PPD: Second Time Around

Sad Mom

It’s no secret that I suffered from Post Partum Depression (PPD) after the birth of my first baby. It was a dark, regretful time of my life and one that I find difficult to write about – but I know that I must, sometimes. A twitter follower recently requested a post about PPD with second and subsequent children, so I wanted to oblige quickly. This is a tough subject, but nevertheless a subject that needs to be written about.

When I look back at that bleak time in our family history, I wish I could leap back in time to give my former self a big hug and promise her that it would all be ok. Oh, how I worried that the black hole I had found myself in would become my permanent home. It didn’t, of course, but those worries continued to simmer away in the back of my mind long after I had journeyed back into the light.

I was worried because I wanted more children.

My womb ached to carry more babies; my breasts longed to nurse another newborn. I wanted, needed to add to our family but the fear of plunging back into that hole was paralysing.

It took many months of soul searching and lengthy discussions with the husband to finally come to the decision to try to conceive again. My friends reassured me that it would be different this time. After all, I knew what to expect. I was already in the role of a mother so, although it would be tough to adjust to a new baby, it wouldn’t be the massive culture shock that it was when I went from a carefree teenager to a responsible mother. I had a better support network waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in should I start to flounder.

And most importantly, I was aware of the illness and would recognise the signs, hopefully catching the PPD whilst it attempted to sneak up on me, before it had a chance to grab me in the familiar chokehold. I even spoke to my doctor about my worries, and she assured me that I could start back on my (breastfeeding and pregnancy-friendly) antidepressants as soon as I felt I needed them.

I needn’t have worried. As soon as my pregnancy began, it felt different. Despite the pregnancy being pre-empted by two consecutive early miscarriages, I was full of joy from the very beginning. Despite the debilitating morning sickness, which gave way to even more debilitating SPD by 13 weeks along (which rendered me unable to walk for more than 50 yards without agonising pain by 30 weeks), I loved being pregnant. I loved seeing my belly grow every week, and I couldn’t wait to meet the little person within. I spent weeks planning and preparing myself and my family for an all-natural home birth. I was so excited. I was feeling pretty positive that it really would be different this time, despite the normal worries of how my new baby would fit into the family, and how my son would cope.PPD: Second Time Around

When Squishy arrived after the most fantastic, perfect home birth, I held him and looked at his little face. And once again, I did not feel the Amazing Rush of Love that everybody talks about. My heart sank, weighed down with a heavy feeling of dread. Oh God, I thought. It’s happening again.

I kept it to myself. Convinced myself that it would be ok. And you know what? I was right.

12 hours later, I gazed at the face of my gorgeous sleeping newborn and it hit me. My heavy heart was lifted and filled with the sweet voices of a hundred angels. All-consuming love coursed through my veins. With every single breath I took I felt myself filling up with love for this tiny little creature. It was *the* most amazing, clichéd moment of my entire life. I remember thinking to myself, This is what it’s supposed to be like. This is motherhood.

The baby blues kicked in a few days later, but they were mild and went away after a week or so. Although I felt emotionally wobbly, there was a strange solidity in my soul. I knew things would be okay. Everything was so different this time. I actually enjoyed being up with my little baby all night long. I treasured the quiet moments in the dark that we shared, despite the tiredness. Instead of longing for him to grow up and not need me so much, I longed for him to stay tiny forever and ever. I wanted him with me all of the time.

Of course, I’ve had some wobbly moments. As somebody who has struggled with depression on and off for almost all of my adult life, those moments are inevitable. Some days I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities, and I pine for simple days gone by when my biggest responsibility was my mediocre job, and making sure I had enough money for my fortnightly night out in town. I still have days when I would much rather lie on the sofa and stare at the ceiling than undertake the various and seemingly endless list of motherly tasks I must complete. But that’s life. The difference now is that I am able to take some deep breaths, acknowledge those feelings and get on with the day.

The causes of PPD are many and varied. For me, my experiences of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood were so vastly different that I couldn’t possibly pinpoint just one thing that caused my PPD, or prevented it the second time around. I am well aware that many women unfortunately have a different experience than I did, and that a positive experience of pregnancy and the perinatal period does not in any way guarantee freedom from PPD. In the same way, previous PPD does not in any way guarantee that you will once again be a sufferer.

I wrote this post because I hope that it may give someone, somewhere, the hope and courage that they need to believe that it doesn’t have to be the same way again. Even if the dreaded PPD strikes again, the current ‘you’ has got something on the ‘you’ from the past – she’s got experience. She knows that a rock solid support network is vital. She knows that the worst possible thing she could do is to keep her feelings to herself out of fear that her child will be taken away, or that her family will abandon her. She knows how important it is to advocate for herself to the doctor that can get her the help she needs.

And, most importantly, she knows that she can get through whatever life throws at her. She’s a survivor, and as such she is far stronger than she thinks she is.

What advice would you give a mama who is worrying about getting PPD?

 

Image: Keo101 @ flickr

Comments

  1. Emilee says

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Though I escaped PPD with my first child, my mother and sister both had serious and scary cases of it. My advice to someone worrying about it is to know the signs, make sure her partner (or a close friend) also knows the signs, and then stop worrying about it unless it does become a problem.

    • says

      That’s great advice! I totally agree that it’s pointless worrying about it… my midwife told me that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which I don’t completely agree with but definitely don’t see the benefit of stressing over it. Like you said, inform yourself and others, then allow things to unfold. Thank you for your comments, and I’m glad to hear that you managed to avoid it :)

  2. says

    This is beautiful, brought me to tears. And it echoes so many of my own experiences and feelings too. Unlike you, I struggled with depression whilst pregnant with our 2nd as well, which prompted a great fear of “what would come”. But you’re so right. Although I have had lapses, on the whole I’ve managed so much better because I knew what to expect, and because I had that support network in place – or knew where to go at least. And I so agree with the feeling of wanting to be close to my new baby, despite how hard it has been at times. Despite being dog-tired, drained and feeling low, snuggles with my littlest one still make me feel better, and remind me what it’s all about…

    • says

      I’m so glad to hear that you have escaped it second time around. Thank you so much for your comment, and for sharing you experience x

  3. Suzanne says

    Thank you for posting this, Imogen. I don’t know any other mothers with PNI and the friends I have made since my daughter was born are chatting about second babies… The thought of putting us all through that horrible illness again is terrifying. I loved being pregnant, had a fabulous home birth, and Meredith breastfed easily so I counted myself lucky despite the fact I was struggling.
    I guess part of me asked you to share your experience second time around because I knew I would hear a positive outcome, that other PNI survivors don’t have the same experience second time. However, deep down, I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to take that step. I am well now, have been off medication for months, am in good place and love spending time with my daughter, and I suppose because I have had to work SO hard to get to this place, it would be soul destroying if I lost it all again. On the other hand, it makes me so very sad to think I’ll never be pregnant again or give a brother or sister to Meredith.
    I agree that second time around you have a wealth of experience to draw on, much less concern about ‘getting it right’, you could potentially recognise the signs of PNI (although I don’t think this would always be so), your family would see familiar signs perhaps. I would like to think myself and my partner could get through whatever was thrown at us, but the main thing that would hold me back is the tiniest of possibilities PNI would recur and what impact that might have on my daughter; I just couldn’t put her through it again.
    Thank you so much for writing this post, it means a lot as I know how difficult it can be to revisit such a dark time in your life, nevermind share those thoughts and feelings with others. Thank you xxx

    • says

      Thanks so much for commenting and for sharing your worries here. I want this to be a safe place for readers to share, so thank you.

      I can completely understand your fear. It took a long time for me to be able to move past it enough to take the plunge and TTC again. Like you, my primary concern was my older son – after all, he would be old enough to *see* me in that awful state, and remember it.

      Perhaps you just need some more time. Have you spoken to your doctor about this? I found mine to be incredibly helpful. There are some depression medications that are safe to use whilst breastfeeding and even while pregnant. A friend of mine is due any day now, and has already received a script for antidepressants which she has been advised to start as soon as her baby is born, to hopefully head off the PNI she suffered with her first.

      I read somewhere once that the final stage of postnatal illness is the PTSD stage – the stage wherein you are mostly well, but still traumatised from the whole experience. Do you think that may apply to you, Suzanne? Perhaps some kind of talking therapy would be beneficial in working through your feelings of guilt over what you went through. I still feel guilty now. Having Squish was a very healing experience but also brought with it it’s own set of guilty feelings (Why didnt his brother get the same start, why couldn’t I love him the same way, etc etc).

  4. Suzanne says

    Yes, you’re right, I definitely need more time and am in no rush. I think my initial responses to your post have shown me that I’m not ready. I have very recently become more involved with PNI networks (can I recommend people head to the website for Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation, it is an excellent resource) and am in the process of setting up a local support group for PNI sufferers in my area (sorely lacking here), so this is giving me a place to channel my energy to try and raise awareness of PNI and try to push for better services.

    I would definitely not seek my GPs advice as they have generally been pretty damn awful to be honest. If you want medication, then you’re fine but anything else… I got counselling through work, which was a godsend and worked brilliantly for me, along with antidepressants. I suppose its just another step, isn’t it, into the unknown, which is frightening when the unknown might mean a step backwards.

    Thank you so much for your post and stimulating discussion amongst mothers – long may it continue :) xxx

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear your GP has’t been very supportive :( It is generally very hard to get any talking therapy through the NHS. I used to see a counsellor when I was younger for free on GP referral but the organisation is only for under-19s. I’m glad that your work were able to provide something, it’s very important to talk things through alongside the medication.

      It is completely brilliant that you are setting up a support group! What an amazing thing to do. Huge props to you, mama. <3

  5. paula says

    Thanks for this! It really uplifted me. I am newly pregnant with my second and my first thought was “OH GOD, its gonna be like last time.” My first- I went through almost an entire year on rocky, unstable ground. I still haven’t gotten my sleeping under control but I see myself getting better everyday with therapy! :) I have hopes!

  6. Amber says

    Your article was lovely. I especially appreciate the last part…”And, most importantly, she knows that she can get through whatever life throws at her. She’s a survivor, and as such she is far stronger than she thinks she is.”Beautifully put! Thank you for your encouragement.
    God bless you.
    Post Partum Psychosis, Depression, Anxiety, and OCD SURVIVOR
    And currently very happily pregnant with baby #2!!!

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