“You’ve always said you want to be a voice for the voiceless — do it.”
My husband spoke as I prepared a bath that Sunday morning. It had been a weekend of tears. In fact, the day before had been a day of tears, moaning, and rocking face down in child’s pose on the guest room bed.
My first period since our son was born felt as if was trying to arrive for weeks. So, I was not confident enough in the kickstarting hormones to think that might be what was causing the tsunami of tears.
I’m a new mom.
So new, in fact, I look down and still wonder how this beautiful little person got to be here with us. It seems like he was just a prayer in my heart yesterday and now that child my husband and I gave a personality to, talked about their favorite things, things they would like to do, and involved them in our daily lives years before they were born so that they would know they were loved before they arrived — has arrived.
You see, I’m a new mom with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes I suffer from it, sometimes I overcome it … what I seek to do is have it be a piece of my life and not ever define who I am. (And because I’m a strong proponent for not having people associate a serious anxiety disorder with a desire to be tidy or keep lists, check out this neat video to get a better idea of what OCD really is like) While, OCD in my life has been a mosaic of benefits and sharp intrusions what I was frustrated with was … am frustrated with is
What if I believe life was better before my son came? What if I think that I had a great life where I could sleep, write, volunteer, do poetry readings, be spontaneous, have adventures, have lots of one on one time with my husband and now all that I’ll ever do is sit in my house alone with my sweet kiddo and stare? What if I molest him while changing his diaper? His penis bumps my hand while I’m trying to wriggle a diaper on a kicking infant and I have to tell myself things so my anxiety won’t rise? What if my nipples respond in a sexual way when he is breastfeeding? He’s crying and a picture pops in my head of whamming his head on the nightstand. I see his private parts and my brain associates it with the only other ones I see, which are mine and his dad’s, and weird images pop-up. I worry about if I’m bad if I don’t move his hand when he lays it on my breast. I scoot far away if he bumps my nipple when I don’t have a bra on under my shirt. Drowning. Thoughts of having to bury him and my husband because they leave to go to the store together and they might have/will get in a car accident. Images of him playing in the floor and having my stepdad fall on him accidentally. What if I don’t want to hold him for a little while it makes me a bad mom?
My brain lies to me. Everyone’s brain does. The thoughts are hard to share with those that don’t have this particular talent embedded in their brains. As a woman who has dealt with intrusive thoughts caused by OCD since second/third grade, I know that they are things I’m afraid I’ll think or are afraid I’ll actually believe, not things I actually believe or will do. However, if I say them out loud someone who doesn’t have OCD might think that I’m telling them things I believe. They won’t understand intrusive, obsessive thoughts. Still, I say them outloud so that I know they aren’t real and so they don’t torture me. Luckily, I have a husband I can trust to listen even if at times I have to clarify these are not things I’m really thinking, they’re fears I’m afraid I might think. This is opposed something I for real believe. Not confusing at all, right?
When I held our son not too long after he was born, my husband said to me, “This is the most content I’ve seen you in quite a while.” It was beautifully true. I had prayed about some of the things I thought might trigger my OCD and asked God to be bigger than the disorder, to make me the mother he wanted me to be. However, I had an emergency C-Section performed by a doctor I didn’t trust and have dealt with a lot of anxiety from the trauma of that. So unfortunately, that peacefulness was threatened by a disease that is a bit overwhelming during change, high anxiety seasons, and times when I feel I have no control over a situation.
The thoughts were bothering me so much because they made me feel ashamed and guilty. They were bothering me because I had to deal with them when I wanted to be completely focused on my son. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with OCD anymore. It is part of my pieces though.
I prayed for this child that I am now able to hold in my arms, and he is amazing. It would be an unjust to share with you only the good things and the wonderful ways he is changing/teaching me, how God is ministering to me through his little life without being honest about how I struggle at times. So, I share loudly some of the thoughts that haunt me and that change on a daily basis. I will share more if you ask. I’m not a secret keeper. I’m not one to hide in the dark.
So, here it is in the light — I’m a brave mom who has dirty, scary, dangerous thoughts that I know aren’t true. Because of how God chose to make me (my mind) I cling on to them and they become so much bigger than they ever should. Some days I can catch them like screeching bats in a butterfly net. Sometimes they leave me in tears … tears that have christened the head of the son I am so grateful for. I have baptized him in the saltiness, dedicating him to the only one who has ever redeemed my life — the God who formed the pathways and knew my synapses would misfire. The One who knew the pain of such a disease that I’ve never been able to medicate, would also be one of the things that has brought me great success, creativity, and empathy toward others in this life in which I want to love others as much as I can.
Tonight I am loving on you as much as I can by sharing the parts of me that hurt me. See, it isn’t the pain that the thoughts might actually be me. No, at this point of my life and with much therapy I can identify what’s not me a good percent of the time. It’s the distraction, it’s the fog that the dense thoughts form, that you have to push through daily. I get swept up and it takes minutes, hours, days, months … to realize and pull forward out of my mind, to look at what I’m actually doing, how I’m actually behaving, how I’m actually touching, how I actually think … That process is frustrating because I am afraid I will miss out on enjoying my son while constantly battling and having to be in my head too often.
“Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s a quote I saw on a bumper sticker a long time ago, and I love it. How about when you don’t believe it and know you can’t control the invasive thoughts, but that doesn’t help you stop feeling ashamed, guilty, or like a bad person? That they briefly appeared at all is enough to be upsetting. I was taught by a Christian therapist once to take a thought and ask myself these questions — is this me? Is this OCD? Is this the enemy? Or is this God?
Sometimes, as a Christian, I do believe the enemy uses anxiety and OCD in my life to distract me from my blessings, my purpose, to keep me afraid, and to stumble me from walking in complete freedom in Christ. It can be a spiritual battle.
The truth is if I looked at a brown wall and I had an intrusive thought pop up that it was wallpaper with genitals on it. I would laugh or think it’s ridiculous. Who would pay for wallpaper with a penis pattern? However, when a thought is about my son, it scares me deeply. I makes me feel like a terrible person. And don’t get me started on feelings. Feelings aren’t often truthtellers either.
I am blessed to have done much work on myself throughout the years and I have tools. I also have a mighty God who formed me and is bigger than anxiety disorders. It is more difficult to stand firm in overcoming when you’re a new mom tired and recovering from surgery and you don’t have a norm to easily show you that your thoughts are irrational. It is difficult when you’ve gone through a season in your life in which it is an immense fight to go to the things that bring relief — like spilling out your words or tugging on the robe of the Savior who has healed you over and over again.
So, I cried. I cried a lot that weekend. I tried to get into a bath and soak in hot water, prepare to pick songs on the jukebox during our weekly trip to Waffle House, and simply to begin again. I ran the water. My husband stood in my son’s room watching me in the bathroom and talking to me about the struggle. He told me I wasn’t crazy, a hot mess, or whatever phrase I may have used. He said one of the things that he loved about me was that I said things, the things “normal” people wouldn’t say out loud. He admired that about me. You don’t want to be normal. You’ve always wanting to be a voice for the voiceless. Do it.
There was a peacefulness that followed after the words.
He reminded me of my purpose. My life goal is to love God and to love people as much as I possibly can while I can. I desire to be a voice for the voiceless through my writing and in life. I want to encourage others to share their stories.
This is part of my story as a new mom. Is it yours?
Because you aren’t going to drown your child. You aren’t going to accidentally molest them when you’re changing their diaper. You’re life will be just as beautiful or even more so even though you’ve had a big change.
You are a blessing to this world of “keep inside and let everyone believe you’re fine” society pleasers. It’s the challenges that make you brave and although I believe in the beauty and brave of every mom. I know the thoughts you fight every few minutes and I believe an OCD mom is up there as one of the bravest creations God ever made.
Later that weekend full of tears dried, I kissed my husband on the edge of his ear to aggravate him (he hates having his ear kissed or whispered in) and he told me that he’d sprayed our mattress with bug spray when he’d been spraying for fleas earlier that evening. Clever. I laughed at the quickness of his wit. We laughed.
There is a time to find joy in our imperfections.
Earlier, while he’d sprayed for bugs the baby had gone to my mom’s, and I found myself looking at photos of him on my phone.
I missed him.
Not a thought.
A completely divine
The next day, I started my period.