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I would be lying if I said some of the nerves I have regarding the birth of baby number 3 isn’t about my own mental health and well-being, postpartum. As someone who has suffered from varying degrees of postpartum depression and anxiety with both of my other children, it’s hard not to think about what is likely my postpartum reality this time around.
When my son, Ari, was born 5.5 years ago, I knew something was off right away. I felt… distanced from him. I have spoken about this immensely before, but I felt as if I had an overwhelming desire to protect this tiny human I spent so much time creating; but I wouldn’t quite refer to it as love. The love part came much later.
Shortly after his arrival I was put on an antidepressant. It seemed to work a little bit, and has since been tweaked over the years and is now working beautifully. But PPD with him is what initiated my journey with anxiety and depression medications. When I got pregnant with Remy, our daughter, near Ari’s third birthday, I knew to expect a rough road again.
But I felt more prepared. I had a plan. I would restrict visitors until we found our groove. I could handle it, right?
To my surprise, and delight, as soon as she was born I felt that immediate outpouring of love for her!
It took us months of no sleep (when I say “no sleep,” I mean that this child slept for an average of 2 – 3 hours in a 24-hour period). Usually during the day when someone else was holding her. And spent every single night screaming in agony.
I felt a rage like I had only read about. Luckily, I was cognizant enough to understand that if I did not step away from her, I would most certainly hurt her. I realized that this was probably the one sign that I was not suffering from postpartum psychosis — my ability to properly think through what was actually going on in my brain.
There were honestly moments in that first year where I considered driving myself to the hospital because I felt like I was going crazy. It’s a humbling thing to think about. Knowing that, had I driven myself there, I almost certainly would have been admitted to the psychiatric floor for evaluation. And I truly thought about doing that — and likely would have — if Remy hadn’t been 100% reliant on me for nourishment (aka – she refused to take a bottle).
I’m lucky to have had an amazing support system, both at home and at work, who truly helped me survive the first year of Remy’s life. Once we realized that she had been having urinary tract infections and was in excruciating pain, we had a plan of action. Rounds of antibiotics and trips to the chiropractor’s office helped her become a normal baby. And, in doing so, helped me get through the fog of that first year.
- My husband gets many weeks of paid leave this time (thank god!) which will certainly be helpful in keeping the bigger kids in order while I handle the baby. Lucky for us, he doesn’t have to take it all at once, so I’m going to
- My coworkers are expecting my return to work, with my kids (all of them), at 3 weeks. While this may seem like a detriment, I assure you it isn’t. I work in childcare and that means I will literally be able to hand my new baby off, as needed, for breaks. They also were all there for me with Remy and understand that it is less about my return to work and more about my return to sanity and adult conversation.
- I am going to take this new baby to the pediatric chiropractor (in addition to her pediatrician) within the first month of her life. Guys. I really didn’t think it would work for Remy — but it did. And these tiny adjustments that the doctor made on my baby changed her. So instead of putting it off this time around, I’m going to bite the bullet (aka the co-pay), and take her right away.
- I’ve been talking about postpartum a LOT and with everyone. I need everyone to know what to expect from me — my husband, my friends, my family — so that they know to be prepared to pick up the pieces when and where needed. And I’m so lucky to have this support system ready and willing to help out.
In the meantime, I’m just going to have to expect the worst and roll with the punches. We went into this pregnancy knowing that we may have another awful first year, but that it does get better. And I guess that’s what we’re going to have to make do with for now. But I will 100% be honest about it, that’s for certain — because talking about it is actually helping to alleviate some of the pressure I feel regarding my upcoming postpartum experience.
And perhaps — just perhaps — talking about my own experiences can be helpful to someone else.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, nor am I advocating for intervention with medications. I’m just stating what worked for me.