In April, I delivered my second son. He’s a beautiful baby boy and it was a terrific experience, other than the massive uncertainty and unknowns going into delivering during a pandemic-induced lockdown.
My sister watched my older son while we went to the hospital. They had a great time together over those five days. I’m so lucky and blessed to have her close to us.
Here we are some months later and our parents still haven’t been able to meet their newest grandchild. It upsets me a lot. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I compartmentalize, but it makes me very sad at times. It’s a weird thing to experience: it’s such a joyful time in our lives but so deeply heartbreaking. Though that said, I’m figuring out that it’s part of going through a global pandemic. Everyone talks about how 2020 is a dumpster fire, the worst year, “what else can happen?!?”, etc. But for us, it’s one of the best year of our lives, edged with grief and sadness. It’s an odd feeling…but one that’s familiar. G’s birth year was the same. It was one of the best years of our lives, but so hard and challenging as I fought hard against the darkness of depression and the allure of suicide.
Just another affirmation that things can be hard and dark, but beautiful and wonderful too.
Our little baby, or “Q” as G calls him, has been a bucket of sunshine. He’s a happy, content little baby who is eager to laugh. G was an easy bub as well, but a more serious little guy. It’s been interesting to see how quickly I’ve been able to spot differences in their little personalities and I can’t wait to see how it manifests itself when Q is older.
And obviously it’s incredible how much of a difference it is to have a baby when you’re not out of your mind with anxiety and depression. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The fact that I had postpartum depression with my first gave me a really high likelihood of having postpartum depression again. Plus being in a global pandemic and under lockdown, hearing of the pain and civil unrest back in the States, dealing with other life challenges over here…it seemed like the ideal conditions for another round of postpartum depression. But it never happened. I’ve been able to enjoy my little baby and also enjoy my older baby while he was home from school during lockdown.
The word that often runs through my mind as I soak in that soft fuzzy head, those chunky thighs and that infectious little baby laugh, is redemption.
In religious terms, redemption is to be saved from sin or evil. In secular terms, it refers to clearing a debt or emerging in freedom. And it’s not far off from how I feel. The first time around, I was blanketed in heavy, crippling anxiety. I had no energy to do anything and was too scared to be alone with my own child. The scars and trauma from the anxiety and depression left me convinced that the baby stage was just too hard for me and I couldn’t do it. But after watching my older son move through 2, 3 and 4 and delighting in him, I knew that I wanted to experience those ages again and figured I could just “power through” the baby stage. I knew it would be too hard but then I would emerge with another beautiful little soul. So I planned to surround myself with help, had my therapist waiting in the wings and worked out plans with my husband.
All of these carefully laid plans blew out the window then when the world shuttered her doors in the wake of COVID-19. Everything turned out very differently then I anticipated.
Imagine my surprise when I saw how lovely and amazing caring for babies can be, without the cloud of depression. We were seasoned parents, so we sailed through sleepless nights armed with tactics and man-to-man defense. Though colic never appeared, we were ready with tried and true strategies. Devoid of energy-sucking depression, I cruised through the days, teaching my older son how to add M&Ms and sing the alphabet, while cuddling a giggly baby. Without anxiety casting doubt on my ability to do ANYTHING, we packed up and drove through Belgium, Germany and Austria and hosted friends as confinement restrictions eased up. We did all of this with no help from my parents or in-laws (though my sister was fortunately able to step in). Though it pains me deeply to not have had our parents around for Q’s firsts, a silver lining to that anguish is that it has removed all doubt of my ability to mother. Though I hated not having the grandparents around, I have emerged free from the doubt and self-loathing left in the wake of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Though this is probably a bit derivative, this second experience was transformative…a rebirth of my motherhood. And I owe it all to my beautiful sons. Through it all, each taught me what I’m capable of and who I can be…and I’ve finally been made whole.