I have OCD.
When I say that, a lot of people's initial thoughts are that I like cleaning stuff (lol no ask Greg), have to have things tidy (also lol) or turn light switches on and off. That isn't the case.
Don't get me wrong, that CAN be how OCD manifests itself for some people. BUT even if it is, there is an underlying thought causing that reaction that is so terrifying and real that they're doing these actions to take back control.
For me, my brain tells me that if I don't do, say or wear certain things that I will literally cause the death of my loved ones.
Imagine feeling as if your thoughts or actions have the power to kill the people you love the most, and living with the very real (in your own mind) responsibility that you are "keeping them alive" by doing these things.
I've lived with this for a number of years now and was already worried about how I would cope with the anxiety having a child would bring... then along come two miscarriages.
The result was a third pregnancy in which I was convinced I would kill my unborn baby unless I did or avoided certain things. I was scared to eat for fear of giving the baby Listeria, I needed to be in a position to be able to feel movements at all times otherwise I'd "miss baby trying to tell me they needed help".
It reached a point where I was terrified to leave the house and would do so for no longer than an hour before panicking and rushing home to drink a cold glass of water and lay on my left side. I couldn't hold conversations with people, I backed out of events and holidays, I wouldn't sleep for more than a few hours at a time without waking up to check I could feel movements.
I lay on the sofa all day playing games on my phone in a desperate effort to get some, any respite from the distressing imagery running round in my mind 24:7.
We had to start going for regular growth scans from around 25 weeks because baby was measuring small... in my head OBViously that was caused by something I had done/not done... and it was compounding my thoughts that something was not right with the pregnancy; that I was right to / needed to be doing these things to try and "save the baby's life".
I spiralled further.
Eventually Margot was born at 31+1 due to reversed end diastolic flow and my brain effusively congratulated me for taking such extreme measures to prevent another loss.
Now we were in NICU, with a baby hooked up to multiple machines keeping her alive...but I found it easier than pregnancy as I could see how she was.. there were literally screens telling me and 24 hour medical supervision.
After the initial shock, once we'd fallen into our NICU routine, I felt safe.
But this safety was essentially feeding my obsession and carrying out my compulsions for me so I didn't have to. I knew she was being watched over constantly and her breathing and vitals monitored.
Our 6 week NICU stay was coming to an end and I felt the responsibility for keeping Margot alive fall back on to me. This is how it should be, and the moment most NICU parents long for. But not me.
I panicked, I cried, I shook. Each weigh in I would hope she hadn't gained enough to be discharged.. but inevitably the day eventually came.
Even on the journey home in the car I sat intently watching her breathe, panicking and prodding her multiple times in the longest 20 minutes of my life, and that is how you'd find me for the next few months. Still convinced that if I didn't do so she would die... so much so that we still hadn't even announced her arrival to the world. Some people didn't even know we'd been expecting.
I couldn't sleep unless someone was watching her. I had dreamt for so long of having a baby next to me in a bedside crib, but now the thought terrified me to my core with extremely vivid images whirring around in my mind of waking up to a dead baby in there. So Greg and I would sit up in shifts so that I could get at least a few hours sleep... he was incredible.
I couldn't walk for more than a few minutes with the pram without stopping to check she was breathing and would sit and hold her all day everyday in order to keep her safe and be able to watch her closely, I couldn't drive in the car without someone sitting next to her in the back to check she was breathing.
Everyone presented a risk to my baby and it was my job to protect her from the inevitable death that circled in my mind. I wouldn't let anyone other than Greg hold her... what if her chin was too tucked down and she couldn't breathe? are their clothes clean? did they wash their hands properly? are they ill but currently asymptomatic?
All the while alongside this huge and constant fear I was living with, I was also suffering with Post Natal Depression. The absolute paradox of feeling this overwhelming responsibility and need to protect my child, whilst also still not even feeling that this was my baby I was caring for, was one of the most confusing and darkest times of my life.
I had the common PND urge to run away from it all, as well as the overwhelming obsession with keeping her safe. My dreams of having a child had come true and now I was feeling like this... I didn't know what to do.