Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
Three years ago, on June 23, I was celebrating the birth of my second son, Easton. He’s been perfection since the start; his eyes sparkle and he is an amazing blend of his daddy and I. We were smitten, over the moon, but once the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) set in, my single greatest fear was this: how will our relationship ever recover?
What if he hates me for my disease?
What if he can’t forgive the thoughts?
What if I can’t?
What if I refuse to?
The fear became all-consuming. There was a fight on all fronts; the battle in my mind was unbearable, but almost equally as painful was the constant feeling of disappointing my boys. Physically, I didn’t miss a moment of their lives, but emotionally I was distant. The distance felt like miles, the months I kept them at arm’s length seemed infinite. One of my first questions in therapy was: is he going to hate me?
Hate. Will he hate me?
He grew inside of me. For 9 months I was his cocoon, his home. I now feared I had crossed some invisible line of trust he would never be able to forgive. I thought that no matter what I did, I had already ruined me. I’d ruined us.
But then my therapist told me something I’ve taken with me to this day; she said, if anything, our connection would be stronger.
Stronger. I didn’t think that was possible. I felt like the lowest of low. It felt like I was secretly hurting my kids, so I had to constantly make up for it. I thought the more often I had a scary thought, the more likely it was for me to act on it. I thought the longer it took me to recover, the greater chance it reflected my true character. How could he ever be close to me, even after everything that had happened?
About three months into my postpartum OCD journey, I truly felt like I had weaved myself into some sort of web I would never be able to get out of. I was at the bottom a well and there was no rope long enough to pull me out with. I was thrashing in the water, grasping for breath. I was hopeless.
But slowly, ever so slowly, I clawed my way out.
Every parent fights for their child. Every parent has different experiences with each baby, but for me, I feel like Easton is truly the baby I fought for.
I’ve had three babies:
Brayden was my firstborn and he made me a mother. He opened my eyes to caring about another human more than myself. He taught me to be nurturing and safe; he gave my heart a new softness it hadn’t had before.
Easton rocked my world. Caring for him scared me. Touching him made me want to jump out of my skin. My heart raced when I knew we would be alone, I could not relax around him. The fear I felt completely overshadowed my ability to feel the closeness to him I longed for. Anxiety spent months lying to me and scaring me to death, but we persevered. I was eventually able to decipher my anxious thoughts from my real ones. I was able to calm down and believe that the OCD really was my mind malfunctioning in a constant attempt to keep Easton safe.
Easton was the baby I fought for. I fought for every cuddle and kiss, every laugh and snuggle. I fought for him to love me and trust me. I put myself through hell in order to keep him safe. I cried more tears than should be allotted in a lifetime and discovered parts of myself I had never known existed. OCD felt like an identity crisis. I felt like a stranger within my own body. I felt out of place in my own mind, like an unwelcome guest who didn’t know where to put their bags. But eventually, everything clicked.
Easton has the ability to put everyone at ease. His mischievous smile and innocent eyes make it impossible not to love him. I’m sure this is true for a lot of moms, but Easton was my biggest therapy. He healed me. When I was losing my mind in guilt and anguish, he was growing, thriving. In spite of my struggles, I was able to continue raising my children and loving them. I know I would have made it through OCD no matter what baby it was with, but I truly feel like God gave me Easton to conquer this struggle together.
After Easton came Ella. Ella was my redemption baby. She was the one who I got pregnant with even though I didn’t have full trust back within myself. Having her was a leap of faith, something I swore to myself at one point would never happen. When Ella was born, I was like a watchman, searching for problems. Waiting to lose my mind, but I didn’t. I was stable. I was secure in my character. I knew the lies anxiety and depression wanted me to believe and was able to combat them before they made a nest in my brain. Everything that had happened with my previous baby was something I knew to look out for and properly fight against.
Easton’s birthday isn’t about me; it’s about the birth of an amazing boy, but it will always mark a time in my life where a major crisis occurred. The war in my mind following Easton’s birth felt very life or death. The realness of the fear is something I had never experienced before and honestly, could never have understood without having been through it.
Each of my children are a blessing — we each have a special bond — but Easton has changed the trajectory of my life. My perspective on love and relationships has changed. My ability to have empathy for others has expanded in a way I wouldn’t have expected. My perception of people with mental health issues has transformed. The way I view the use of medications has shifted. Almost every aspect of my womanhood and motherhood has changed because of postpartum OCD. It was an exhausting tug of war that happened exclusively in my mind, but created a lifetime’s worth of change within me. I’m stronger than I knew. I’m softer than I was.
I hate postpartum OCD, anxiety and depression with every fiber of my being, which is why it is so important for me to help other woman with it. It isn’t fair. It isn’t easy. It isn’t your fault. But it is something you can overcome.
So, three weeks late: happy birthday, Easton. I love and cherish you. I’m blessed to have been given you to get me through that dark time. I’m eternally grateful for the mommy you have helped me become.
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