After childbirth, panic.

Notes on fatherhood.
Jan. 31 2007 4:35 PM

Taco Bell's Canyon

After childbirth, panic.

(Continued from Page 1)

"As if something really bad's going to happen."

Tears fill her eyes.

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 "I feel like I don't have any control of anything. I feel like I might be going insane."

Five minutes later I'm leaving messages on doctors' voice mails with one hand and Googling with the other:

Childbirth. Panic.

At the top pops alternative translations of Psalm 48:6 (Panic seized them there, Anguish, as of a woman in childbirth). Skipping down I find what appears to be a relevant entry: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders After Childbirth.

"Have you ever heard of this?" I ask her.

"No," she says. But then a lot of unpleasant things can happen to a woman after childbirth, and you don't hear about most of them until they happen to your wife in the middle of the night.

"Don't leave me alone," she says, trembling beside me.

I don't think I've ever seen her scared of anything, and she is now more frightened than I've ever seen another human being outside of the movies. She's the little kid in The Sixth Sense. She sees dead people. Still, born with the ability to remain calm in the face of other people's misery, I feel more curious than alarmed. People who actually are going insane don't know they are going insane. Googling on, I finally come to a plausible-sounding Web page written by a psychiatrist named Christine Hibbert. "Three common fears experienced by women with a Postpartum Panic Disorder are: 1) fear of dying, 2) fear of losing control, and/or 3) fear that one is going crazy."

It's like finding the picture of the red-throated diver in the bird-watching manual right after you've glimpsed one for the first time. Postpartum Panic Disorder: So now the thing has a name. Roughly one in 10 women experiences it after childbirth. How, then, could we never have heard of it?

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