As many of you know, dealing with having dashed expectations about having a second kid is something that occupies my time frequently. I always figured that if I had kids, I would have kidS and that my first baby would have a sibling. It was all or nothing. Two kids or zero kids.
I obsess about it. I try not to, but I had these expectations of how my life would go if I had a kid. Usually I’m pretty good about not setting expectations or dealing with my expectations not being met. But for some reason, maybe because a second kid is still such a trigger for me, it’s been challenging.
To set the stage for avoiding another incidence of perinatal and postpartum depression, my husband and I discussed the appropriate conditions that we need to meet in order for us to safely have a second child.
- Low stress prenatal period
This one automatically should be taken care of. During my pregnancy, I was working and going to school full-time. I was completing my Masters program, which included a Capstone course in order to graduate. The Capstone course was incredibly intensive; toward the end I was on campus five days a week and pulling 30 hours of work above and beyond my normal job.
I was unaware of the prenatal depression; now that I know the signs (sort of), being proactive would be critical for me.
- Starting medication early
It’s very possible that I will continue my medication for many years. But if that’s not the case, I’m much more in tune with when my body feels off. Sure, taking an antidepressant during pregnancy carries risk, but so does stress and disconnection to a growing baby. When you’ve got a history of prenatal depression, the cards aren’t stacked in your favor to begin with. So you figure out what works the best and balance the risks.
- Protecting my sleep
Ensuring a good sleep schedule is critical. I don’t function well without sleep. Sure, sure maybe everyone says that, but I do see a difference in the amount of sleep that my husband seems to need vice what I need. I do think that some people just can handle less sleep than others. I’m not one of them. I always have needed 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night. Even when I was younger and in college. What’s worse is that if I don’t get enough, I get even more stressed about not getting enough sleep. My husband took the night shifts when my son was about four months. Maybe that wasn’t fair, but that arrangement worked for us and helped me heal from the postpartum depression. Besides…I did carry a baby for 10 months, go through major surgery and was 100% responsible for feeding said baby for those first 4 – 6 months…
- Either starting the baby off with formula or ceasing breastfeeding after maternity leave
One of the second biggest triggers for postpartum depression is breastfeeding. For many women the oxytocin helps calm them and acts as a natural antidepressant. For others, the struggle or the hormones fuel the anxiety and depression. I believe wholeheartedly that I am not the best candidate to breastfeed. The hormones required to produce breast milk are probably not the best for someone like me.
- No pumping period; night feeds would be conducted with formula and the only breastmilk that the baby would get would be direct from the breast
I had a huge connection and bonding issue with my baby. Pumping takes you away from your baby. I flat out will not pump ever again. I will optimize my skin-to-skin contact to help with the bonding and connection. Skin-to-skin did not create a connection for me, but it certainly can’t hurt.
- Relying on grandparent help
My son has four grandparents who all are awesome and bring a wide variety of skills to the table. Between the four of them, they helped out with the house, fixed things that broke, kept us fed and babysat frequently which helped us decompress. My in-laws are pretty close, making them available to help often and with little to no notice; they frequently did this after our son was born. Relying on each grandparent helps to reduce the stress and feelings of isolation.
- Continuing to keep my life decluttered; only adding in necessary activities
I do not thrive on being busy. My husband does, but I don’t. I need long periods of time to decompress, figure out what I want to do and balance it with what I need to do. I need time to myself to write, watch TV, think, cook and bake. Rather than outlining the tasks to be accomplished, I plan blocks of time and then accomplish one of two or three tasks, depending on my mood. I do not like to be overly planned or overly scheduled. Knowing that about myself helps me make the right decisions for us.
I want to enjoy these fleeting years as best as I can. I know that to do so, I need to make sure that all three of us are not in a constant state of stress and unhappiness, for the sake of our well-being.
- Making fitness a priority
Fitness is important to me. But drive and ambition is tough. Especially when my life gets turned upside down. As I mentioned above, I don’t do very well being tightly scheduled or controlled. I don’t have it in me. So saving up to be able to afford some group training or resuming personal training to get me back to where I want to be physically is worth it.
Obviously these conditions come from a position of privilege. We are pretty comfortable financially. This list is not a list for everyone to follow; it’s our personal list of conditions. Some might say that those are strange savings goals. Some might say that if we decide to try for a second kid that we should be saving money for other more worthy things. Some might think that saving up for personal training is a waste of money. Some might think I’m selfish for insisting on these things and making a sibling for my son contingent on these things.
But unless those people have had perinatal depression, they don’t know where I’ve been. They don’t know the darkness, the hopelessness or the trauma. And I’m so incredibly thankful that they don’t. Even if they have been through what I have, they might not agree or think they need my conditions. We’re all different and that’s OK.
Because my main point of this blog post is to demonstrate my family’s process of determining what would need to happen for another child to be a possibility. My point is to inspire postpartum depression survivors to be sure to be proactive in creating good systems to avoid triggers if they choose to have more children. My point of this post is to quiet my anxiety about my expectations.
I’m taking steps to identify what systems we would need to put into place if having a second kid was something that we wanted to do. Each survivor should take the time to consider all this when evaluating additional kids.
I’ve found that by thinking these things through, it calms me down quite a bit. I had been finding myself loaded up with anxiety about the choice to have a second kid or not. As I mentioned before, I’m usually pretty good at compartmentalizing and thinking about things later, when it’s necessary. But I was struggling with that quite a bit – probably because I’m still reeling from the experience that I had.
So if we make the decision to have a second child, I will do everything that is in my ability to avoid perinatal depression as best as I can. It’s possible that this won’t do anything and that I’ll still get it, but at least I have comfort in the fact that I will be doing everything within my control to avoid it.
It’s highly likely that we make the decision that our family is complete and perfect with the three of us.
And so, the world is full of possibilities.