How Trauma Complicated My Postpartum Anxiety

Anxiety left unchecked turns everything into a crisis. My postpartum anxiety mainly centered around my daughters. I was convinced that each cough, each fever, and every infection was the one that would send my daughters into the hospital.  

I constantly checked each of the girls’ foreheads. I would ask my husband daily to check to see if they felt warm. Whenever the girls would get sick, I felt so helpless and powerless.

It took lots of work to recognize that this was just fear, but old habits are hard to break. I still check both girls at night before I go to bed to make sure that they are still breathing. On the days that I leave the house before they wake up, I check in on them in the morning as well to make sure that they are still breathing.

Part of this anxiety stemmed from my own childhood.  

I lost my baby brother when I was three years old. This manifested itself in a fear that babies are very fragile. Babies don’t keep. This led to an irrational fear that my girls will die even though they are perfectly healthy.  

We had to change pediatricians after our beloved first pediatrician left medicine. When we met our new pediatrician, I let her know that I ask a lot more questions than the average mom. I told her that I struggle with anxiety and that my anxiety is heightened around my daughters’ health. For each doctor visit, I prepare a list of questions for the doctor. This helps me to focus on the questions I need to ask and to keep the anxiety at bay.

Another part of my anxiety stems from my youngest daughter’s medical condition. The day before I was to return to work from maternity leave, she was admitted into our local children’s hospital for a urinary tract infection. She has bladder reflux which makes her prone to urinary tract infections. Since she was less than three months old, our pediatrician admitted her into the hospital to be treated with IV antibiotics. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to kidney infections which made me as a second time mama freak out. What if it developed into something worse?

Then I felt guilty. My daughter was on the wing with kids who struggle with epilepsy and other neurological disorders. So many other children were in the hospital who were seriously ill. I could eat food in my daughter’s room. I did not need to gown up prior to entering my daughter’s room. Our stay was very temporary unlike the children who had been in the hospital for months compared to our three-day stay.

It look therapy for me and lots of writing for me to find peace and catharsis from this experience. Her hospitalization traumatized me. I am so grateful that I had a pediatrician who supported our entire family during this experience of my daughter’s hospitalization and her subsequent diagnosis.  

Trauma leaves an impact on us. I had to recognize the fact that my anxiety was exacerbated by this trauma. Once I understood the root of this fear, I could manage my reactions.