A lot of you know by now that part of the main reason I started this blog was after my experience with postpartum depression when I had my first baby. That experience alone kept me from ever wanting to have another baby and it permanently reprogrammed how I function, right down to my DNA. You can read more about that experience in this post here, but for now I want to focus on how my experience after having a second baby has been now that it has been almost a year since she was born.
It’s pretty common for many mommies out there to experience a kind of general uncontrollable sadness and overwhelm for the first several weeks after having a baby, and I was no exception. After my first baby, I didn’t realize that was very common so I couldn’t understand why I felt the way I did, I just blamed it on feeling tired. After a few weeks it didn’t go away though, and even months later after my baby was sleeping through the night, I still couldn’t wrap my mind around life. I always tell people that depression isn’t feeling sad because it’s the truth, I wasn’t sad. I just felt dead inside like I didn’t have any emotion. And exhausted. I was so, so exhausted. I barely had energy to make it to a short 4 hour shift of work a few days a week, let alone have a conversation or take a shower. I could barely take care of my baby and definitely couldn’t take care of myself. There was no humor, no motivation, no energy in my life. I wish I could convey exactly how comatose I felt, and then I would feel frustrated with myself that I couldn’t seem to pull it together and I couldn’t stop thinking about horrible things happening to my family. I would spiral out of control and I couldn’t just turn it off or “think about something else” as so many well-wishers tried to advise. There really is no explaining how it felt or what it was like.
Of course, since then I started taking medicine and recovered fairly well but I still have these periods where I feel that weight over me that I can’t control or lift and it’s smothering. When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I started to panic at just the idea of having to go through all of that again. I worried about the baby and myself, but I managed to work really closely with my doctor and we stayed on top of it for the majority of my pregnancy without the use of medication. Towards the end however, I had started to feel those violent thoughts get out of control and the lack of energy or motivation to live- like WAY beyond the normal for being 9 months pregnant because I know that being 9 months pregnant will do that to you haha, but it was more than just the physical feeling of exhaustion. I immediately started working with my doctor and decided to get onto medication a couple of weeks before I had Emilia. I was hesitant because I feel really strongly about not taking any medication that you can avoid while pregnant, but ultimately for me to be able to be in the right frame of mind that I needed to be for my baby to be born and to care for her in those early weeks, I really needed medication to help me and I absolutely believe that it did.
My experience after I had Emilia was SO different than after I had Sydney. I remember just being overwhelmed with joy like, is she mine? I get to keep her? Is this real life? She’s so beautiful! I was absolutely, totally, completely in love. With Sydney, I of course loved my baby but all the feelings weren’t there that other moms talked about. For the most part I felt completely terrified and what little part of me there was left was so overwhelmed that there wasn’t much room for anything else. I do wonder whether the medication for depression is what helped me have such different experiences with my two babies, or if it was because my experience loving and raising this amazing little first born I have made me understand how amazing that precious new baby is so my perception was different going into labor the 2nd time than it was the 1st? Wow, does that even make any sense to any of you? I feel like I’m really trying too hard to make a point here and I’ve lost control of my sentences haha.
I did experience the baby blues period for a very short few days after having Emilia, but then the next several weeks were pure baby bliss. There were only a handful of depressive episodes the entire time and I really felt like I could control them and pull myself out when I started feeling that way. Once I started working again and had to leave my baby things got a lot harder, I absolutely hate having to leave for work even though I love my job. I started to feel like I was being smothered by my responsibilities in life and not being able to cope, it started to feel a little bit like I had depression again and I was having a more and more difficult time controlling it, but I was very clear with my doctor about everything I was going through and they worked with me to adjust my medication and let me tell you what a difference that made! I honestly, full heartedly believe that this last year would have been a completely different story if I hadn’t been so proactive about getting help this time around at the first sign of depression.
It’s so interesting how my experience after each of my babies was so drastically different, and I really do believe it was because the second time around I got help so much sooner with controlling my depression and anxiety. I think it’s important for moms to remember that your experience with one baby may not, and most likely WILL NOT, be the same as with another baby. If you struggled with postpartum depression the first time, you might be able to get help to control or prevent it from happening again. On the flip side of that, if you had a great experience with your first baby, it’s possible to still get postpartum depression with a subsequent baby so it is SO important to monitor how you’re feeling and your mental health.
I think it’s also important to remember that there are many options to get help with depression and anxiety, such as meditation, working with your doctor to find medication that works, and working closely with someone like a therapist or a life coach. A resource such as the Recovery Village can help pair you up with a coach that can support you and help you make goals for your recovery.
You can’t take care of your baby to the best of your ability unless you are taking care of YOU.