Sunday marked 30 weeks for me in this pregnancy. To the average pregnant woman this probably wouldn't mean much other than that she has about 10 week left. But for me...it means a lot more.
It marks a frightening time in my life...when the unexpected could (and did) happen. My pregnancy with Hazel was pretty near perfect I thought. I ate healthy, did pregnancy yoga, read lots of books and articles, even hired a doula to make sure that I was as prepared as could be come delivery day.
But all of that didn't matter.
At 30 weeks and four days, I began to have contractions with back pain. I knew that wasn't right. (I had read all about premature labor and preemies...I like to be over prepared sometimes.)
And at 31 weeks and 2 days...after many failed attempts by the doctors to stall my labor, she was born.
So, here I am again...with our son this time. And a bit of nervousness has set in. The questions are mounting daily...
Will this be the same situation? Maybe my body just can't handle a full term pregnancy? Why did my body call it quits so early last time? Was it something I did or didn't do?
But I know...there is no answer. No explanation. And I have heard it said many times, "All pregnancies are different." So there is no way to tell what will happen.
The biggest question that looms in my mind though has nothing really to do with whether or not my pregnancy will go full term. It has to do with what will happen once it's over...
Will I have to face the maniacal beast of post partum depression again.
And this is the scariest thought of all.
I always imagined when I had a baby that every day would be like Christmas. I would have moments of pure "bliss" just realizing that the little bundle was here. But since having Hazel, there really weren't too many "Christmasy" moments. Christmas didn't even feel like Christmas in fact.
The truth is, bringing our baby home from the hospital marked the start of the darkest period in my life. I have battled depression in the past, but never had a newborn to care for on top of it. Life as I knew it was flipped upside down and then some.
I won't go into all of the details about how bad it was or all of the complications we faced because she was a preemie. But suffice it to say...it was bad. And the worst part about PPD are the lies you believe while in the throes of it. Like...
It's all your fault.
You just weren't meant to be a mother.
If you were a stronger person you could handle this.
You will never have a fulfilling life again.
You are a failure.
Your husband and your baby would be better off if you were gone....
they don't need you anyway...
you make everything worse.
Yes, it is hard to admit, especially so publicly, but those are the thoughts I had. Every single day.
It took a long while for me to even realize that it wasn't "just me" or "how it is when you have a baby." That the illness had overtaken me. I knew somewhere deep inside that it wasn't really me...I just thought that the old me was gone forever. And had been replaced with a hopeless, dead soul.
After a couple of months of severe darkness and longing for escape any way possible, I started to realize there had to be something better. That life didn't have to be like this. I began reading a book called Living Beyond Post Partum Depression by Jerusha Clark, and a tiny light flickered on for me. I could completely relate to what she wrote. I finally felt that I wasn't alone. (That is the other huge lie from PPD...that you are all alone and no one has ever or will ever be able to understand what you are going through. And worse...anyone that you do tell, will surely think you are a terrible person who doesn't even deserve to have a child. Maybe your child should even be taken away from you. Sadly, I believed all that too.)
It was my husband who finally encouraged me to seek help. Reluctantly, I scheduled an appointment with my nurse-midwife to tell her what I had been experiencing. I was so afraid. What would she think of me? How can I explain to her that this isn't who I really am? As I sat in her office, I wept as I told her the thoughts I had. That most days I didn't even want to have a baby. That I just wanted "my old life back." She looked at me calmly even with some tears in her own eyes, and reminded me that every day I live I don't get to have my old life back.
She helped me get treatment that day...and surprisingly, within a very short period of time, the sun started to come out again. One day I went out with my mother to lunch and some local antique stores. As we were out, all of a sudden I realized what I was doing. Living. I had kept myself cooped up in the house for months...thinking I had to stay there...like a prison. I was finally getting free.
And after a few more weeks, I found myself really living. I played and laughed and sang with my daughter. All normal things...but things I really hadn't done much of. I stopped dreading her and started longing for her. Essentially...I became a mother...the kind of mother I had always wanted to be.
So as the delivery of this new baby approaches, I would give anything not to go back there. I would give anything to bring him home and simply enjoy life as I am now. I know it will be hard. Newborns are hard. That's just a fact. Plus I will have a very active and curious toddler to chase around. And I know they will both need me.
Will I have enough to give? Or will I buckle under the pressure?
Only time will tell how things will turn out. But I know my focus right now needs to be the task at hand. Taking care of myself for the the little man inside. And loving and caring for my baby girl, who desperately needs me every day of her life.
The sweet, silly girl, who's smile always makes my heart lift...no matter how down I get.
To my sweet Hazel...the world is more beautiful with you in it for even one second...than all of the years I knew before you came.
And I know it is only going to get brighter when baby number two comes along. I should probably invest in some really good sunglasses now :)
Of course there will be very hard days, and I might even get PPD again, but this time I will try to be ready...my husband is ready...and we will fight it with everything we have in us. I will seek help sooner...so I don't have to waste any more precious days to those lies.
I will fill myself with the truth. The words God has given me...to remind me that I am his child, fearfully and wonderfully made. And remind myself daily of this great calling he has placed on my life. To be a loving mother to two of his precious creations.
A gift that simply cannot be taken for granted.
I will look ahead with hope...
Little Man...you are already dearly loved and we will welcome you with open arms on whichever day God decides you should enter our world...
Till next time...