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After the Storm

I’ve stared at a blank page on my screen several times over the last few weeks, trying to find the words. Today I’m committed to sharing, no matter how those words come out. So please bear with me.

Over the last few months, I’ve dealt with some serious anxiety. And I’ve avoided sharing. Because I had babies recently. And often the response is, “You’re a new mom, it’s normal to have anxiety.” And that’s true. It is normal to have “new mom” anxiety, and to have a new level of stress that comes with raising tiny humans. However, what I’ve been dealing with is so much more. I wake up in the middle of the night with a pit in my stomach and have to catch my breath. I often think about losing my husband or one of our babies, and I spiral into a pit of anxiety. Every time I walk up and down the stairs with a baby in my arms, I am anxious that they are suddenly going to throw themselves out of my arms and go over the railing. If Reid doesn’t do something for the babies the exact way I would have done, I become angry. Any time someone walks into my house, I have severe anxiety watching any surface they touch before they wash their hands so I can be sure to clean it later. Every time I get in the car I think about how terrible it would be if I were to get in a wreck. I could go on and on with the millions of scenarios that have gone through my head. It’s not normal. It’s consuming. It’s exhausting. And it’s been affecting my entire family.  

Over the holidays, it got particularly bad. As we prepared to see more friends and family, I got more anxious knowing that someone could pass on an illness to my husband or babies. As I thought about those experiencing their first holiday season without their loved one, I got anxious because I feel as though I could never survive that. And then I became anxious that I was going to miss out on opportunities to make our babies first Christmas as special as possible, because I was so ridden with anxiety. Do you see the spiral? As I type it, it feels crazy. I feel crazy. One day I couldn’t get out of bed and I finally said to Reid, “I can’t kick this on my own. I need professional help.”

I saw a psychiatrist on January 15th. And there I laid out our story. Married, then Reid got sick and was diagnosed with PSC and UC two months later. Then we were struggling to get pregnant. Then we had an ectopic pregnancy which landed me in an emergency surgery. Then very dark days of more trying, Reid getting sicker, and I lost two grandparents. Then miracle pregnancy that ended in a traumatic loss. Then pregnant again and another loss. Then Reid is hospitalized twice and his condition worsened. Then he was added to the transplant list. Then we went through two rounds of IVF that were unsuccessful. I lost another grandparent. Then we found out Reid very likely had cancer and we worked tirelessly to get him listed in other states. Then we went through our 3rd round of IVF which resulted in one chemical pregnancy, one negative test, and finally a positive. During which time we were testing potential living donors in Cleveland. At 21 weeks pregnant with our miracle twins, Reid had an amazing gift bestowed on him in the form of a direct liver donation. And then they almost lost him on the table. He had a rough recovery which landed him back in the hospital in intense pain and another surgery. Then I had pre-term labor scares and was put on bedrest. At 33 weeks 5 days, my water broke and our twins were born prematurely. They spent 19 days in the NICU, and Reid was also hospitalized again during that time. And then you cue all the new mom stress, but pile on the additional stress of a husband who is recovering from liver transplant surgery. And I haven’t even begun to mentally deal with all that had just happened – because there’s no time for that when you’re caring for two newborns. It was a recipe for disaster. Let’s not forget the fact that I have been on and off of hormones for a few years during all of this, in an effort to get and stay pregnant.

So it will probably come as no surprise that I’m now dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and my therapist also believes that I have developed some OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies. I have started a few medications that are slowly starting to help, and I have been seeing a therapist weekly for talk therapy. I will also be doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, which I hope will help. It is a process. I wish so badly there were a quick fix, but I know first-hand that the things in life that are worth fighting for are usually not quick fixes. But we have worked so hard for everything we have now… I don’t want to waste another second being anxious and sad and angry. I want to be able to soak up every single second I have with the miracles that we have received. I want to be a positive influence for our children, my husband, our friends and family, and strangers who come across our story. And in order to do that, I have to love myself. I have to put the work in to make myself a better person. I have to give myself the grace that I deserve to work through the very tough things that we’ve overcome over the last few years. I have to admit that it’s okay to not be okay. And I have to set an example for my kids that they would be proud of. Because mental health is so important, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. I am struggling with PTSD and anxiety, but I am committed to doing the work to get through it. It will not consume me and take over my life, as hard as it may try.

My plan is to share throughout my experience both so that it may help others and as therapy for myself. But I won’t share at a detriment to my own mental health. Please be kind as we work through this next challenge… I am confident that we’ll come out the other side even better than before but I know it will take lots of work to get there!

I'll leave you with this important message from Oliver: Love Yourself. ❤


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