Postpartum Depression After Our First Child—Guilt Remains

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Laying in bed with my husband, I turned to him and started gushing about how much I love our sweet, cuddly, perfect 4-month-old daughter. As I continued to explain how she was just the squishiest and happiest, he interrupted, “You never talked this way about her older sister.” Typically not an emotional man, or even a very active listener, I was surprised by his observation. He was right, I didn’t talk about our now three-year-old daughter like that when she was a baby. The truth was, I had horrible postpartum depression after our first child was born.

postpartum depression after our first child“Things were different then,” I explained.

“I was worried all the time and was trying to survive rather than soaking it all in.”

During her first year, depression manifested itself as constant worry. It was an inability to make even simple decisions. Sometimes even deciding what to wear would send me down a shame-spiral that would result in hours of tears! And it also led to a deep disdain for my husband. Through all of this, I didn’t enjoy the little moments with my baby like I wanted to. I was in survival mode. 

The darkness lifted when our daughter was about a year old, and I returned to work.

A while later, the clouds came rushing back when I had a miscarriage. For months, I couldn’t make plans or decisions, directed all of my negative feelings at my husband, and isolated myself from the people who cared about me. I was again in the depths of postpartum depression, but without a second baby.

We were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant six months later. I had an uneventful pregnancy, a great birth, and another beautiful baby girl. When I started to feel some of those familiar feelings a few weeks postpartum, I immediately spoke to my doctor and got the help I needed. It saved my life, and I’m so thankful.

Surviving Postpartum Depression After Our First Child

Now, I often think about how I’m the happiest I’ve ever been (even amid a pandemic), and I soak in every minute with my two girls.

 Those feelings subsided as a wave of guilt washed over me with my husband’s observation. Did I give my first daughter the same quality of care, love, and attention that I’m now able to give my second? Surely she doesn’t remember my tears and sadness.

In fact, I don’t remember. It was a blur. Did I have the wherewithal to act like the happy, creative, healthy mom that I am now?

I lied awake, feeling guilty for not suffering.

Feeling guilty for the joy and laughter and sweet baby smells that now fill my days.

Finding the beauty

The next morning, my oldest crawled into bed with my husband and me. I turned to face her and whispered to me, “Is baby awake yet? I love her. I love you.” Her days revolve around kisses and hugs and helping care for her little sister. Every few hours, she squeals, “I love my family! I love my mommy and my daddy and my baby!”

 Her little heart isn’t just full of love, it’s bursting at the seams. She shows tenderness and concern for her little sister that I’ve never seen. Like our lives together, it’s absolutely beautiful. 

And she learned it from me. I know that even though I was a different mom during her first year than I am today, I was still me. I showed her how to love and care, and give Eskimo kisses.

And now I have a second chance to be a present mom, full of joy, for both of my daughters.

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