“Every pregnancy is different,” you hear over and over while waiting for your second baby to arrive. And mine were like night and day.
My first pregnancy was punctuated by moments of overwhelming anxiety. I wondered if my husband would leave me; if he really wanted to have a child. I obsessed about every little detail of the nursery. I went to the hospital at 34 weeks having shortness of breath and heart palpitations. And my delivery was a terrifying combination of panic attack, induction with pitocin at 37 weeks, and a baby who had to spend 12 hours in intensive care and then receive antibiotic injections for days after delivery.
It took me 6 months to recognize and seek treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety, but both gripped me from the second day in the hospital.
My second pregnancy, I was prepared for the anxiety. So when I felt myself spiraling out of control and wishing I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I ran to the doctor and started a medication regimen. And though I had difficult days, for the most part, I enjoyed my pregnancy. I felt relaxed and confident. So I rubbed my belly, decorated a nursery, and wished and wished to be free from PPD the second time around.
The first two weeks were blissful. No2’s birth was healing. The first four months or so I was so glad that I continued on my antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. They were working. I stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.
And then five months in, the wheels came off.
This time, it’s not depression. I don’t feel hopeless, or worthless, or empty. I vibrate with nervous energy. I feel the need to control everything. When the baby eats, when the baby sleeps, what color diaper she’s wearing, what tv show the preschooler watches, what my husband does when he’s got the kids to himself, and on and on. Any variation on my plan results in tension and rage. The intrusive thoughts are agonizing. Now that she’s 7 months old and *still* not sleeping more than 4 hours at a time, the sleep deprivation has made all of this all the more overwhelming.
I’m adjusting my medication doses, supplementing with an additional “as needed” med. My husband and I are teaming up to find ways for me to avoid sleep deprivation. And I’m visiting my doctors. A lot.
It’s been bad, but this time? I haven’t once lost a sense of who I am. I’ve had to fight for my sanity. But I’ve been present enough to fight. This time I feel bonded to my new baby. I love my girls.
So if you’re expecting another child after a postpartum mood disorder, I want you to know that it’s possible you won’t have to suffer again. But if you do, you will be alright. Just like every pregnancy, every experience with PPD is different. And just like with the second baby, you aren’t a rookie anymore. And at the very least, now you have online communities like #ppdchat, Mama’s Comfort Camp, and Postpartum Progress to help you navigate your journey to health and happiness.
You will be whole again.