I never really thought of myself as someone who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I mean, I do weird things like never walk on the pavement cracks, run back to the kettle before it boils and clicks off and always have to beat the person walking behind me to the next lamp-post, but everyone does that right?
It was only after a recent conversation with a close friend that I realised I had OCD thoughts surrounding my baby but had never actually vocalised them. We were chatting about our children when she randomly said, "do you ever think about how easy it would be to accidentally hurt them?" Now, I am well aware at just how odd that sounds but before you reach for the number of Social Services hear me out. Never ever in our wildest dreams would it ever occur to us in any way to harm our children, that's actually not even what it's about. In fact, it's the complete opposite. It's a feeling of loving you child so much that you envisage every possible scenario in which they may come to harm in an order to somehow psychically avert it from ever happening. Intrusive thoughts wash through my brain without me even realising I have thought them. It's only when I attach significance to them that I then feel bad for thinking them!
I have always been someone who spots the danger in everyday situations. My partner thinks I'm just negative but it's not the case, I'm actually a really positive person. I just worry about every situation that is not part of my normal daily routine. When you throw a brand new human being in to the mix whose life completely depends on you for survival then it's only natural that these OCD feeling will go into overdrive.
After spending some time researching this phenomenon I realised just how common it is. Studies have shown that OCD is more common postnatal than at any other time and is also completely normal. Some people develop it for the first time; some find their existing OCD increases. Occasionally the OCD can even develop to such a degree that the only way the sufferer feels they can manage it is to avoid their child as much as possible. Luckily I'm the opposite, I feel the need to be with my daughter every second in order to protect her. When I get these negative thoughts of potential situations I tell myself that because I have thought it, it means it won't happen. That's how I deal with it.
As each month has passed since the birth I have found that these OCD tendencies have softened but not vanished. I still walk along the hall and imagine dropping her accidentally over the bannister, but because of this thought I take extra care. The initial worries every parent thinks of in those first few days have now shifted into a new worry about the next stage. I suppose the positive I should take from these crazy emotions is that I am aware of them. As quick as they enter my head, they are rationalised and dismissed. I'm not sure postnatal OCD is something that will ever leave me; I just hope I can contain my fears so that they never influence my daughters actions. Maybe after all, this is just called being a parent.