The tail end of my pregnancy with my son was a whirlwind. When a preterm labor scare had my doctor predicting he’d be early, I was ready to deliver him as soon as he would be healthy. I was so tired of being pregnant and sick (for years); this little man had sapped whatever energy remained. My exhaustion was so intense that I could barely manage my almost two-year-old daughter. I was certain that I never wanted to be pregnant again.
When he finally arrived one week late (so much for being early or even on time), everything changed. His birth was easier than my first: I felt more comfortable, I was less scared, I even kind of knew what to do and expect.
His sweet smell, his littleness: here again was another amazing creature my husband and I had created.
All of the sudden I didn’t want him to be my last. I was devastated to think this would be my last birth experience. All those months of wanting him out were erased. The feeling overwhelmed me. It consumed me.
I felt as though the story were ending. As if I was closing the door on a beautiful era of my life, the part where you make and deliver beautiful babies. When my doctor came to do his circumcision, I could barely handle the sadness of feeling like we were saying goodbye. That I would no longer need his loving council as I nurture my young. That I would never come to this hospital again to have my babies and be supported by amazing nurses. Because there would be no more.
I knew this intense response could be birth hormones. I would give it time. It wasn’t as if I wanted to take any action on those thoughts just yet.
But it never faded. It went on strong for more than a year.
It grew and morphed and changed over that time.
But I never knew it was post-partum depression. You see, for me, it always felt like an overpowering sort of love. That the bad feelings were a byproduct of the intense joy of being a mother of another brand new baby.
There was definitely sadness. I was desperate to consume each moment with my son because it would be the last time I went through “x.” The last first smiles, the last falling asleep in your arms, the last first crawl or walk. I could never really acknowledge the depth of the pain I was feeling because it was masked by this disproportionate feeling of happiness. It was as though the two feelings were so deeply intertwined that I could not tell them apart. The pain and sadness mixed with joy and love. I could literally feel the time slipping away; I could not will it to slow down.
The other feeling I knew I felt, was anger. I was angry at my husband. I was angry at life. These were the things that we going to keep me from being able to have another baby.
Our daughter became even more challenging when our son was born. She hated him for taking me away from her. And our son was an extremely difficult baby. He pretty much screamed for the first year. Blood curdling, cover your ears kind of screaming. I was barely able to handle the two of them together because they mostly had to be separated. Our families pulled away. It nearly broke us.
I was angry because the kids were difficult. I was angry because my husband couldn’t handle them and because he withdrew. I was angry that we had no family or support network. If our situation had been even slightly better, maybe it would have been an option for us to have another baby.
I was fixated. Everything hinged on whether I could have another baby. I worked tirelessly to improve our daily routines to try to prove that we could do it. I tried everything in my power to get the kids under control. Nothing worked. And the harder I tried, the more I clamped down on them, the worse everyone got. One day I would be in the depths of despair feeling like I just couldn’t handle parenting, and the next morning would go smoothly and I’d want to get pregnant.
I was so confused. It never “felt like” depression. In fact, it felt like almost every other feeling combined, but no depression. I just got up every day and did what needed to be done. Who else was going to do it?
After a year, it started to fade. The drive for another child became less intense and I felt better. It coincided with my daughter being diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, and then we came to understand that my son had it as well. It explained so much. He began to scream a little less. We all started to get better.
We went to therapy, started talking about our true feelings again. That is when I realized I probably had experienced post-partum depression. My therapist agreed. I hadn’t even considered it a possibility since I didn’t have it with my daughter. It was already gone by the time I realized.
I wish I had known. And that is why I am telling you.
It can take so many different shapes. It can be any birth, no matter the order. It can be disguised by good feelings. It can be intermittent. Reach out. Get help. Motherhood is hard.