Having a Second Baby After PPD
I have always wanted more than one child, and my husband and I have talked forever about having two kids, and feeling content as a family of four. Having postpartum depression, and living through a global pandemic after the birth of my first, made choosing to make that dream happen more difficult than I had imagined.
My husband and I decided to have my birth control removed in August of 2022, and start trying to have a second baby. Our daughter is almost 3 (in just a couple days!) and becoming more and more independent and loves to be a helper, which made us feel more comfortable bringing a new baby into our family.
In early December 2022, we found out we were officially adding a new baby to our family, and we had our first ultrasound in January 2023. We’re officially in the second trimester and everything is looking good, but it took us, and in particular, me, a long time to get here.
The only real way to describe my immediate postpartum period with my daughter in 2020 is traumatic. It would have been hard if we had only been dealing with colic, reflux, and postpartum depression, but she was born three weeks before COVID-19 lockdowns began. On top of having a difficult newborn, my husband and I were now alone, isolated from our support network, dealing with a brand new virus that we had no idea how it affected newborns, and there was no way for us to get breaks or even just get away from the constant crying. I have no concept of what a normal newborn period looks like. Help from others? A baby that lets you put them in the pack & play while you sip your coffee? Not needing baby antacids and special formula and not constantly being covered in spit-up? What?
And while my daughter certainly had a rough time adjusting to life on the outside, I was also dealing with undiagnosed and untreated postpartum depression for the first 6 weeks of her life, and it was 8 weeks before my antidepressant reached therapeutic levels in my system and I started feeling better. I spent weeks believing I was a failure, that I was a terrible mother, that I didn’t deserve my daughter or my husband, and agonizing over every decision and feeling horrible anxiety that something bad would happen to her. I had thoughts of running away, of hiding, of being anywhere but in our home.
How do you decide to have a second baby after something like that?
There were many, many times I believed that we were one-and-done. My daughter has grown into an amazing toddler, and even though her tantrums are something fierce and she has the strongest will I’ve ever seen, she is, the vast majority of the time, happy and fun and hilarious. She’s wicked smart and makes me laugh and is fearless in a way I’ve never been. I adore her and adore being her mom.
I knew I wanted another kid, I knew I wanted to give my daughter a sibling. My husband and I are both oldest children, and we can’t remember a time without our siblings. I knew how much she would love having a little brother or little sister, and what a good big sister she would be.
But could I risk having another baby with colic and reflux again? Could I risk having another newborn that refused to be put down and even hated baby-wearing because it wasn’t my arms holding them, and now with a toddler running around who also needed my time and attention?
Could I risk my mental health again? Having had PPD once before, I have a higher chance of developing it again, along with my own history of mood disorders and anxiety. Could I take a chance that I wouldn’t feel terrible, wouldn’t be tortured by my own thoughts, wouldn’t dream of running away again?
As I agonized over whether or not we would expand our family, several of my friends and loved ones who had children around my daughter’s age began announcing pregnancies. What seemed like an easy decision for them (and I’m sure it wasn’t always easy, but that’s how it felt to me!) was incredibly difficult for me, without a right answer. I wanted to have another baby, and the thought of being done and feeling that our family would have to be complete even though I didn’t want it to be was heart-wrenching. I spent many a therapy session in tears because it seemed like what I desperately wanted wasn’t the right thing to do.
Gradually, my daughter began to gain more independence and I felt less and less like I had to hover over her constantly and be involved in her every moment (young toddlers are escape artists and more than once I’ve found her with a permanent marker and have no idea how she got it). The thought of having another baby began to surface in my mind again, and my husband and I started talking about if this was the path we wanted to go down. If we were going to do this, we were going to need a plan, and we would have to do things differently.
I started discussing with my therapist about having a second and my strong desire to, but my anxiety over what that would look like. We did EMDR sessions over the traumatic memories from my early postpartum period with my daughter, working on loosening the hold those memories had on my mind and putting new thoughts in place. We made a plan that I would keep a mood journal so that I could notice if I was consistently starting to struggle, but also so I could see that one bad day didn’t mean I was developing a perinatal mood disorder again.
When I saw my OB/GYN for my annual exam, I asked her what the plan would be for a second pregnancy for me. She told me that she would keep me on my antidepressant, and that the one I am on doesn’t have any real known risks to a developing baby (and that she was on it for one of her pregnancies as well). It’s also noted in my chart that I had PPD with my daughter in 2020, and they would be keeping an eye on my mood throughout pregnancy and into postpartum. Since I also had issues with my blood pressure with my daughter, after I became pregnant, I was also referred to a new nurse navigator program where I have an OB nurse that I can talk to and will provide me with support up to 1 year postpartum.
My husband and I made the decision to take my birth control out in the summer of 2022, and it only took a few cycles to get pregnant this time (instead of over 6 months with my daughter). While I’m overjoyed and so excited, I will admit to being a little nervous.
I have to keep reminding myself that this time won’t be the same as with my daughter. Unless we’re terribly unlucky, there shouldn’t be another global pandemic with lockdowns this time around. We’ll be able to ask for help and ask for breaks from our friends and family (and all of our parents live within 20 minutes of us now). Our daughter will go to daycare during the day and still get to see her friends and socialize and learn, and that way we’re not juggling a newborn and a toddler at the same time all day long. My husband plans on taking his parental leave differently this time, and also knows what signs to look for in me that something may not be right. Having a new baby at any time is hard, but at least this time we also know what we’re getting into (instead of first-time parents, where I believe that no matter how much you read and how many classes you go to and how much you try to absorb, you still have absolutely zero idea of what you’re about to go through), and we know there will be sleepless nights and long days on the couch.
If you’re trying to decide to have another baby after having a perinatal mental health disorder, please know there is no right or wrong answer. It’s okay if it’s hard to make that choice, it’s okay if you need to wait longer than you had originally thought you wanted to, it’s okay if it seems like there is no answer at all. It took a lot of time and soul-searching and therapy to make this decision, and I had to decide if everything I was afraid of happening was worth the risk. And for my family, it was.
Whether you have decided to try again and have another, or if you are one-and-done, you have made the right choice for you and your family. And I support your choices wholeheartedly.