With baby #3’s due date fast approaching, I thought it might be time to address this issue. I’ve had it written down for months but feel like now is the time to talk about it.
It’s not necessarily what you think. It can show up in so many different ways. For some it might be crying or thinking harmful thoughts toward their child but it isn’t that way for everyone.
I was bitter.
I didn’t want to have to give anything to this new little baby. I was deeply motivated by duty but completely unmotivated by love and caring. I hadn’t wanted to get pregnant with him in the first place but my husband convinced me it was time for my first son to have a sibling. And that lack of desire only increased with every pregnancy ache.
I wasn’t depressed during pregnancy, just resigned to my fate. A lot of my resistance to the idea came from a remarkably clear memory of labor and recovery. But now he was coming so I buckled up for it.
And it was a completely different birth. It was almost easy and ridiculously fast. He nursed well, where my first failed miserably. He slept pretty well, even without much training. It should have been good.
And at first, it was.
I decided it was nice being a second time mom and knowing what I was doing. I liked the security. Plus, he was pretty cute…for a newborn. I started healing up pretty quickly. My mom came to help, and, let’s be honest, everything is better with Mom around. Things were going pretty well.
Until they weren’t.
I remember my first glimmer of the postpartum depression setting in. It was just at the end of my mom’s visit. We were all sitting around one night after dinner talking. I said something along the lines of, “I feel so bad for some of my friends that can’t have kids. Sometimes I think I should just give them this one.” My mom and husband both looked at me like I was crazy. My oldest then did something adorable and my mom asked, “Do you really think you could give up something so cute?” My response was something about, “Oh not by the time they’re that age and I really know them!” but what I thought was, Not that kid, I love that one.
Now, Simeon wasn’t an easy baby. While he ate and slept well, he was discontent. He cried for no reason. Where Casey had giggled (on camera) by 2 months old, Simeon didn’t so much as grunt a laugh until he was 6 months! He didn’t like me holding him…or really much of anyone else, but he HATED not being held. He got RSV and went to the hospital for several days which was super difficult for all of us. He rarely smiled and he took a lot of time from other activities I had previously done.
But I never wanted to hurt my baby. Some people do.
I never wanted to hurt myself, although I did sometime wish I could simply disappear and not have to deal with everything anymore.
I didn’t cry, though others might.
I lied on the questionnaire the doctors give at follow up appointments. I didn’t once and my midwife suggested I find a councilor just in case my thoughts got worse. I didn’t want to go to one so I lied on all the others.
I smiled and faked my way through social engagements. I talked about how big Simeon was getting and what a good eater and sleeper he was. I rarely allowed myself to lament, even to my friends, about how hard his emotional state was because whenever I did, I could hear the venom in my voice, the bitterness.
And it all got worse. I came to loathe waking up to feed him. I hated having to get him dressed and give him a bath. I still tried to play with him and teach him things and do everything I could to take care of him, but I did not love him. Or maybe I loved him but I didn’t like him. Regardless, he got less than my best.
I secretly looked up symptoms of postpartum depression and found that I only had a few. And I had symptoms that weren’t listed. This combined with my stubbornness meant that I wouldn’t admit that it was postpartum depression. I was stronger than that. I could control my emotions. I was not so weak as to succumb to hormones.
How little I knew.
Then I saw this video where Hayden Panettiere talked about her postpartum depression. And something changed in my mind. It wasn’t embarrassing anymore. It wasn’t bad or wrong or horrible that I felt this way. It was fixable. It was treatable. It was something that could happen to ANYONE.
My son was 9 months old. I finally talked to my husband about it. Fortunately, by this time, Sim’s attitude was improving and mine was starting to lift as well. I didn’t end up needing treatment but letting my husband know what was wrong helped me so much. He held me accountable. He asked well-timed questions. He helped me heal.
But I had lost 9 months. I didn’t have a good relationship with my son. At all. He never wanted to be with me. He cried every time his dad left. And I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t wanted to be with him. I had hated any time Austin left because then I had to “deal with” him by myself. We were damaged. But after realizing what was wrong and really focusing on fixing it, with help from my husband, I did my best to repair our relationship.
And he turned out to be amazing. He became sweet and happy. He started to thrive. And the happier he became, the more I loved him. And the more I loved him, the happier he became. Until one day, we forgot we had ever had a rivalry. One day, we just started working.
Now that I know what postpartum depression can look like, for me at least, I know what to watch for. I’ve told a few people to help me watch for it with this next baby because I never want to lose 9 months of love and bonding with a child again.
The outpouring of love I’ve received makes me sad that I ever thought I needed to hide it. The bitterness wasn’t worth it. If you are struggling with it, talk to someone! If you think someone you know is fighting the battle, bring it up to them. Let them know that they aren’t alone, that they aren’t bad, and that they can get help so they can really love and enjoy their babies. I wish I had gotten help sooner.