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The ‘What Ifs’ of Living With Postpartum Anxiety

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The “what ifs” of motherhood get the best of me at times. I have come a long way with my postpartum anxiety since my baby was born seven months ago, but nights like this rouse the giant that was nodding off.

My husband drove with my toddler in the backseat, strapped in properly, going below the speed limit through a small town. My son’s window was down, and a stray firework buzzed into their vehicle and popped in the backseat. It melted a two-inch hole into my baby’s car seat canopy.

She was with me and was safe. My son was scared but safe. My husband was safe too, but what if..? I shouldn’t go there but I do. What if my baby had been in the car? What if my son had been leaning up in his car seat? What if the car caught fire?

What if…

At times, I am able to ignore the background noise of the hypothetical chaos and at other times, I can’t navigate my way out of it. It can catch me by surprise and then hold me hostage until each scenario is considered.

I try and talk myself down by reasoning with my brain. Devastation can’t happen because I have taken preventative measures. But how can I prepare for random accidents? Aside from parading my whole family around in life-jackets and bicycle helmets (which after careful consideration I have learned that wouldn’t actually prevent many accidents) there isn’t much I can do.

We do helmets, car seats and vaccinations. We research and choose the safest, but I can’t prepare for everything. So really, I can’t prepare for anything. Now, I’m exhausted from living in my brain. My heart is weary.

I read blogs and “Go Fund Me” accounts, obituaries and newspaper articles constantly. Desperate for details, I obsess over what could have potentially been done to prevent each tragedy. Tucked away in my memory are dozens of things to do to prevent harm being done. Always ask if people have their guns locked up. Don’t step on electrical wires when it is raining. Wear life jackets. Watch my kids if they gulped too much pool water.

It’s nights like these, when a firework reveals my prevention method is a hoax and the universe has betrayed me with keeping the future a secret. I desperately want to preserve this life just as it is. This very desperation is what is keeping me from actually living it.

Originally published: July 12, 2016
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