Mae is twenty months old, and I am just beginning to dip my toe into the possibility of having another child. I go back and forth on a weekly basis. And while we have the normal considerations–work schedules, finances, Mae’s development–our main concern is my mental health. Part of me thinks I’m crazy just for considering another pregnancy. I can’t imagine handling postpartum anxiety with another child around. Then another part of me thinks my experience could be different this time and that that phase is temporary, no matter how bad. But is it?
I think for moms who experience postpartum depression or anxiety that is our deepest fear:
What if I get PPDA again and this time I never get better?
While PPDA is extremely treatable, it does cause some women to have continued trouble with anxiety and depression. It was very treatable for me last time. Once my 50 mg of Zoloft started working and I attended a support group, I was on my way to recovery. BUT, that but is always in my mind. because I really lost my mind for a while. I lost totally control of myself. Do I want to step into that unknown again? into that abyss? Would a loving mother take that risk with the child she already has?
If you haven’t experienced PPDA, it’s hard for you to understand :”the depths of despair that can descend upon the soul of a mother” (Kleiman 119). I was debilitated. While I’ve forgotten some of the difficulties of those first few months, I still vividly remember the panic attacks, weight on my chest, and insomnia. And just the dread, a heavy, heavy dread, every morning.
And then, there is the love I feel for Mae. An unconditional love that busts me open in the best way. There is the joy I get from watching her change and learn. There are the lessons I learn and the way she makes me a better person. Don’t I want to do all of that again? Does a second child mean twice the love and joy? That sounds wonderful. (I know it also means twice the tantrums and stress).
You always think you’ll be the exception. I didn’t think I’d suffer with PPDA the first time around, and I want to believe I have the awareness and tools not to suffer during a second time around, but the facts are my chances are higher of experiencing PPDA the next time.
So I’m left with a big question and a heavy consideration. I’ve seen myself and other women dig themselves, scratching and clawing, back up to sanity and recovery. But I also know women who are still struggling, years later, to get back to a baseline.
Right now, I have to sit with uncertainty, probably for quite some time, as we figure this out. And the good news is motherhood has made me much better at dealing with the unknown.