeral. It wasn’t rational.

It was postpartum anxiety – something that ebbed and flowed through me for months.

Postpartum anxiety affects approximately ten percent of new moms. Not as widely discussed as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying, irrational fears, and occasionally obsessive behaviors.

For me, it appeared in all sorts of ways. Not wanting to let other people help me with my son – feeling the need to do it all myself. Avoiding outings that would interfere with his sleep (and subsequently my very limited sleep). And most notably, not even being able to leave him to attend my own friend’s funeral.

I wish I had recognized this anxiety in myself as I was experiencing it so that I could have done something about it. I share this with you as a cautionary tale, I suppose. Postpartum anxiety, while less prevalent than postpartum depression, is real, and it can be so debilitating that you make choices you would never have made in a more rational state.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to forgive myself for not properly saying goodbye. But luckily, I know that she has. She is a mother. She gets it.

Additional Resources on Postpartum Anxiety:

If you think you may be experiencing Postpartum Anxiety, ask your OB or primary care physician for a referral to a psychiatrist and/or therapist. You can also find a therapist near you via Psychology Today’s search engine.


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