When I became a mom for the first time everyone told me that I
needed to trust myself; that I would know what was best for my
I tried. I listened to my gut. It told me that my baby would
stop breathing at any moment; that if I didn't watch him every
second of the day and night I wouldn't realize it had happened
until it was too late; that I need to protect him by making sure
that I saw him breathing until he stopped so I could get him help
the second it happened.
Moms and soon-to-be moms are warned of the possibility of
Postpartum Depression, but a new study from Northwestern University
found that many new moms may also suffer from Postpartum Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder. In fact,
as many as 11 percent of moms experience significant OCD
I knew a lot about PPD. I never heard of Postpartum OCD until
recently. I happened upon an article about it and read it out of
curiosity, only to find it was describing me. I kept reading more
and all the articles described it the same way: the natural
mother's instinct going haywire. When mothers suffer from OCD their
perfectly normal urge to protect their child gets amplified.
Sometimes, it even gets twisted around so that they are worried
that they may cause harm to their child. These obsessive thoughts,
and the compulsive behaviors they lead to, cause anxiety and
interfere with daily life.
PP OCD affects people differently. For me, PP OCD meant selling
the beautiful bassinet I insisted we buy without using it because I
couldn't see my son while I was lying in bed. It meant that for the
first six weeks of his life he slept on my chest all night while I
reclined on the couch. It meant when I finally did allow him to
sleep away from my skin that I had to sleep on my right side all
night for six months so that I never had my back to my son, even
when I was sleeping.
I didn't trust anyone to care for him without me around. I knew
they all loved him and did a great job of caring for him - most of
them could soothe him better than I could - but they didn't have
the same fears that I had. They thought it was OK to lay him down
to sleep and leave the room, or drive in a car with him and not
check repeatedly to make sure he was breathing. I didn't trust them
to be as vigilant as I was.
Even if I had trusted anyone, being away from him was agonizing.
As much as I wanted a break, every second I was away I was consumed
by fear that something horrible was happening and I didn't
I read a message board that talked about one woman's experience
with PP OCD and she described it like hearing alarm bells all the
time -- it seems like the perfect description to me. I felt
constantly on edge, constantly alert and constantly in fear because
these internal alarms would not stop. I didn't know what fears were
reasonable and what fears weren't.
The Northwestern University study will hopefully lead to other
studies about how to recognize mothers affected by Postpartum
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and ways to support and treat
Have you experienced symptoms of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive
Disorder? How did you deal with it?
Sara Parisi is an on-the-go mom of three energetic boys.
See more of Sarah's stories here.
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