After my bout with postpartum OCD, I decided I would never have another baby. NEVER. NOT. ONE. MORE. EVER. I’m not the only person who has been through postpartum depression who feels this way.
I am reminded of the choice I made, a choice that would later be reversed out of necessity, by a story on ParentsConnect called “Postpartum Depression: Why I Won’t Have Another Baby.” This mom writes about how she had always planned to have more than one child, primarily because she so disliked being an only child herself, but has now decided not to after having PPD:
“I am still plagued by anxiety. I am still on medication and in therapy. And one of the most painful things of all is that I am left with no desire to do this again. I fear starting over. Not just fear of possible PPD, but of having another newborn. Worrying about milestones and growth charts. Almost two years later with my son now, I’m still worrying about growth charts. So I can’t bear to start over with another child. I fear the fear. I truly feel that if I have another child, I will have two kids with only half of a mother. That seems ludicrous to me. I’d rather focus all my love and attention on the one I have than risk his happiness just so I can say I have two children. Would I be doing it for him or trying to fill my own void?
So this leaves my child an only child. The thing I said I’d never do. The thing that makes other mothers look at me and say, “Oh, you have to have another one! You can’t have just one!” (Is he a potato chip or something? I digress.) I’m treated like just wanting one child gives me two heads, and I find this extremely unfair.
So tread lightly on women you come across who feel ill-equipped to have more children. You don’t know the pain and guilt that may be underneath.”
I do. I know it well.
After taking a year to really get over my postpartum OCD and anxiety, I was not willing to go through that horror for even a second more. I was as done as done could be with having children. No more intrusive thoughts for me. No sobbing. No lack of appetite. No inability to sleep. No overwhelming sadness and guilt. No thank you.
Then I got pregnant. I wasn’t trying to, I just did. And given the circumstances, which I will be kind enough not to go into, I really shouldn’t have gotten pregnant. At all. It was nearly a miraculous conception. My husband and I were forced to rethink our choice, and in the end we chose to keep our baby (who I would be remiss in not sharing turned out to be our amazing blessing of a daughter Madden). The choice was not without trepidation. You can imagine our fear.
As an empowered patient, I knew this time I would, at the very minimum, put a team of people around me who were specialists and knew what they were doing. I was watched like a hawk throughout my pregnancy. I received counseling. In the interest of full disclosure, I also took medication, a risk I chose to take based on my personal medical history and after very comprehensive consultations with both my psychiatrist and my OB/GYN.
Being a mom to a newborn the second time around was pretty awesome, as I wrote in this piece at the time called “On What It Should Be Like To Be A New Mom”. I can’t say whether it was the meds, or the therapy, or a good sleep management plan, or the fact that I had more knowledge about postpartum OCD the second time around that prevented me from getting it again. I have no idea. What I do know now that I didn’t know before I got pregnant with my second child was that we all have choices. We don’t necessarily have to end the growth of our family after having experienced a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression. Not if we don’t want to.
Am I saying I think you should have another child after PPD? By heavens, no! I’m not advocating that you should continue to have children, and I’m not advocating that you should cease having children after having had PPD or a related illness. I have no opinion on what the size of anyone’s family should be (except, I must admit, when it comes to those Duggars. Would they just stop it already?) I’m simply saying that those of us who have had postpartum depression or a related illness have more than one option.
I respect the choice of the mom who wrote the ParentsConnect story. I truly do. I made that same choice. I also respect the choice of moms who choose to press on, despite having a history of perinatal mood or anxiety disorders.
As Karen Kleiman writes in her book”What Am I Thinking? Having A Baby After Postpartum Depression“, “The good news is that with proper preparation and planning and a healthcare team that is mobilized on your behalf, we can intervene in ways that will minimize the likelihood that you will experience a depression to the same degree that you did previously.”
You do have a choice.