I feel the word “anxiety” is a word that gets used a lot. I’m sure you’ve heard (or even said yourself), “I have such bad anxiety,” or “This makes me anxious.” Anxiety can be common for many, it can also be a very severe issue for others. I had my first daughter in 2009 and became pregnant with my son in October 2013. My husband and I knew there would be a big age difference between our children. What we didn’t know was that the term “anxiety” was about to take on a new meaning in our household.
When I was pregnant with my son I had people tell me how much calmer they were with their 2nd. I felt confident that bringing our son home would be difficult (as ALL newborns are) but we would all get back to our normal routine pretty quickly. I was wrong.
The first few weeks/months of a newborns’ life are the most difficult on their parents. You’re sleep deprived, stressed beyond your max with thoughts of bottles, diaper changes and nap times on a constant loop in your mind. Of course you’re going to feel a little “off.”
When my son was about 2 months old and he was in more of a routine with sleeping and napping, I started to notice a little bit of a panic feeling in my stomach if I couldn’t clean the kitchen up completely after a meal because he was crying. Or if I didn’t complete a task I started because I had to tend to one of my son’s needs I would obsess about it until I was finally able to get it done. I just figured it was me adjusting to having a baby in the house again and my routine being thrown off.
The Turning Point
Then one night I put my son to bed, like every other night, and he went to sleep. All of a sudden, about an hour later he started crying. No big deal right – babies cry sometimes. Well for me it was a big deal. I called my husband, who was working late, hysterical. It was a rambling of emotions of, “Why is he crying?” “He should be asleep!” My husband unsure of what to do since he was over an hour away finally said to me, “Maybe you should really think about talking to someone about this.” It was a topic of conversation that was danced around for a few weeks because he could see me struggling with things that I really shouldn’t be struggling with (like getting a chore done from start to finish).
A Little Background
If you read my last blog you know that I had a brother who passed away from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Since his disease is a genetic one I had a simple blood test when I was a child (and before my husband and I started having children) to see if I was a carrier of the disease, which I’m not. So that means my children did not inherit the risk of developing the disease which was a huge relief for my family.
When my son was born we were informed he had two minor birth “defects.” He was born with an hemangioma on the back of his left thigh and he was also born with hypospadias. We were told by his pediatrician that the hemangioma would clear by his 4th birthday. We were also referred to a urologist for his hypospadias repair – which required surgery when he was 6 months old. His surgery was completed in January 2015 and he has been released from all urological care.
I was lucky enough to have a trusted friend recommend a therapist I could go talk to. (I apologize to those family and friends who are finding out about this now). My therapy started on a weekly basis when my son was around 3 months old. What I discovered was that I thought I was having anxiety about not completing a chore or finishing a task but it really went a lot deeper than that.
Through therapy I realized that my anxiety had nothing to do with a chore that needed to be completed or keeping my routine the same. The root of my anxiety was my son’s health. The symptoms of my anxiety were the physical reactions I had when I couldn’t complete something, but the cause of those symptoms were me dealing with all these fears that I didn’t even know I consciously had. I was scared my son would develop my brothers illness. Even though rationally we know that’s not possible – but that’s the whole point of anxiety – it’s not rational.
Coming Out of It
I saw a significant improvement in my anxiety after my son’s surgery. Before my brothers diagnosis he had to have surgery to put tubes in his ears. He had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia which is common in children who have DMD. Subconsciously I was afraid my son would have the same reaction and somehow that would seal his fate. My son came through his surgery fine with no adverse reactions.
It was only a few months after his surgery that I realized I was holding my breath for those first 7 months of my sons life. I associated my sons birth defects with my brothers illness – that they were somehow parallel. They’re not. My brother and my son are not the same person. I’m no longer in therapy but seeking the help I needed I’m able to deal with some of the anxiety I still feel.
I now know that whenever my son falls for no reason or he isn’t running as fast as he usually does that I just need to close my eyes, take a breath and remember that he’s healthy (and he’ll be back to jumping off of our furniture again any second).