2017 has been a weird year. A strange year. An “I’m not so sure about this year” sorta year. Of course, nothing bad has happened to me. At least not personally. Not directly. And if I’m being honest, the first four months of this 2017 have actually been good. I have been fortunate enough to make some new friends and visit new places. I got a new job, and I won a writing award.
My industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. (Well, sort of.)
But I haven’t been able to celebrate my achievements or my successes. I haven’t been able to enjoy the positive things or the “good things,” and I haven’t been able to appreciate the little things. Not completely anyway. Because the thing which I am focused on — the one thing my mind has been fixated on — is the one thing which hasn’t happened yet.
I cannot stop thinking about the baby I am trying — and failing — to conceive.
You see, my husband and I began trying for a second child last summer. Make no mistake: We weren’t doing much. We were having sex — a lot of spontaneous, unprotected sex — but we weren’t using calendars or calculators. I wasn’t charting my cervical mucus or checking my basal body temperature, and I hadn’t (yet) purchased an ovulation predictor kit. But I had no reason to. Our first — and only — child took six weeks to conceive.
We boned, we blinked, and then we were pregnant.
But this time? This time months have gone by quickly and quietly. Cycles have come and gone unceremoniously, with tears instead of celebration, and with each passing day, week, and period, I hurt. I ache, and I am gutted. Empty, hollow, and sad because I want another child.
I desperately want a sibling for my daughter.
But I would be lying if I said that is all I feel. I would be lying if I said sadness is all I feel, because strange as this sounds, negative pregnancy tests also make me happy. Not “jump for joy” happy, but a “now I can breathe” sigh-of-relief sorta happy. Because while I yearn for a second child, the idea of having one also makes me nervous.
To be honest, it scares me, and it terrifies me.
Make no mistake: I love my daughter. My beautiful, rambunctious, sweet, smart, and sassy little girl, and everything about my first pregnancy was perfect. Picture perfect. I was healthy. My baby was healthy. We really couldn’t have hoped for more.
My husband and I were overjoyed beyond belief.
But things changed shortly after I gave birth, shortly after we came home from the hospital and I settled into my new mommy life. My emotions and feelings changed without warning.
I was angry. I was sad. I was anxious. And I was crying.
The tears came in torrents — three, four, and five times a day.
At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I assumed I was just overwhelmed and overloaded, exhausted and stressed, but when things got dark — when I began thinking about death and became fixated on it, when I began planning my death and fantasizing about (hell, romanticizing) it — I knew something was wrong. Very wrong.
I knew I needed help.
The good news was that I got help. I saw a psychologist. I went to therapy and took medication, but it took me 16 months (16 long and painful months) to “come out” of my postpartum depression, and during that time, I wrote off a second child.
I vowed I would never, ever have another child.
I mean, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. The first time nearly killed me. What if it happened again? I thought. What if it happens again while I have a new baby and a young daughter to care for? I couldn’t fathom it then, and I can’t fathom it now.
Of course, I don’t think my feelings are unique. I know many moms who have, and still do, feel the same about adding more children to their family after struggling with postpartum depression — especially after living and fighting through a postpartum or perinatal mood disorder.
But here I am three years later, doing the one thing I swore I would/could never do.
And it is weird, awkward, bizarre. It is complex, and now I am stuck in this strange place — this strange, confusing, and disjointed space — where I am both happy and sad when my cycle arrives. Where the sight of blood excites me and also breaks me, simultaneously. And where every negative test results in a celebratory drink , but also a mourning period.
I mourn the loss of my future child, my unborn child, and my yet-to-be-conceived child every period. I want that child so badly. I yearn for that baby. But that baby also scares me because I have been in the trenches of PPD, and it was hell, and nobody wants to go through that again.
And this is where I will be until I give birth to another babe, until my feelings change, or until I “dry up.” I will be afraid, but I still want you little one.
If you are suffering from postpartum anxiety or PPD, there are resources for help.