“Good mothers have scary thoughts.”
I know this now.
“Mothers with Postpartum OCD are extremely unlikely to ever act on their thoughts.”
I know this now.
But I didn’t know this then.
It was the Fall of 2014. My 3-month-old was a great sleeper, breastfeeding was going well, and we had found our groove and were adapting to life with a baby. Everything was fine. Well, mostly fine – as long as I stayed away from certain places and avoided certain things.
Every once in a while, the thoughts would come. The scary, disturbing, intrusive thoughts. I would be walking downstairs with the baby, and very clearly see her falling out of my arms. I would be driving somewhere, and see my car swerving into oncoming traffic.
This wasn’t normal. I wasn’t depressed – I knew what to watch out for and I didn’t have any of those symptoms. These horrible awful thoughts seemed to come out of nowhere and I couldn’t make them go away.
I knew in my very core that I would never do anything to harm my baby
But I was afraid to tell anyone what I was feeling because I didn’t think they would believe me. After all, most of what we know about Postpartum Mood Disorders comes from extreme cases of psychosis on the news. I knew that wasn’t me, but what if other people thought it was?
So, I secretly took action – I called someone. I spoke to a counsellor that specialized in postpartum mood disorders. I met with an incredibly kind and empathetic person who helped me understand about Postpartum OCD. Wait – OCD? Isn’t that checking and counting and organizing? Yes, it can be. But it can also be those dark, scary, intrusive thoughts.
She also told me that this is temporary, it can be treated, and most importantly: you are not a risk to your child. This is what I had wanted so badly to hear. She told me that because I knew the thoughts were wrong, and because I was absolutely horrified at them, that there was a very low chance I would ever act on it. Just hearing that made me start to feel better. She also referred me to a weekly peer support group and that helped too.
I told my partner, but I didn’t tell anyone else. When I had my second baby, I told my midwives, but I still didn’t tell anyone else. I didn’t get the disturbing thoughts after my second baby. Occasionally a scary thought would come into my brain (I think this happens to all of us sometimes). I would acknowledge that it’s a thought – not an action. I would say (sometimes out loud): “This is an intrusive thought. It is not how I actually feel,” and it would go away. This time around, I’ve never had to hold my daughter extra tight or avoid certain situations.
And now I know a lot more.
I know that good mother’s have scary thoughts.
I know it’s ok to ask for and seek help – that also makes you a good mother.
It’s now time to share this experience with others. I’m sorry I kept it a secret, but I was ashamed. I’m not anymore. It’s not a weakness or a flaw. It’s part of my story and it’s a lot more common than we know. If this is your story too: I see you and you are not alone.
We don’t have to suffer, and if we are suffering we certainly don’t have to do it alone. It’s time to start to speak our secrets! You will be surprised at how many people can relate and share the same secrets.
If you are a new mom having scary thoughts about your baby, you are not alone. Many new moms have scary thoughts after having a baby. You are probably feeling terrified of sharing these thoughts, for fear of being judged as a bad mom. The truth is that good moms have scary thoughts. Just because you are thinking these thoughts, does not mean that you will act on them, and does not mean that you are a bad mother.