Admittedly, the rainbow analogy isn’t a perfect one when talking about baby loss. I know it’s embraced by some loss parents and despised by others. Bear with me here as I use it to address an unexpected and difficult challenge of my experience as a rainbow parent.
If grief was the storm before my rainbow daughter, then postpartum anxiety was the storm that came after. Just like with mother nature, a rainbow doesn’t mean there will never be another storm. Clouds can hover again within moments, hours, years. Even when you least expect them.
So went my experience with postpartum anxiety.
Even under the care of a psychiatrist and attending regular therapy sessions, it took me six months to acknowledge that I needed to be medicated for my postpartum anxiety. I hated to admit that I was anything less than content and overjoyed now that I finally had a living baby at home.
I made every excuse I could come up with to believe that the emotions I was experiencing were normal, “new” motherhood. Somehow, every time I went to see my doctor, I was having a “good” day. So she didn’t have the full picture. Far from it.
The Full Picture of Postpartum Anxiety After A Rainbow Baby
The full picture of postpartum anxiety looked something like this: thought spirals about germs or exposure to toxins harming my baby; spirals about whether I was interacting with her enough, the right way to ensure her development, or whether I was missing something critical; more spirals about leaving her in the care of others; spirals about not being a good enough mom; not liking being a mom, and the nagging fear that I should never have been a mom; and one out of every 7-10 days letting those spirals completely overwhelm me to a point where I could not be convinced that I wasn’t the world’s biggest failure and completely ruining my daughter’s life and others.
I feel my heart rate rising as I type these words. It was dark, and it was scary. A storm at times as intense, and definitely more surprising to me, than the grief over losing my son. It was scarier because I knew the grief made sense.
I knew it was natural given the loss I had suffered, but the anxiety didn’t feel normal, natural, or acceptable. When one day I was able to finally explain all of this to my husband and my psychiatrist, I got the push I needed to try medication.
I’ve never looked back.
It’s amazing now to be able to recognize triggers that would have sent me spiraling before being treated for anxiety, and to be able to process them and maintain my emotional equilibrium. It’s amazing to be able to be present and joyful with my daughter without intrusive negative thoughts or very low emotional days.
I share all of this because if I’ve experienced it, there must be others who have, too. And now that the clouds of this latest storm have cleared a bit, I know that there’s no shame in admitting and facing your mental health struggles even once you have a rainbow.
It’s scary when our emotions aren’t what we expect them to be, but it’s only courageous to find a way to acknowledge that and find help.
Postpartum anxiety or depression after the birth of a rainbow baby doesn’t make you any less of a good mom. It doesn’t negate your gratefulness to have a living baby. It doesn’t have to cast such a shadow on the joy of this new journey.
You are not a failure for agreeing to take medication. You’re actually a brave and courageous woman who is willing to make a sacrifice in her family’s best interest.
I once thought that my best defense against my anxiety was to ignore it. Now, my only regret is not getting treated sooner so I could bask in all the love and joy and light of my rainbow daughter. Just as I am today.
Treating your postpartum anxiety won’t make all your troubles go away. Certainly, at a minimum, your grief will remain. But it will help you enjoy the much-deserved joy your rainbow baby brings.
And now, standing on the other side of this particular storm, I can confidently say: the joy is so worth the sacrifice!
Feature Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash
Elizabeth Yassenoff lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Erik. She writes for Still Standing and on her blog to honor her firstborn son, Jacob Dale, who passed away three hours after birth due to unexpected complications during labor. Elizabeth is a co-founder of Alive In My Heart, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides connection and resources to bereaved parents in the Columbus area, and she is studying to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Jacob’s baby sister, Ella Jane, was born August 11, 2017 and has brought a lot of light and healing.