I’ve written before about the serious bout with dark anxiety that I struggled with after my daughter was born. Between sleep deprivation and chronic anxiety, I muddled my way through several weeks of anxiety that was more frightening than any I’ve dealt with since I was a child.
I’ve been told this is normal, worrying about things happening to your children, but as someone who experiences anxiety daily, these thoughts were dark even for me. Intrusive images and scenarios would strike particularly at night as I nursed her to sleep in the rocking chair. It should have been a peaceful time. But over and over again in my head, I would see someone kidnapping her at night when I went to left the room. Or her suffocating in her crib. Or her choking on a sock or the end of her mittens. And no matter what I did, it was almost impossible to banish the thoughts. They just played like records in my head while I fought to stay awake in the rocking chair, begging God to make them go away.
And they did. Eventually, particularly when I began to get some sleep.
That was the thing. Mixing large amounts of natural anxiety with a lack of sleep was a toxic beverage that I was partaking in (albeit, unwillingly) every night. And I can’t help wonder how it might have differed had I been able to change even one factor.
There was little I could do about the worries involving abduction. We lived on a military base and kept a big black dog that is quite protective of his family. There really weren’t any security measures we hadn’t taken. But the anxiety about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and suffocation…those were factors where there had to be a better way. I was waking up literally every hour even when she was asleep just to make sure she was still breathing. We had a monitor, but listening for breathing on that thing was torture.
I think part of my struggle was trying to tell others about how I was suffering. I got everything from, “That’s normal. All parents are worried about their kids,” to, “You really just need to trust God more!” It was hard to get others to understand that every night of the first several weeks (maybe even a few months…I can’t remember) was like hell for me. I dreaded the darkness and felt like I was being led to the slaughter every time I settled down for my daughter’s bedtime. I knew I should enjoy her early years, hours of just her and me together. But I didn’t. I hated the night with a passion.
Doing Things Differently
By God’s grace, she survived infancy and is now a boisterous, energetic, happy two-year-old. Now that we’re expecting our son, however, I’m determined to do things differently. I don’t want to dread the night. I don’t want to feel like I’m walking through hell every time I nurse him to sleep and then try to sleep myself.
The saying, “Just trust God,” really grates on my nerves sometimes. I mean, it’s always said with good intentions, but those who say it don’t understand that I trust God. It’s my brain with all its imbalances (and sleep deprivation) that conjures up these scenes against my will. It’s like being strapped down to a chair and forced to watch violent movies about my children over and over again even as I try to shut my eyes and beg for it to stop. Being told to “just trust God,” doesn’t help. It simply adds guilt to a mind that’s already weary and exhausted.
Most disorders like TS, OCD, and ADHD worsen with stress. And there are few stressors stronger than adding a baby to the house. So when I found out that there was a way for me to lessen the amount of stress each night, I jumped at it.
I first heard about breathing monitors when my daughter was about a year old (unfortunately, too late to be of any help with her). But I continued to research them as she grew older. And by the time I got pregnant again, I knew I was going to use this wonderful tool.
I ended up getting the Mononaby monitor. It snaps onto the infant’s clothes and sends updates every fifteen seconds to my phone, which will be set to go off of it doesn’t detect breathing in fifteen seconds. There’s a whole slew of other features I need to read about as well, but the whole concept just has me delighted.
Again, since getting the monitor, I’ve been told I worry too much. “Just trust God, and you don’t need that stuff.” And I do trust God. But I also know my mind and its limitations. And if I can gain that much more peace…if I can rid myself of even some of the anxiety, I’m going to do it, by golly!
Not everyone needs a breathing monitor. Not everyone will struggle with the nights the way I did. (I hope no one reading this does.) But I believe that this is a tool that will help alleviate my stress, and I thank God for such a gift. As you know, if you’ve read a number of my posts, I believe we all have trials in this life, whether those trials are poverty, cancer, war, chronic pain, divorce, or mental health issues, to name a few. We can’t escape all our problems here on earth. But we can seek to do the best and glorify God with what’s been given to us. We can manage our struggles in a way that helps us to keep God at the center of our focus so we don’t lose sight of who we are in Him and that we were made to worship Him.
This tool won’t “beat” my anxiety. But my hope is that it will help give it a nice, swift kick in the butt, and I’ll report back as soon as I know if it can do just that.
Have you struggled with intrusive thoughts postpartum? Have you found any tools that helped you? Share your thoughts in the comment box below, as we’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in getting updates on posts, as well as a free resource guide, subscribe for free to my email list! As always, thanks for reading!
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