What Happens When You Get Pregnant After Postpartum Depression

"I had to accept that this journey was entirely different than anything that had come before."

I never planned on having a second child, which was probably evident in the fact that I was drinking a yard-long margarita hours before taking a pregnancy test I was certain would be negative. It wasn’t. The emotions that followed the initial shock were all over the place — joy, hope, anger, numbness — but when everything settled, the one emotion that remained constant was fear.

I was terrified of going through postpartum depression again, and there was no way of knowing that I wouldn’t. 

I thought back to those early days of my son’s life, days that weren’t distant in my mind at all. Days when I would lock myself behind a bathroom door and cry. Days when my mind would wander toward disappearing off the face of the earth. It hadn’t been so long ago that I’d decided I was done having kids because I didn’t want to go through that again, and yet here I was. Again.

In some ways, I was very grateful that I had another child to make my second pregnancy fly by quickly. I didn’t have much time to slow down while chasing my son through the wild, fast changes of toddlerhood. When I was pregnant with him there was this terribly stagnant feeling towards the end of my pregnancy; it felt like I was waiting for life to begin.

This time, there was no pause, no waiting. When the universe decided to throw her into my arms, we would have to hit the ground running if I didn’t want to land on my face. It sounded daunting, but there was also a comfort in the constant motion.

Ultimately, I had no say in the matter of whether or not postpartum depression would come knocking on my door again. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. My baby could also have colic, or be a terrible traveler, or any other number of “what could go wrongs.” I couldn’t know.

Because the moments when I was alone, when the house was quiet and my son was sleeping and my husband was working in one form or the other, I found myself unnerved. It was when the day slowed down that I settled into the fear of the what ifs and maybes that wandered through my mind.

I knew it was natural for me to be frightened of going through postpartum depression again, but the fact that it was a valid fear only made it worse. It wasn’t as if I was freaking myself out over reading the "what could go wrong" sections of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I wasn’t scared of someone else’s horror story. I was scared of my own. I was scared of the dark days that I remembered so vividly. I was scared that maybe there were things I had forgotten.

How could I not be scared?

But, as scary as the prospect of going through that again was, dwelling on it didn’t help me at all. It simply put me in a place where I couldn’t feel joy for the baby that was about to arrive. Ultimately, I had no say in the matter of whether or not postpartum depression would come knocking on my door again. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t. My baby could also have colic, or be a terrible traveler, or any other number of “what could go wrongs.” I couldn’t know. I couldn’t control it. No amount of ruminating would have made a damn bit of difference.

The only thing I could really do was put one foot in front of the other, and face the fact that I didn’t know what was coming next. I had to accept that this journey was entirely different than anything that had come before. That I couldn’t make things happen one way or the other based on my hopes or dreams or worries or fears. I had to try to make myself understand that the moment that she came into the world, she would be her own person and set off on her own path

Our story would be different than the one I had with my son. Her life would intertwine with mine in a way that was entirely unique. Entirely ours. It would be different this time, even if I did have postpartum depression again, because I was different now.

I couldn’t quite accept that as the whole truth until the day she was born. Everything felt so distinct from the start. While I was still on high alert in those early weeks and months, depression didn’t come for me again, and I wished so deeply that I could have enjoyed my pregnancy more. I wish my fear hadn’t held me back from loving her the way I should have before she arrived. I wish my fear hadn’t sat in the back of my mind, interrupting our bonding during her newborn days.

But in a way, I was thankful too. Because without that fear, without knowing the hardship of postpartum depression, I never would have appreciated the birth of my daughter with the same intensity. I wouldn’t have understood how lucky I was to be mentally healthy for her infancy. I wouldn’t have understood how complex and unique love could be.

Getting pregnant after postpartum depression may have stolen a lot from me, but it gave me a lot more.  

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