A friend recently posted on facebook about how her daughter turned one and she felt like the worst was over in trying to protect her baby from harm and she could let out a big sigh of relief. And I could totally relate.

Admidst the fluff and bragadocius picture posting on facebook (which you can find plenty of here) it sounded like the most real, heartfelt, non-whiny, thing I had read since who knows when.

This prompted a lot of thoughts over the anxiety I felt about my own little one and how that was compounded by postpartum depression that manifested itself (wildly) as anxiety.

I would hear about “new moms” and how they would be so anxious about their babies and think, “Phew! Good thing I was a nanny, an Aunt, a church nursery worker, and the second oldest of seven siblings to boot. I won’t have a problem with that!”

Think again.

I was the most anxious mom I’ve ever seen. Maybe this was because the other people hid the crazy side of their anxiety behind closed doors and I was right there, helplessly watching and experiencing myself implode.

Or maybe it was just me.

It started right after our daughter’s birth. The insurance paid for an unecessary night in the neonatal intensive care because I couldn’t sleep without someone watching her. When they wheeled her out of our room, I imagined her being coo’ed over by a team of coffee sipping nurses at the brightly lit staff station just across the hall. I was horrified to find she was two corridors away, in one of the darkened rooms behind locked double doors (that I had glimpsed in my many laps around the hospital during stalled labor) hooked up to a heart monitor, and alone, for those 3 1/2  precious hours that we slept.

She roomed in for our remaining two nights (I had a c-section), and I napped during the day after my husband pinky swore not to take his eyes off of her and to wake me if he had to go to the bathroom.

I needed him to pull over when we were almost home from the hospital so I could jump out of the car and expose our daughter to the freezing air while I pulled back the blankets to check her breathing. I was beside myself. The same with our first unbearable one hour drive to see family, until I wised up and only ever rode in the backseat where I could constantly monitor the baby.

I didn’t sit up front again for a year.

When we’d only been home a day or two, I called my mom {sobbing}, “They didn’t check me out! Nobody knows if I can do this! There should have been some kind of certification! Why didn’t anybody come to the house and just make sure?!”

It was weirdest things that got to me. The constant feeling that my daughter was going to die, just stop breathing. Even though I have recognized my entire life, or thought I recognized, that God is in control (not me), I was caught up in the idea that the only way to be sure my daughter stayed alive was to watch her. And watch her I did.

I’d sit up at night just staring at her until somewhere around 3a.m. Or until my husband would roll over and say, “OK, time to put it up.” As if it were that easy, like stashing a toy away for the night. (These days, he’s the one checking on her if he’s up in the night, or before leaving for work in the early mornings, adjusting blankets, and worrying about the temperature. But before that bond set in, I felt all alone in the constant worry about whether our child was OK.)

Sometimes I couldn’t bear it, so he would put our newborn in the chosen sleeping apparatus of the week (that’s a whole nother blog post), and then tuck a sobbing and exhausted me into our bed….oh, I put him through so much!

It is amazing how little sleep I survived on those first several months. And when I did sleep, I had crazy ideas about staying dressed in case she stopped breathing and had to be airlifted to the hospital. I had visions of myself that I couldn’t shake. Weird stuff. Irrational. I’d bank on finding myself bra-less and barefoot in a brightly lit emergency room with only my shirt and panties as they told me she didn’t make it. I’d feel helpless thinking about how I would get our tiny daughter safely out of the upstairs windows in the event of a fire…and imagine clamoring over the roof with her tucked in my shirt.

I don’t swear on my blog. I don’t. But it was torturous. And I’ve been through a lot of a lot in life to compare this to. It was…hell.

And as one anxiety decreased another one would quickly manifest to take its place. Like whether she’d choke on something (I wore out some knives and blenders preparing this girl’s food I tell you and had perpetual piles of tiny objects that I’d collected from around the house – if you needed a battery or a paper clip you needed to find my stash).

Or I’d worry she’d drown in the bath tub. Or die in a car crash. Or fall down the stairs. Or be stolen from our living room while I cooked dinner. Or be clawed by the talons of a hawk when she was on the deck. Things it feels wrong to even put into words.

It was a horrible way to live.

At a time when I should have had unfettered joy (I did) in taking care of our baby, the thing I’d wanted and waited for my whole life, I was perpetuallfy exhausted. Not just by round the clock breastfeeding and the demands of a newborn but by my own racing thoughts, wild imaginings, and inability to rest.

And this lasted for a lonnnng time. I’m really only now, at 25 months post partum, able to see it forming up to be a season in my life. One that hopefully came, and fully went. Because when I was in the thick of it, I just thought it was the new normal.

But if it went, there was no definite ending….just a gradual realization that it was waning, and then that it was gone, kinda. With only the occasional outcropping of irrational fear born out of my intense love for this little person. But these days it’s more of a matter of “taking every thought captive”, self-discipline, and “thinking on good things”. Tools I already had in my arsenal during post-partum but which were somehow, short of crying out to God, unavailable to me.

I still worry about my daughter. I still have fear, described as lack of faith in God….so I have lack of faith as well. With Muffin turning two there’s more than enough to make my pulse race. But I don’t dwell on the fear. And while I still get stray irrational fears that I have to reign in (OK, a lot of irrational fears), I can catch it now, like I did this afternoon.

As I fought sleep, my exhausted daughter fell asleep in my arms and the slow moving ceiling fan made me think of Miami days. I recalled jumping off my bicycle to back away from an alligator emerging from a tiny pond beside a paved trail in Tropical Park by my grandparents’ house…I hate alligators. And I shuddered to think about that alligator chomping a not so quick kid like me…or a baby like the one in my arms. And that led to thinking about every alligator experience I’ve ever had, too many, and how I’d save my baby if…

Stop. Enough.

Like my friend on facebook I’m making a public proclamation: The worst is over. I’ve survived. Big sigh of relief.

My hope in sharing this is that some mama, right where I *was*, will know that while the end may not be in sight, there is one, or at least something that looks like the end.

And if this sounds like the most real, heartfelt, (and hopefully non-whiny) thing you’ve read since who knows when. That’s only because…it is.