Surviving the Post-Partum Storm

Surviving the Post-Partum Storm

By Claudette Mestayer

September/October 2021

Two weeks into the pandemic, I found out I was pregnant. I have a chronic illness, so it was a high-risk pregnancy, and I have OCD. About six months into the pregnancy, I started having more anxiety, which hormonal shifts during pregnancy can trigger, so I started doing exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) once a month.

I have a private practice and was planning on seeing my full load of clients until up until the end of my pregnancy, but around 32 weeks the baby was measuring small, and my doctor told me I needed to rest and reduce stress. I felt guilty terminating with clients early, but I saw the gravity of the situation. For the next few weeks, I tried to relax by cooking, watching TV, and taking walks with my husband and dogs. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t see my family or friends or do much else.

If the pregnancy wasn’t hard enough, I labored for 54 hours, during which time the doctors kept trying and failing to make epidurals work. Because of an adverse reaction, I couldn’t move at all, while feeling full-body spasms of pain. My heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketed; I had preeclampsia, which can be fatal, and I was scared I was going to die.

A few days after my son was finally born, complications from the preeclampsia sent me back to the hospital. Then, my anxiety got worse.

I’d moved into maintenance phase of ERP, which means I was only having 30-minute monthly check-ins. When I told my obstetrician about my anxiety at…

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