Making the decision to have a another child after surviving a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder is beyond difficult. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to make that decision, though many moms are thrown into the deep end while still treading water during recovery because of a surprise pregnancy. Or, a mom who had decided not to have any more biological children after recovering might become unexpectedly pregnant. In any case, having the opportunity to take that next step intentionally, rather than starting out in a state of shock, was a blessing.
Still, there are a lot of emotions involved in not only the decision making around "yes or no", but also the details of the how, the when, and the who when it comes to the next time. For me, everything about the second time was different. From how I told my husband to with whom and when I shared with loved ones the news that I was expecting, nothing about #2 (aside from the nausea) looked or felt the same as with L1.
With L1, we had thought we were infertile, so the fact that I was pregnant in and of itself was a shock. Not so much with L2...we were pretty much "trying" and it happened fairly quickly. No shock when you pee on the stick already expecting to see "pregnant".
With L1, I had no idea what pregnancy felt like. Sure, I knew what it looked like. Most of my friends had had children before me and I had even been present and living with my sister for her pregnancy, birth and the first two years of my niece's life. I knew what to expect when someone else was expecting. Doctors appointments, cravings, swelling, ultrasounds, names, etc...I had that covered with L1. Bedding, baby showers, birth plans, childbirth preparation...I did all the research. Yet, from week 39 on, pregnancy and motherhood looked nothing like what I had expected in reality. Everything I thought I knew went out the window and all the feelings I had anticipated having were absent.
Eventually, things panned out, as a result of time, treatment, personal growth, support and helping others. I adjusted to life, grieved and moved past the guilt and trauma around childbirth and breastfeeding. I found my groove as a mama and bonded with my son in spite of PPD and the time it robbed us of.
But, recovery from the unexpected is a much different thing than making a choice to do something that could resemble, if not become a repeat, of one of the most challenging times of your life. Choosing to take a chance with your well-being is a bit different than playing poker. Money is just money and while financial issues can certainly be stressful, playing the odds with your health is a whole different ballgame.
Having a child after PPD might be labeled as a lot of things... Scary. Stupid. Reckless. Selfless. Brave. Bold. Confident. Naive. Selfish. Faithful.
I've heard it called all those and more. I personally experienced reactions of people that were as broad as that list. Maybe it depends on the people? Both the parents and the loved ones, in terms of how the situation is evaluated. Or, maybe it is all those things? Or, maybe, just maybe, we don't need to label it at all. Maybe having another child after PPD is just like having a child before PPD. New territory. A different experience. A life-giving and receiving process.
To be honest, I'm really not sure and it doesn't matter too much to me. What matters is that having another child after PPD means you go in with eyes wide open. Knowing what things might look like. Having seen some very dark days and certainly not wanting to relive them. There are no guarantees in life. There's no one recipe for getting PPD, just like there's no one magic treatment for "curing" it.
The only thing that you can be assured of is that no matter what decision you make, you are not alone. Others have been there and are willing to walk with you. Whatever choice you make, thanks to this incredible network of PPD Survivors and those who love them, you will have a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a palm to high-five, an ear to listen, and arms to carry you.
I went in with my eyes wide open. I wasn't trying to change the past, but I was aiming to alter the future. To create a new experience. I made the choice to have L2, not as a re-do, but simply as a do. A proactive choice. I went into it with all the knowledge and experience behind me, all the hope and faith ahead of me, and a million miles of love and support around me.
As I approach the one year anniversary of this second postpartum experience, I thank you. Whomever and wherever you are. Whether I know you in real life, virtually or not at all. If you are my best friend or just a reader who has never commented or contacted me. It doesn't matter. Just by reading you have impacted my journey and made it better.