The Secrets Women Keep

 

 

 

This thread is amazing. Needs to be turned into a list and handed out to expecting moms by every ob/gyn. They tell women everything under the sun about what to expect for 9 months; why not this?!

I think it’s wonderful you’re making this list for new moms. It would have been reassuring for me to know I was “normal”

“Scary Thoughts” is an expression used to encompass any and all categories of upsetting thinking that can interfere with the well-being of a new mother. Scary thoughts refer to negative, repetitive, unwanted and/or intrusive thoughts or images that can bombard you at any time (Kleiman & Wenzel, 2010). Scary thoughts are anxiety-driven, they are extremely COMMON, and most new mothers admit that have, at some time, imagined or worried about harm coming to their babies. The shame of having these thoughts can prevent women from speaking about them. In response to women telling us they feel isolated and ashamed of their thoughts, we asked women to share their scary thoughts in an attempt to help them express these distressing ruminations, so they can get relief and also help other mothers understand how universal this phenomenon is.

The objective of our PPSC project #speakthesecret is to obliterate the stigma attached to scary thoughts which are so common in new motherhood. 

 

THANK YOU

to all the brave women who continue to disclose their scary thoughts.

Together, we will educate many and help reduce the anxiety and stigma. #speakthesecret

Our page is an ongoing list of the thoughts that brave women have chosen to share in the hopes of helping women know they are not alone and that having scary thoughts is common during pregnancy and the postpartum period. We will add thoughts as they are submitted.

DISCLAIMER: This list is anonymous. You can contact us at any time if you want to modify or delete your submission. If you are worried about the way you feel, let a healthcare provider you trust know if you are worried about the way you feel.

Click here to SUBMIT Your Scary Thought and help reduce the stigma


  • My baby was going to die in the middle of the night and I was going to find her in her crib cold and lifeless.

  • Sleep deprived and overwhelmed, I pictured myself throwing my crying baby down. (This distressed me the most because I would NEVER hurt her and I felt like a terrible mother for that image crossing my brain.)

  • We stayed in a vacation house with a loft and I kept picturing my toddler daughter flying right over the ledge and smashing onto the floor below.

  • What if someone kidnaps my child and sells her into sex trafficking???

  • Every news story about an infant or small child brought a “What if….? and an image of that happening to my daughter.

  • My daughter is going to die at daycare from ___ (insert any number of possibilities).

  • There was a period where everything seemed dangerous or deadly…driving, grapes, sleep, ledges, kidnapping, stairs, cancer, and so on. It was exhausting.

  • I had paranoia that my baby couldn’t be around sharp objects..I knew I wasn’t going to hurt her but somehow I thought things such as forks would somehow hurt her..it was awful I remember people holding her and eating with a fork and my anxiety would be through the roof and to others who haven’t had ppd with intrusive thoughts this might sound insane but it seemed completely logical to me at the time…and that’s when I went to a ppd meeting that’s where I was told the difference between intrusive thoughts and psychosis and for once I had an understanding of what was going on…it is hard to put this out there because people can be judgmental by not understanding but I have come to the point in my life I would rather put it all out there and help save one mom so she didn’t feel alone like I did…

  • Falling down the stairs while carrying my baby & dropping her while walking with her or getting her out of her car seat.

  • This scary thought had to go in a private message: that my abuser would find us and hurt/take my children and/or me. The scary intrusive thought/anxiety/ptsd combo was hell.

  • After I had my second child, I imagined putting them both in my chest freezer so I could get some sleep. That’s when I decided to get on meds.

  • We were walking one day in the neighborhood. I was convinced he was going to fly out of the stroller into the ditch. I didn’t see how he would get there but I ‘saw’ in my mind him there.

  • I was convinced I was going to die on one of the water log rides at an amusement park. Not my husband who was riding with me. Just me.

  • Same day at the amusement park, convinced he would slide out of my arms, wiggle across the Ferris Wheel basket (?) and fall.

  • If I left our son at any time our bond would be broken and we wouldn’t love each other.

  • The baby being dropped on anything hard- blacktop, concrete, tile, hardwood. I’d sit somewhere tightly clutching the baby while watching the floor down below us slowly turn red and just be unable to shut it off in my head. I’d have to sit down to go up or down some sets of stairs while holding the baby. It was bad while I was holding the baby but the intrusive thoughts were often worse when someone else was holding the baby over a hard floor. They’d come out of nowhere in the middle of the night too. Knives and other sharp objects were also triggers.

  • Contracting an illness or disease as a result of someone not washing their hands or being hygienic in another way. I had my first during the Ebola outbreak and during flu season. Ultimately, I would fear the worst, that my baby would end up dying from something like this because of other people’s carelessness. I was very strict about others washing hands, etc., and I avoided leaving the house at all, except for appointments, for about three months. It was extreme, looking back.

  • If I fall asleep the baby will die. If someone else watches the baby while I sleep, I can’t watch them watch the baby, so the baby will be seriously injured or die in someone else’s care… Protective services will take my other children because obviously I shouldn’t be asleep when they are asleep, or awake, or allow them to be cared for by anyone else.

  • I struggle daily with letting the kids out of my sight, literally. I am consumed with who, where, what may or may not be happening while I am out of eyesight.

  • My husband doesn’t understand that letting him help is worse than just letting me do it all.

  • I thought if I bathed the baby on my own, there was a good chance that I’d leave her in there, and walk away.

  • I thought that I would leave the baby in the car on a hot day.

  • I thought that if I held the baby in certain ways, with her head resting on my arm, it would only take the slightest movement and it would crush her, or break her neck.

  • A few weeks before my son was born I saw a black crow smack itself against the window outside his soon to be room, this convinced me something bad was going to happen. I also saw an elderly woman in black walking down my street, saw that as a sign too (like she was a witch)

  • After I delivered when he was being weighed and measured I thought to myself that I was dying and that he was going to loose his mother, I told the nurses and they checked my vitals.

  • I wouldn’t let [my mother and father] drive to the shops as I was convinced they were going to be killed in a car accident. They walked but I kept making them ring me to let me know they were ok.

  • Every time I went outside to get fresh air for my son and I, I put him in the carrier and had so much fear walking on the sidewalk thinking a car would come up on the curb or he would fall onto the road. My mind imagined the whole scene it was even worse when my husband was pulling him in the wagon.

  • Despite being calm and happy all pregnancy, Post partum hormones kicked in on top of sleep deprivation and I became so anxious. I thought my anxiety would spread to my baby so didn’t want her to be near me. I thought I was toxic and ruined. I would pump milk and my husband would feed her. I cried all the time and thought she she had chosen the wrong mum. A year down the track I can see this is all nonsense and I am one of the lucky ones who received so much help and support to recover. But those thoughts are powerful and intrusive. 

  • I thought anything could hurt my baby, knives, clingfilm, pictures might fall, the lightfitting could come down. And much more . It was very bad i’d even worry that id snap and kill him somehow as there was baby deaths in the news. I was a nervous wreck and rather isolated.

  • If everything wasn’t just so (like a piece of clothing was out of place or a picture wasn’t straight in the wall) I HAD to fix it or someone was gonna break in our house and harm the baby.

  • I didn’t want to hold my daughter while I fed her a bottle. I thought I’d have her head at the wrong angle, and she’d either suffocate or choke on the milk. I propped her up with a pillow on the couch and held the bottle. I’m a birth professional and KNEW that that was more likely to cause suffocation/choking, but I couldn’t stop myself.

  • Anything having to do with SIDS.

  • If everything wasn’t just so (like a piece of clothing was out of place or a picture wasn’t straight in the wall) I HAD to fix it or someone was gonna break in our house and harm the baby.

  • Every time I went outside to get fresh air for my son and I, I put him in the carrier and had so much fear walking on the sidewalk thinking a car would come up on the curb or he would fall onto the road. My mind imagined the whole scene. it was even worse when my husband was pulling him in the wagon.
  • Contracting an illness or disease as a result of someone not washing their hands or being hygienic in another way. I had my first during the Ebola outbreak and during flu season. Ultimately, I would fear the worst, that my baby would end up dying from something like this because of other people’s carelessness. I was very strict about others washing hands, etc., and I avoided leaving the house at all, except for appointments, for about three months. It was extreme, looking back.

  • I thought if I bathed the baby on my own, there was a good chance that I’d leave her in there, and walk away.

  • I thought that I would fall when walking, and somehow in the fall I would drop or throw the baby over a railing, or down the stairs.

  • We lived on the junction of the 2 biggest streets in our city. Every day as I got him out of the car seat (we had to park on the street), I would have thoughts about how it would be to get hit by a car racing past.

  • I had very strong scary thoughts when standing on a balcony with my second baby that I might drop her off on purpose (still hanging around that one, she’s almost 2 now), and also when I was carrying her through doorways horizontally that I would smash her head into the door jam intentionally. This is despite loving her intensely, not being depressed or particularly anxious, and not having these thoughts with first baby.

  • My worst intrusive thoughts were around the SARS virus that was around in 2003-2004. In January 2004, my daughter was 8 weeks old and I saw something on the news about SARS. I became convinced that it was going to be the end of all human life, and rather than allow people to suffer, the government would provide suicide pills for all adults, injections for children, or medicine to put in baby bottles. I had visual images (not hallucinations) of having to kill my baby, and of myself, husband and baby lying huddled in bed, dead. It was horrific. My intrusive thoughts were so bad that I was later diagnosed with PTSD.

  • I had really terrible trouble with this in the first year after my baby was born, particularly at night when I was trying to sleep. One started off with me imagining my husband and I taking the baby to our favorite pre-baby vacation spot in Mexico, where we honeymooned. I pictured her sitting quietly at the water’s edge, playing in the sand and looking out at the beautiful ocean in a floppy hat and cute swim suit. And then I imagined a shark swimming up and taking her. And I imagined myself running in after the shark to save her, and getting horribly maimed or killed myself.

  • What if I leave her to run an errand or something and I die? What if my husband leaves for work and dies? What if we get in a car wreck on a bridge and the car falls into the water and I can’t get to her to save her? I stayed home for a long time after she was born. She is two now and I still have these thoughts from time to time.

  • If I leave my house, I will get in a wreck and die and my daughter will never know her mother. If I die, my husband doesn’t know how to put her bottles/sippy cups together. I was deathly afraid of germs. I would “see” germs everywhere. I was terrified to let anyone around my baby because I just knew she was going to catch some terrible disease. I was scared to let my parents drive her anywhere and would envision (very graphically) her dying in a car wreck and I would constantly “see” her funeral. Our furnace went out when my daughter was about 7 months old. I had to leave work because I was just convinced I was going to go home and find my daughter, husband, and dog dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was a very scary, dark time during what was supposed to be one of the “happiest times of my life.”

  • I’m seven years past it but the very first thought I had happened in the hospital a day after my son was born. Someone had brought a onsie in for him and my first scary thought was that it would be the last thing he ever wore.

  • I had thoughts of crashing the car into trees, or driving over a cliff. Sometimes I would have impulses to do it while I was driving and I was so scared I would act on them. I also worried about dropping her in the shower, or letting her drown in the bath.

  • I would see my baby in a coffin every time I looked at him while he was sleeping. I would panic while bathing him thinking for some reason I’d push his head under and wouldn’t be able to stop myself. Started having self harm thoughts, pretty much thinking of ways I could hurt myself with any object. 2 years out and thankfully those thoughts are gone.

  • I had awful intrusive thoughts of dropping my baby down the stairs. So much so that I would hold him a little tighter every time I got near any stairs because I was so afraid of it actually happening.

  • I also had intrusive thoughts of jumping out of the passenger side of the car while my husband was driving on the freeway.

  • Boiling or microwaving were the most horrifying. I had them all – everything you could think of – but those two stand out.

  • What if I drop my baby over the stair railing? What if my child falls to their death from my apartment balcony? What if I sexually abuse my child?

  • What if CPS comes and steals my children because I am an unfit mom? Eventually it got so bad that I thought, what if I drive away and never come back?

  • What if I walk into the street waiting for a car to hit me?

  • What if I would become bedridden & unable to function anymore due to the heightened anxiety causing severe insomnia. The fear of being unable to care for my kids became horrifying.

  • No one else could take care of the baby, if anyone tried, they were going to hurt him, everyone became the danger.

  • I couldn’t leave him, he nursed exclusively, never a bottle, feared taking him outside, because “they” were going to get him.

  • Constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure no one was trying to take my baby and at the same time, I didn’t want him either, I felt detached and so far removed from him.

  • I live in a car-centric [city]. We are constantly getting in and out of the car, and a majority of the year is warm weather. I was convinced for a long time that I would get hit by a car and killed while going into the street to get into the driver’s side of my car, and no one would get my baby out of the car and she would die in there in the heat.

  • Knives are still triggers for me. I am HYPER-vigilant when using knives. It’s ridiculous, but it’s what I need to do for my own sanity.

  • Our furnace went out when my daughter was about 7 months old. I had to leave work because I was just convinced I was going to go home and find my daughter, husband, and dog dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was a very scary, dark time during what was supposed to be one of the “happiest times of my life.”

  •  (Multiple images of me doing so ensued)

  • What if my husband is a pedophile and he sexually abuses her (multiple images of him doing so ensued)

  • Since it’s public I am unwilling to put my vulnerability out there because I’m still kind of in the thick of it.
    My scary thought is that I will forget my baby in the car and she will overheat and die. She is ten months old and I still have images and thoughts about this every day, every time I drive. I check to see if she is in her car seat back there no matter what time of day and often more than once per drive. I have completely untreated adult ADHD. I forget at least one thing per day between pump parts, breastmilk, daycare items, and food, and I live in fear that I will somehow forget her. I have horrible, vivid intrusive thoughts of finding her dead in the car at the end of the workday, almost every day when I am heading to the car at the end of the day to go pick her up.


  • I had severe anxiety that the formula I was feeding him was poison. Like actual poison. And would spend hours on the internet to try and find evidence to support my constant, intrusive thoughts and anxiety that I was poisoning my baby and it was all my fault for being a failure. After getting help in many different ways and joining a breastfeeding support group after my second child was born, I went onto nurse her for two years but regardless of how I fed her I was able to look back and see how ppd really distorted everything with my first child. They were both fed with love and affection as infants but the depression and anxiety was distorting things and obviously making things way more difficult than they needed to be. My babies have both grown into beautiful teenagers today and I’m not only proud of them but proud of myself for reaching out and getting the help I so desperately needed.

  • I couldn’t look at a knife without imagining stabbing myself with it.

  • I had, (I can hardly type this), thoughts of throwing my baby off a cliff.

  • Lots of intrusive thoughts while driving of driving off the road or into oncoming traffic. God, it was horrible.

  • I was so scared the first few months that my son wouldn’t be able to breathe while in his infant seat and that I wouldn’t be able to pull over fast enough to help him. I got nervous hours before I had to take him anywhere.

  • Pretty much lot of what others have said but I had the hardest time with germs…nothing was sanitary and I literally would not sit my daughter down. I held her for months. Other big one was that someone was always watching me or someone was in the house.

  • My worst fear was SIDs. I didn’t realize I had PPOCD until my daughter was six months old. I would obsessively check on her every time she slept. It was like a ritual. I would check on her every 10 minutes after I put her to bed at night. When I was finally ready for bed I would have to check on her at least another 10-15 times before I could even relax and think about sleeping. Then I would wake up in a full blown panic attack after sleep 3 or 4 hours thinking she was in danger. I would run to her room and check to make sure she was breathing. Then it would start all over again. I still worry to this day about her and will check on her before I go to bed. But the obsession and panic to continually keep checking has greatly decreased.

  • Tripping and falling down stairs with my baby, or accidentally dropping her from some other height. I still worry about this 14 months later.

  • With my first baby, it was a depression, our marriage was having a hard time at the exact same time. Nursing was ridiculously hard for a good month. The first year ppd was just kind of survival mode. With my second baby, it was an anxiety. Our family was much more together, but my thoughts were not. I remember thinking the wood grains on our coffee table were making me almost nervous. We’ve since lost two, and definitely feeling the ppd just the same. However, my focus in my faith has got me through. Knowing each is just a season makes the rest of life worth it. 

  • I was paralyzed by the fear that I would now forever have someone else to worry about, literally have anxiety about, for the rest of my life. Without a break.

  • When my son used to cry, I would think about what would happen if I shook him. I would go through the hospital visit, possible injuries, and the CPS investigation all in my head.

  • We flew to Hawaii when my daughter was five months old and for weeks leading up to it I was sure the plane would crash into the ocean and I could literally picture my daughter drowning while I watched helplessly. She’s now over a year old and one of the most intrusive on-going thoughts is the idea of something happening to me. I know she’s at the age where she wouldn’t remember me and that thought makes me feel physically ill. I think about how long she would “look” for me when she needs her mommy before she would forget me and find comfort from someone else. It just makes me want to sob a million tears and I’ve thought about it since the day she was born.

  • I think most of us have those thoughts of “omg I’m going to die and my baby will never know me.” It’s so, so scary.

  • I would make my boss come home with me on nights my husband would work late because I was scared to give her a bath alone because of the same exact thoughts.

  • What if I push her stroller into traffic? I had such a death grip on that stroller after that one.

  • What if I throw her off the balcony?

  • What if stab her with a knife?

  • What if I go crazy and kill her and not what I did?

  • Bridges, windows, washing machines…you name it. Horrible. He will be 13 soon and still gives me the chills when I think about it.

  • Knives are for me still too. My mother in law will come over to cook and while she’s cooking she always sets the knives on the kitchen window sill it gives me so much anxiety ..even this many years later.

  • OMG. It’s so good to hear someone else say this. I have gotten past it now, but for years after PTSD from my first postpartum issues, I had a hard time with knives.

  • I forgot to add the horror that I was afraid of cooking him instead of the chicken and feeding to his dad in sandwiches. My mind was a hell. I had pelvic dysfunction and an emergency section and we couldn’t breastfeed so I pumped. I’d say any of those things alone could have contributed.

  • My most horrible thought during my bout with PPD was that my baby and husband would be better off without me. I had visions of jumping in front of a truck. I really didn’t think they needed me. I also had thoughts of ending my marriage. 11 years and 3 children later we are a happy family.

  • Every time I walked through the kitchen, I would imagine myself hurting her. Putting her in the microwave, the oven, or stabbing her with knives. I never actually wanted to do these things, but the thoughts were relentless and terrifying. I couldn’t make them stop.

  • My daughter was going to die in a car crash, positional asphyxiation, SIDS, basically any horrible thing you read about online, I thought it was going to happen.

  • I worry I’m not sane enough to be a good mother.

  • Drowning.

  • I very clearly remember thinking that my baby would be better off with anyone else as his mother. I thought about leaving him at the hospital or on someone’s doorstep like you read about in the fairy tales. I even thought about up and leaving in the middle of the night, that he’d be better off with just his dad.

  • I could do just drive this car into traffic with all my kids and end this pain for all of us.

  • My scary thought is that my baby doesn’t love me and know I’m his mum and that I might as well be dead if this is the case.

  • I had visions of pushing or throwing my three sons (then 5, 3, and 6 weeks old) down the stairs.

  • Image of babies flying across the room like a football.

  • My thoughts were throwing the newborn off a pedestrian bridge into highway traffic. They were smashing the baby’s head on that table…6 years later I still have intrusive thoughts.

  • I had repeated flashes that my daughters mouth was a wooden nutcracker dolls mouth and that she was squishing/cracking my nipple while breastfeeding. However, I was experiencing NO physical discomfort while breastfeeding. In my imagination it was like a Chucky doll that looked like a nutcracker but with my daughter’s eyes. I also imagined her mouth like a lamprey eel’s mouth. I continued breastfeeding for several weeks while having these intrusive thoughts. It wasn’t until I hadn’t slept in 3 days and could not stop crying that I scheduled a doctors appointment to get some help.

  • These are a bit more simple and trivial than the others but were so distressing at the time. I could not make dinner. Completely unable to focus to put ham on a plate, boil some potato and microwave some corn. I didn’t know where to start. The distress that caused me was huge. I was unable to put my daughter to sleep. Not in the she wouldn’t sleep kind of way, she would sleep, but I could not go through the process of dinner, bath, book and bed by myself. I had no idea what to do, how to persuade her to get into the bath. So upsetting. Tight chest. Couldn’t breathe. Pounding heart.

  • My thoughts were throwing the newborn off a pedestrian bridge into highway traffic. They were smashing the baby’s head on that table.

  • I am afraid I don’t like my kids. I am afraid that they don’t like me. I am afraid that I am not good enough.

  • I would vividly, in great detail, imagine my own child in child abuse scenarios from the news. I would imagine my child’s face, screams, and suffering and feel like there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

  • Someone (myself or my older children) falling and crushing my son’s head. If you haven’t had intrusive thoughts they can be very vivid. Even writing this now I can feel my anxiety rising and he is sleeping peacefully in my arms. Around 4 months postpartum I sought help from my midwife unlike with my previous 2 children when I just dealt with it because I wasn’t aware postpartum anxiety was a thing.

  • I imagined myself just running away from it all. No note, no call, no nothing. Just one day, *poof*, where is Mommy?

  • I’ve had thoughts of just covering her face until she stopped crying. Of throwing her in her crib. Of leaving her somewhere. Of just getting rid of her. It makes me feel like the worst mom in the world.

  • I had disturbing images flash through my mind of me dropping the baby and her head smacking the floor. During sleep deprived rage filled moments, I would imagine myself smacking my baby against the wall or shaking her. These thoughts filled me with such shame even though they were passing thoughts and I would never really harm my children. I’m also a therapist who has worked with parents for years so I had higher expectations for myself in terms of being able to regulate my feelings and be more in control. It led to having worse shame and feelings of inadequacy. I saw what was happening and recognized I needed to talk to a professional about what I was feeling. It helped alot.

  • That someone will put poison or something in my baby’s formula…..I put it in the cabinet to hide it…..I know this is not going to happen, but the thought still comes in my head.

  • I’m obsessed with something being wrong with my baby. He has a congenital/physiologic issue that the doctor told me it’s fine but then wants to keep following. Why are we following something that’s allegedly fine? Does that mean he’s not ok? What if he’s sick? My ob, pcp, and ped all told me to “don’t worry.” I obsess about this 100x a day. I often can’t sleep and have true panic attacks near daily, often vomiting and crying. It’s exhausting. I can’t stop thinking about it. This is hell.

  • I’d throw the baby down the stairs.That there were evil things in the house.

  • I went on a drinking binge to cope with postpartum anxiety.

 

 

*Kleiman, K. & Wenzel, A. (2010). Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts: Breaking the cycle of unwanted thoughts in motherhood. New York, New York: Routlege.

**Image created by Melina Stock

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