Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from S. Prescott.
By S. Prescott
Sometimes, I’ll see babies in the store or at the kid gym, and my ovaries will scream. I’ll want to sniff their sweet heads, and enjoy their quiet cuddles. The perfect little cries, and gentle hands. Then, I’ll snap out of my daydream to ask myself:
Do I really want to do that again?
My mind suddenly shifts to the scary reality that was my postpartum mental illness two years ago. I’ll be taken back to the days when I just wanted to lay in bed and cry, but I still got up, and pretended I was fine. I’ll remember how I lost my spirit in the cloudy whirlwind. I’ll remember how I felt completely detached from the light that was my life.
The decision to grow one’s family is never a simple one, but for those who’ve had postpartum depression before, it comes with an extra layer of emotional distress. Those who’ve had postpartum depression or anxiety or psychosis before have a 50 percent higher risk than the average mom of experiencing one of these illnesses again.
Could I handle it again?
I’ll ask myself this as I see a tired, new mom shuffling through Target.
Could I handle a toddler, a newborn, and postpartum depression?
I can hardly handle one tantrum, let alone a tantrum from two kids. Would it make my depression worse? Would I become unattached to either child?
Will it affect my relationship with my son, and my husband?
My husband adapted so well to having a newborn — would he be able to do that again? My son gets so jealous. He might hate me.
My whole adult life, I was told kids would not be in my future. My husband and I accepted that, and enjoyed our life. We didn’t plan to try meds, or to adopt. We were content living our lives, just the two of us. Then, when we found out that what I thought was a kidney infection was actually a baby, we were horrified — and elated.
The typical fear-driven questions filled my head. Will I be a good mother? What if it hates me? The pregnancy was rough on my body, but I had no idea what was the storm getting ready to take over my mind and soul.
Our son was born at 42 weeks gestation, and sent to the NICU three hours after a 20 hour labor. I had a failed induction under my belt, a past term baby, an infection, and a sick baby. I spent the next nine days crying. At one point I couldn’t even hold our sweet boy. Going home to an empty nursery was crushing. However, I powered through. When we finally got discharged I felt a light in my heart, and clear air in my mind. The NICU had him on a perfect schedule, and he was an amazing eater. Life was great. Then the storm hit.
We were back in the NICU with RSV. I was sad, but this was different.
Having postpartum depression is like being in one of those dreams where you are running, but going nowhere. There is this fear and isolation, but you aren’t 100 percent what sure is causing it. In my case, I was surrounded by wonderful people, yet I still felt completely alone. Looking back at it now, I knew what was going on with my mind, but I was scared to admit it. I already felt like a total failure. I couldn’t even keep my baby from getting sick for a week. I blamed myself for both of his NICU trips, and for every problem around the sun. My fuse was short, that even the smallest thing would make me cry, or explode.
My best friend took me to lunch, and told me she thought I wasn’t okay. I didn’t deny it. I was not okay. I sat in the parking lot of our favorite diner and called my OB. My best friend sat in the passenger seat of my car, and told me it was all going to be okay. She assured me that I wasn’t a bad mom, and no one thought I was a failure. I still don’t think she understands how much I appreciate her for saving me.
I spoke with my doctor. I worked up the strength to say, “I think I have postpartum depression.”
He prescribed medication, and on Day One, I felt a change. I wasn’t better, but I wasn’t sliding into a hole of darkness. Within the week, I noticed I was someone different. I wasn’t quite my old self, but I wasn’t the “damaged” hot mess that I was before. I was handling my emotions better, and my fuse grew. I wasn’t flying off the handle, and I was no longer numb. I found Postpartum Progress, and for the first time, I didn’t feel alone, crazy, or like a failure. I felt empowered.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my struggles with postpartum depression. The ups, the downs, the tears, and the true breakdowns fueled by mental illness, stigmas and self doubt.
My husband and I have reached a point in our lives where we are discussing having more babies. We both have incredible siblings that have greatly impacted our lives. We don’t want our son to miss out on that incredible bond.
I’ve come to a point where I no longer cower in fear at thought of having PPD once more. There are so many things that I know now that I didn’t know then. I know more about caring for a newborn baby, handling lady-part goo, and I know more about my mind. I can tell when something isn’t quite right, and I’m no longer afraid to get help. I don’t see postpartum depression as a shameful thing anymore. I know about all the amazing references, organizations, and helpers there are out there. The more I think about, and look into having more babies, the less fearful I become. I know that I can make it through.
We haven’t started trying for number two just yet. But I know when I do, I’ll have a world of strength behind me.
P.S. More on the question: Should you stop having children if you’ve had postpartum depression?