My Silent Battle…
My daughter was born in the Fall of 2011. I felt what most new parents feel when their first child is born- elated, infatuated, in love, and terrified. Despite being the youngest of three children, I have always been pretty good with children. My mom was a teacher and I followed in her footsteps. I was a nanny for years for children of all ages, and before I was married I was the “go-to”family member for long term babysitting. The decision to have a child was an easy one for me.; it was one that felt right. I never worried about how I would handle things because I thought I had it in the bag after years of experience. I was wrong.
Two days after my daughter was born I found myself holding my screaming child, not knowing what to do. She and I were both crying and I handed her to my husband and said, “I can’t, I just can’t.”I sat on the bathroom floor for what felt like an eternity bawling my eyes out thinking I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. Here’s the kicker, my husband was leaving in two months for an eight month deployment to Afghanistan.
After my initial meltdown, which we chalked up to hormone levels dropping and my daughter having a difficult time latching to nurse, I felt much better. She was a relatively easy baby, she only cried when hungry or over-tired and she was sleeping 6 to 7 hour stretches by six weeks old. Again, I thought I had this in the bag.
Two days after my husband left things changed. My once peaceful daughter stopped sleeping. Her naps were few and very far between, she was waking every few hours at night, and I could never seem to settle her down. I was alone, terrified, and angry. After a month of trying every possible solution the internet, books, and friends could provide me I found myself slamming doors, hiding in the bathroom, and crying all the time. My frustration with not being able to help my daughter settle and no one there to help me began to eat away at me, and at the time, I didn’t even realize it.
It briefly crossed my mind at one of my daughter’s doctors appointments while filling out the standard postpartum worksheet that maybe I had postpartum depression. I thought, “No, I’m just in a rough spot. I’ll be fine.” So I checked all the right answers and went on my way with her doctor being none-the-wiser. I played off the difficulties with friends and family, quickly assuming that everyone feels this way with a new baby. Other military wives do it, so I felt as though I had no room to complain or ask for help.
Fast-forward to my daughter’s 11-month “birthday.”My husband was just a few days from coming home and low-and-behold things were starting to feel better. She had been sleeping better and taking regular naps for about a month, and the past 6 months seemed like a far off and distant dream. I never really thought about how I felt during those difficult (and that’s putting it very mildly) days once he came home. Until now.
Now, almost three years after my daughter was born and I dealt with what I now recognize as postpartum depression, we are pregnant with our second child. My husband and I didn’t start talking about what I went through while he was gone until we starting trying (and failing) to have a second child. He was the first to say aloud that he thought I had postpartum depression during that time. Even though he was thousands of miles away, he could tell through my sad emails and few tearful phone calls that things were at their worst during those eight months, and there was nothing he could do except listen.
I worry that postpartum depression will creep its way back into my life once this baby is born. I worry that simply having the knowledge of my previous experiences will cloud my experiences with our second daughter. I worry that I’ll think, “Its happening again,”and fall apart quicker than I did before. Luckily, this time the circumstances are somewhat different- my husband will not be deployed and we live close to family. But I can’t help but shake the feeling that the depression I experienced with my first daughter will haunt me with my second.