I get this knot in my stomach when people ask me if we are going to have another baby. It’s that forward thinking type of question our society asks anyone who has made a major life decision, such as “Have you set a date for the wedding?” after someone gets engaged or “What are you going to major in?” after someone has graduated from high school. I’ve been asked these types of questions my whole life so you think I would be used to it by now, or, at the very least, come up with an automatic response that I could say to appease someone when asked a question like this.
It’s hard to describe what I experience when asked if we’re going to have another baby, but I get this sinking feeling that paralyzes me, making it hard to respond in just one or two sentences. The truth is, there just isn’t a simple answer for me to give.
When I go down the list of what might be preventing me from being able to talk about it easily with others, here’s what comes to mind:
It’s not because I can’t imagine loving someone else as deeply as I love Winter. I know the love we have in our hearts is infinite and I am certain I would grow another heart just as big for baby number two like I did for Winter.
I don’t hesitate because it’s hard for me to imagine being pregnant again or dread morning sickness, weight gain, hair loss or the insomnia that comes with carrying a child.
It doesn’t bother me to think about the birth or nursing, even though those two things are ridiculously painful.
I don’t worry about finances even though Perry and I really don’t make that much. I know we will figure it out, just as we always have.
While those reasons may be good reasons to make anyone pause before baby number two, they aren’t what is stopping me.
So what is? I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.
I am scared to death that I will not survive another bout of postpartum depression. Tragically, statistics show that once you have had it, you are more likely to experience it again with your subsequent child/children.
The first time around hit me so hard that even my background in mental health didn’t help me to combat the bully (called depression) that tried to, and many times succeeded, rob me of those first few months with my daughter.
The anger I felt, the yearning to end my life, because I honestly didn’t see how me being around made a difference, was so real for me then.
Now, being pretty far out from underneath the depression, I know that those thoughts were lying to me. I am certain that my family wants and needs me. I know that I am loved and important. But even in my clear-headed state of mind and heart that I have today, I literally become overwhelmed with fear anytime I think about what that was like for me when Winter was young.
I know that fear cannot drive the boat in life. I am certain that the visions of a sibling that I see in my head for Winter, that ever so quietly sneak up into my mind while she plays, is my intuition speaking to me that I, in fact, do want another baby. I know that smirk on my face that I get when I talk about baby names with Perry is a sign from deep within my soul steering me towards another child. I sense it in the wind, in the clouds, and, most of all, in my dreams on a weekly basis. But despite these gut checks telling me that there is another baby in my future, I continue to stall, pause, sweat and feel anxiety each time someone asks me when are we having baby number two.
In fact, if I am honest, I get this strange, jealous-like feeling when I see my friends pregnant with number two or who already have two or three kids. Thankfully, this inkling is quickly overpowered with the joy and love for them, but I can’t help but to notice those thoughts of inferiority, like why does it seem so easy for them to have another when I am terrified? What is wrong with me?
Having a child, whether you experience postpartum complications or not, is challenging. It changes your identity, how you relate to your partner, the way you think and feel about the world around you, and so on.
Having the added challenge of postpartum with Winter not only shook me to my core, but took a huge and heavy toll on my husband, Perry, as well. I still think part of the reason I can’t quite wrap my head around another baby is because I am grieving for him too.
My postpartum hell took that light and carefree man that I married and ran him through the mud. It was noted by someone I trust and admire that Perry seemed different these days, heavier maybe, like he lost his lightness. Hearing that a few months ago has stayed with me. I often wonder if his light was collateral damage to my illness, if it went down with the ship, so to speak.
I do, however, see glimmers of that light in my husband more and more with each day that passes. And just as his is coming back, I feel mine starting to radiate again too.
I don’t want to let fear take the wheel and drive our decision on whether or not we want to try for another baby. I refuse to let something so awful lead the way. But, I want to be realistic and will do a lot of things differently the next time around, if we are so blessed to become pregnant again. Moreover, I want to wait until our light (both mine and Perry’s) shines as brightly as it did before we experienced postpartum depression.
Winter is the most beautiful person I have ever had the honor of knowing. I wouldn’t change my experience with depression in a heartbeat if it meant that I couldn’t know her. I know I would feel the same way about our next kid; I am just not ready to talk or think about it quite yet. I hope that’s okay. Our family size will be revealed to us in time…
For now, I just want to snuggle with Winter and not worry about what’s to come.
Photography by Brittany Renee'