The thought of having another baby terrified me.
When my son was two weeks old, I wrote myself letter, sealed it in an envelope and wrote: “To Be Opened In The Event of Wanting Another Baby” across the front. I wanted to make sure that I never forgot how I was feeling in that moment.
I’ve never read the letter because I really don’t want to revisit that time. It was a black, black time. I was afraid in my own skin. I was afraid of my own thoughts. I was afraid of my baby. I was afraid of what I might do to my baby. I was afraid I would never feel right again.
When other people talked about their joy at having children, I was baffled. What did they mean? All I felt was desperate terror, guilt for not loving my son properly and grief at the fact that something was obviously missing. I was clearly not feeling the way I was supposed to be feeling.
Thankfully, gradually I got through the despair. I actually came to adore being a mother to my gorgeous boy. And eventually, to my amazement the thought of having another child didn’t frighten me anymore.
Going again after PND: 10 things I’ll do differently
1. Tell someone
So basic, but when I was pregnant the first time I was too frightened to tell my doctor or the midwife that a) I had previously had mental health issues in the past or that b) I was feeling a bit depressed since discovering that I was pregnant. Two fairly key things to mention. I think I was phobic about saying this out loud in case they preemptively confiscated my baby or something.
2. Acknowledge how I’m feeling
I was engaged in an impressive one-woman show I like to call “I’m completely f*cking fine. Fine, fine, FIIIIIIINE.” I didn’t want to admit to myself that I mightn’t be totally fine because admitting it would make it real.
3. Not feel like a failure over every little thing
So much easier said than done. The last time every little thing from struggling to breastfeed to my son crying seemingly for hours on end made me like a failure. Feeling depressed made me feel like a failure which obviously made me feel even more depressed. Ah, the frustrating catch 22 of the whole business.
4. I am going to rest during my pregnancy
Again it all seems fairly obvious, but it’s hard to actually make yourself do it. The growing belly can feel a bit like a clock counting down, and there’s pressure to achieve everything you think you won’t be able to do after the baby arrives. This time, I’m vowing to say: “F*ck it, I’m going to bed”. It’ll be great.
5. I going to accept that it might happen again
BUT (and as you can see that’s a capital ‘but’) I am going to do everything I can to remind myself every step of the way that things were bad before (really, REALLY bad at times) but we all got through it. And I tentatively hope/think that The Child is not suffering lasting effects of having me as a mother – nothing short of a miracle really.
6. I am going to exercise
I did exercise regularly during my first pregnancy, and it didn’t exactly stave off any depression, but still, it can’t hurt. I’ll swap my reformer pilates and running for swimming which I find more comfortable and relaxing during those months of metamorphoses.
7. I am going to save up for childcare for when I’m on maternity leave
I think this is one is potentially a big sanity saver. Keeping my son in childcare while I get to grips with the new baby maelstrom is also probably kinder to him than changing up his routine right at the moment that his whole world is being turned upside down by a 9 lb interloper.
8. Like last time, I am going to try my best to breastfeed
….But not to the detriment of my own mental well being. I’m not saying that breastfeeding is bad for anyone’s mental health, and I know how fantastic it is for bonding and I eventually loved my time breastfeeding. But last time round, putting enormous pressure on myself to breastfeed in the face of huge difficulties wasn’t good for MY mental health.
9. I am going to sleep when the baby sleeps
I’m going to do it; I swear to you. Last time I just laughed whenever anyone mentioned this adage to me but this time wherever, whenever that baby nods off I am going to drop everything, lie down on the spot (in the street if needs be) and go the f*ck to sleep as well.
10. I am not going to fight the system
By system, I mean the mania of the newborn period. The first go around, I was always trying to get things to settle down. If the baby was feeding for hours and hours on end instead of accepting it, I’d be stressing my face off about when (if ever) he’d stop or if he was getting enough. Next time around I am going to attempt to just go with it and stop fighting it.