It starts out innocently enough. You are standing at the pickup line at school, hanging out at the park, chilling at the dentist office. When someone sees how much your care for your kid. He is well behaved, got pants on…obviously this makes you mom of the year. So the question comes up: When are you having another one? Or lately it is more: Why didn’t you have more?
The answer is never easy. Do I say: “Well we can’t really afford another one.” “The delivery was complicated and don’t want to risk another one”. “We enjoy having one kid because we can give him more (love, attention etc.)” Sure all those answers are true and I have used every single one of them, depending on who asks. But it is not the whole truth. We could find a way to afford another one. I could plan a C-section. My heart can expand and love millions of children just as equally. Those aren’t the real answers. The real answer is fear and guilt. There, it is out. Out there for the world to see. Fear and guilt.
It is no secret that I had Postpartum depression. What isn’t wildly known is how bad it was. It was bad. I remember one time Cody was wailing and I was wailing. I didn’t know what to do. Was he hungry? No he just ate. Did he need to be changed? No I just changed him. Was he tired, hot, cold, in pain, colic? What was happening. So I am crying he is crying and I place him on the couch and walk away. I go into the kitchen to make a bottle and I am just losing it. I wish I could describe the anguish and helplessness the crushing fatigue and depression I felt at that moment. The knife rack was right there next to the formula. It would have been so easy and the thought crossed my mind in that moment. Just end it. Just go away. Let the darkness in. I don’t know what stopped me. The cries of my son who needed me? The knowledge that it would destroy my family? I don’t know. All I know is that it was the closest I have ever gotten to the bottom. I wish I could say that was the moment of clarity, that was the moment the fog lifted and I was able to enjoy my son and those infant years. It wasn’t. The depression continued. The fighting with my husband continued. The crying and the anguish continued…Until I got help. Finally my brain was able to clear and focus. Finally my sons cries didn’t make me cry. Finally I could see lightness.
After ten years I still remember those days like they were yesterday. I spend so much time making up for being a depressed mother to my son now. Wanna play Mario Kart, mom? Sure lets play! Can I have (insert random thing here)? Sure can! (within reason people!) I am not nearly as disciplinary as I should be…he gets away with a lot (again within reason). I want to make up so badly for those years when I just couldn’t be the mother he deserved. I love this kid more than anything…and I know I would love another just as much. Even though I am better I am still on medication. Even though I am better I still have days when it is hard to get out of bed. Even though I am better, I am afraid. I don’t ever want to go back to that place again. Ever.
I write this for a few reasons. While I think it is okay to ask questions, and by all means don’t want to upset anyone, I suggest caution when asking people about whether they are having more kids are not. If they say no for example, just let it go. To say “Oh he deserves a brother or sister” or “you don’t want an only child do you?” Just isn’t necessary.
Be ready for the actual answer. If you say “Are you having more kids?” And I tell you I don’t want to go back to being severely depressed but thanks for asking.” don’t be shocked.
When someone tells you they have had PPD – take that as two things – A) be honored they opened up to you, because it is hard as hell to admit it. B) show some compassion. It isn’t a made up problem. It isn’t “Baby blues” and it most definitely doesn’t mean we aren’t happy.
Finally – I write for the families. Especially the people closest to the mother. She needs you. Even if she pushes you away, even if she says she is fine. Do everything in your power to help her, and if you can’t…make sure she has someone who can. I implore everyone who feels like I did to seek help. It is out there and it makes all the difference.