Since having my second child my world has changed in more ways than I could have imagined. As our triangle turned into a square (quite seamlessly in many ways, I should say), I have experienced love and joy that I had not yet known. And one positive thing that I have done has been starting 511, Ever After, as it has been a wonderful outlet for me, a return to something I’ve loved, and the discovery of a new passion. If you’ve emailed me privately I have shared that with you, but I have also shared something else…
I have always been someone with anxiety. I have written about it countless times on this very site, and that is because my original intention in starting Mommy, Ever After was to write honestly about things that people were not comfortable speaking of. Like how motherhood can be scary. And lonely. And boring. And weird. And yes, I wrote all about how being a mom is magical and enchanting, and I still feel that way completely–actually, probably more so than ever–but something happened to me the second time around that has changed my life forever.
In having my son, my sweet angel of a little boy whom I love with all of my heart, I experienced great depression. During my pregnancy, I suffered severe morning sickness. Let me put it to you this way; during the first go-round I was hesitant to take even a tylenol; during this pregnancy, I had to take a prescription anti-nausea medicine every 4 hours to keep my vomiting down to 10 times a day. That is not fun for anyone. Plus, the hormones. The crushing hormones that sneak up on you and embrace you in their anxiety-producing grasp. So I suffered what I now know is called peri-partum depression. I felt down. Not all of the time, but some of the time. A lot of the time. I couldn’t focus on my family. I had scary thoughts. But I was ok. I was still myself.
And I saw doctors and they were all concerned for me for after the birth. I remember one saying “I am concerned about you having this baby and having a walloping case of postpartum depression.” And I didn’t quite understand it but I knew to fear it. I knew that postpartum depression involved feelings of wanting to hurt oneself, or, much worse, the child. I knew that I did not experience it the first time, despite some moments of blues or intense anxiety. But I also know that my two pregnancies were completely different.
I was talking to my friend Jordan over at Ramshackle Glam about these differences when she announced her second pregnancy. The first time, I felt like I was this enchanted, magical vessel of blooming life. I felt like every single part of those 10 months were filled with magic and wonder. And when I first got pregnant the second time around, I was excited. I peed on that stick, saw two clear lines appear, and I felt that magic again. We were going to be a family of four. I was even able to present it to my husband in a fun way, having my daughter hand him a box with the stick inside. I had my dad come over to “check out my new sconces” and had the stick on my mantle. It was all exciting. But I had anxiety. I had pretty crippling anxiety from the get-go. I felt a strong love for the growing baby instantaneously (perhaps because was already a mother and knew that kind of love) and therefore found myself protective of my midsection. I avoided hard hugs from my students, heavy lifting and anything else dangerous. I loved my baby that was the mere size of a cheerio.
And then, something happened to me that never happened during my first pregnancy; I started to spot at 6 weeks. At this point, I had yet to even see the baby on ultrasound, a different experience than the first. It was St. Patrick’s day. We were eating Chinese Food. And I saw a little bit of blood. We ended up in the ER and after ultrasounds and bloodwork we confirmed that my baby was in my uterus and with a beating heart and growing appropriately. It was an incredibly intense and scary night for me.
And after that night, I went numb.
It it very hard for me to write this; in fact, as I type this, as he sleeps on my bed next to me, I am listening to his breathing, in and out, in and out, and I have tears streaming down my face. I went numb to the baby inside of me. Clearly it was a defense mechanism. I know that spotting is a very normal occurrence in many healthy pregnancies, but it threw me overboard. So instead of caring more, I cared less. This was not a conscious thing, mind you; it is only something I can recognize in hindsight. But I stopped feeling for the baby.
This numbness only intensified at 12 weeks when the perinatal ultrasound tech told me that he saw a penis. This is very early to find out the baby’s sex (that typically happens at the 20 week anatomy scan. And I was in shock. Not only was I having another baby, not only was I puking all day, not only was I feeling very mixed emotions, if anything at all, but a boy? We are sucha girl family.
And that feeling of incredulity continued.
I stopped being protective. I was responsible in my pregnancy, not eating deli meat or drinking excessively, but I also was not nearly as cautious or loving as I had been to my first. I didn’t sing to my belly every night or read it stories. I loved feeling my son kick and move (he was the biggest mover ever, and because he was transverse I felt EVERYTHING) but I wasn’t sure.
I wasn’t sure I could love another child.
I wasn’t sure I could love a boy.
I even asked my best friend if she would take him if I didn’t love him enough to be his mom. How crazy does that sound? She still asks me if the deal is on because she loves him a whole darn lot.
And then, I went into labor. The baby was born. We sang to him in the OR. And I loved him immediately. And all of those feelings of insecurity and doubt washed away. But what I did not expect was that my C-Section would be complicated; I had a lot of scar tissue, the front of my uterus was very thin and I lost a lot of blood. I was very sick and ended up in the hospital for 5 days. But I was happy. Happier than I had been in months. I was also on Dilaudid, an opiate. But I was happy.
And that happiness actually lasted. It lasted a good two weeks, just about as long as my Dilaudid consumption. And then, something started to creep in. Anxiety. Fear. Doubt. Sadness.
And I remember a text from my husband from the first week in November. It said, “I want to make sure you’re OK. I see the light starting to go out in your eyes.”
And I sobbed. Because I was so loved. But because he was right. And I fought the demons. But he was right.
The story gets darker from here, so I want to stop now with the promise that I will continue with the same kind of honesty with which I have always written. But I warn you. This has been a bad time in my life. And even though my house is filled with pretty throw pillows, it has been bad.
So here is my story. In the hopes that it will help others.
To be continued…