As we prepare for the 6th Annual Northwest Indiana Climb Out of the Darkness, we will be sharing some very special stories from mothers who have been through a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Today, we have the honor of sharing Kat's Story. Kat shares about her experience and struggles as a new mom and the support she found along the way. If you are struggling and in need of support, please reach out today by texting 219-742-4149 and we will connect you with the resources you need.
"On June 5th, 2017, I was blessed with the new title as “Mama”. I had dreamt of this title for years, waited
patiently and was so thankful to God that I had finally been given the opportunity to raise a little human.
I had a very uneventful pregnancy. I had some morning sickness, some crazy cravings, and some
anxiety towards the end. All was well. I went into labor 10 days early and was ready to gain my new title.
The labor process was a BREEZE! I kept looking at my mom and asking her if it was going to “get worse?”
I was giving birth naturally and unmedicated and I was second guessing myself that it could really be
“this easy”. I was in labor for about 9 hours total. They decided to break my water, and that’s when
everything fell apart.
When breaking my water, they realized Leila had swallowed her meconium. We
needed to get her out fast. I was able to get Leila out in 3 pushes and she hadn’t swallowed a lot. The
Doctor and Nurses worked on her a bit, but then they ultimately took her to the NICU. I was able to see her
for a quick minute before they transported her. I remember being very lightheaded after birth. I
remember them giving me toast. Then I remember as fast as I had given birth, I was packed back up in a
wheelchair and was headed to the NICU. There she was this tiny 6-pound baby with blonde fluffy hair.
Tubes and electronic devices hooked up to her. They told me they started with a CPAP, but they then
decided to intubate her and give her morphine. She was chest breathing so hard and this would give
her little body a chance to relax.
Once I was situated in the post birth room, is when my life changed. I
had always had anxiety and later on OCD and Depression. The only “Birth Plan” I had, was to make sure
that I had my anxiety medication for me, because I knew I would have anxiety. The anxiety attack I had
after childbirth was more of a 3-day panic attack that never ended. My legs would shake
uncontrollably and I felt like I was going to pass out (normal anxiety attack for me). I was terrified of
getting out of the bed and that I would drop to the floor. I remember people kept asking me if I wanted to go
and see Leila. I remember in my head I was SCREAMING “NO! WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP WANTING ME TO
GO UP THERE?! I'M GOING TO GET UP THERE AND BE TRAPPED AND NOT BE ABLE TO GET OUT”. As a
new mom, I felt shame. Who doesn’t want to see their new child?! My twin sister finally looked at me
and said, “Leila somewhat put you in this situation. She “caused” you to have this mind-blowing anxiety
attack.” I knew deep down, Leila’s Dad, my twin sister and my mom were making regular visits to her
and that she was well taken care of. It got to the point, that the Doctor hooked me up to IV medication
to try and calm me. Even with that, it still didn’t work. The Doctor partially released me so that I could at
least sit outside in the sun and try to ‘ground’ myself. Once I was released from the hospital, I was fine.
The anxiety attack went away, and I was ready for my new role.
Leila was in the NICU for 10 days, 3 of them on the ventilator. They kept telling me medically
she was fine, but now she needed to learn how to eat. Those 10 days were spent snuggling her and
teaching her how to eat from a bottle.
When we brought Leila home, is when the Postpartum Anxiety and OCD started. I, of course,
didn’t think I had any, it was just my “normal” anxiety that I had always had. I didn’t know that it wasn’t
normal to wake up, gasping next to your child, thinking that she was dead. I didn’t know it wasn’t
normal to wash the bottles in the dishwasher, rinse the bottles once they got out of the dishwasher and
then sterilize said bottles. I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to not measure how much formula Leila didn’t
consume at her feeding and thus panic and try to get her to finish it. In my mind, if Leila didn’t finish her
meal, “The Doctors” were going to take Leila back. I would measure the ounces or half ounces or ¼
ounces of formula that she didn’t drink and would go into full blown panic mode. At the hospital if she
didn’t eat her full meal, they would put it through the tube in her. In my mind, it was up to me to make
sure she ate it all.
Along with the Anxiety, the OCD started to creep back in. Contamination OCD is
something I would never wish upon anyone. It can cripple you mentally. I had grown up in the country
on my family’s 100+ acre woods. It was an idyllic childhood. My twin and I would run from our house to
our aunt and uncles and then to our grandparents. We’d find animals and romp around in the mud. I
was not one to be afraid of being “dirty”. This new form of OCD changed that. I would sit in the kitchen
with my mom and bawl. Leila was now at the stage of eating some solid foods. I, of course, needed to
make that food. With contamination OCD, you have the fear that as much as you clean something it is
never clean enough, or that you could potentially make someone sick. I had the overwhelming fear that
I wouldn’t cook food enough and thus, make Leila sick and she would then die. My mom would stand
with me while I made eggs and reassure me that they were cooked sufficiently. She would stand there
while I obsessively clean the counters from all the “egg contamination”. Then, when Leila’s dad got
home, there were a lot of times I’d have to have him reclean everything again… just in case I hadn’t
cleaned it good enough. The OCD didn’t stop there, it then went on to a new fear. Bird Poop. Why bird
poop? Who knows! As I always say, “the OCD picks me, I don’t pick the OCD.” Any type of animal feces
would throw me into a panic. I wanted to take Leila for walks, but guess what? There would be bird
poop on the sidewalks… yes, when you have OCD you NOTICE BIRD POOP on sidewalks, chairs, swings,
car windows, you become so hyperaware of your fear. I remember going to a park and there were flocks
of geese. Talk about exposure therapy. I, as the good mom, sucked it up and hid it from everyone there
that I was literally screaming on the inside to get me out of there. I’d go home, wipe down the stroller, a
lot of times I would then have to shower myself, just in case I had any on me. Totally logical right? It was
in my mind!
I can’t remember what my breaking point was. I think Leila was about 7 months old. I finally
realized maybe this WAS MORE than my “normal” anxiety/OCD. I was given information about the Beyond the Baby
Blues. When I went to the first meeting, it changed my life. I didn’t know that the “Baby Blues” could last
more than the first few weeks after birth. I didn’t know that it could show up as much as a year after
giving birth. I certainly didn’t know that it then could last YEARS AFTER having your child. I heard a very
special woman’s story that night, and I sat there, and it hit me. It hit me, that I had been struggling all
this time. With the help of that amazing group, more therapy, and a change in medication, I started to
heal. I started to see the light. I started to regain my life back. I don’t think I felt a sense of normalcy
until Leila was about 1.5 years old. I was just going through the motions. I look back of her early days
and it makes me sad. I didn’t get to enjoy all of those moments of her early days. I was so consumed
with fear that she or myself were going to die.
Leila is 5 now. She is everything I dreamed she would be and more. She is as girly as girls can be
and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still deal with Anxiety, Depression, and OCD on a daily basis.
Some days it's overwhelming. Some days I throw my hands up and say “Well, if I die today, I at least gave
it a good go!” Life is a balancing act. You just have to make sure you have the right tools to get you
through it. I have a wonderful Psychologist and Psychiatrist that I see on a regular basis. I have an
amazing support group, and most of all I remember to LAUGH at myself. I laugh at the completely non-
logical scenarios my brain comes up with."
We are so grateful for Kat for sharing her story with our community. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please reach out today. At the NWI Center for Maternal Wellness, we offer individual and group peer support and educational resources to mothers and families in need and we would love to walk alongside you on your journey to wellness.
We also would like to invite you to join us this Saturday at the 6th Annual Northwest Indiana Climb Out of the Darkness. The Climb is a free, family friendly event that supports the mental health of mothers and families. There will be refreshments, swag bags, kids activities and more. All funds raised at the Climb will be used to support Maternal Mental Health programs through the NWI Center for Maternal Wellness and Postpartum Support International. Find out more, sign up or donate here: https://climbout2022.causevox.com/team/team-northwest-indiana
Thank you for your support!