I guess the short answer is: I’m creating a family and maintaining a career.
I guess the long answer is: My life is a heck of a lot more complicated than I ever could have imagined it would be at this age – what happened to maintaining my sanity?
I guess the reality is: Somewhere in between.
My last post focused on my acceptance of our falling pregnant again and how I’d reconciled feelings around both having a little girl and electing a caesarean section (read it here). My feelings around these things remain reconciled, however I’ve been finding the past couple of weeks a struggle in a different way. I feel like my PND-M (Postnatal Depression Monster) is again knocking at my door (at least he’s being polite this time) and wanting “in” on an experience that up until this time has been… dare I say it… almost enjoyable.
My second trimester of pregnancy has been a delight. I felt better than I had in years and my energy and enthusiasm for our little “surprise” was in overdrive. So much so, the nursery is finished, newborn clothes shopping done, a pre-babe weekend away with my HF organised, and a family holiday planned for early-February locked in. But now I’ve hit the 32 week mark and things aren’t feeling so rosey. Whilst I’m aware this is also a likely result of my increased belly circumference, weight gain, and general wear and tear on an already drained body, there is something else in the background, lurking behind the bushes, bringing to the fore some very unwelcome thoughts. Over the past two weeks, an example of such thoughts have been:
1. In response to my HF asking me if I’m “looking forward” to our little girl’s arrival: “Um, sure babe. Which part? The part where they stick a needle into my spine? Or the part where they cut me open, through numerous layers of muscles and fat, and pull out our little girl through the incision? Or maybe the part where you’re gazing at our little miracle, eyes aglow, whilst I lay there being stitched up? Or the part where a little human is again dependent on me 24/7 at home, having given up work – again, whilst you return to your everyday life? Which part exactly were you referring to?” To which he promptly admitted, sensing my current state of mind, he perhaps had not thought about the question before he asked it.
2. In response to a committee discussion around antenatal education and providing expectant mums “strength” cards highlighting their individual strengths leading into their babe’s birth: (this was a thought at the time, although I did admit verbally having had the thought afterwards – to the horror of my fellow committee members!) “Sure, excellent! Give them the cards saying what they’re great at, then rip them away as soon as their baby is born because that’s what happened to me!” Needless to say, once my confession was made, a very supportive discussion was held with regard to my potential “relapse” and the need perhaps for some additional counseling before my babe’s arrival.
3. This point is more a general observation around my “tolerance” to certain situations, conversations, and people… Be it hormonal, or otherwise, I’ve found my ability to tolerate various things has again slipped and my snappiness (ie. angry outburts), grumpiness (ie. bitchiness), and frustration (ie. zero tolerance) levels have been significantly on the rise. I find this particularly relates to those closest to me, hence (again) my family and poor HF seems to be on the receiving end of a great deal of this turmoil. Such recurring behaviour scares me considerably due to it being the most significant indicator of my first depression (both antenatally and post). Thus, my fear of returning to “that place” appears closer now than ever.
So, here I find myself again addressing “What am I doing with my life?”. Having utilised both Rational Emotive (outlined above) and Mindfulness therapy techniques previously, I can comfortably accept what is going on in my brain as “irrational” (and I believe that to be 80% of the battle won). The difficulty is not being able to turn such thoughts around on my own… In fact, they seem to be getting worse. The other challenge I currently face is that when this happens, I don’t want to talk about it. I withdraw within myself and the mask I’ve worked so hard to remove, comes back to make it’s social appearance more and more regularly. So the idea of seeing my psychologist or even my GP and having to explain how I’m feeling is not high on my agenda (sound familiar… anyone?). What I HAVE done, however (which is different to the past), is that I’ve spoken with my HF about what I’m thinking, how I’ve been feeling, and have warned him that a “breakdown” is likely in our not too distant future. When I say “breakdown” what I actually mean is a really good cry… Yes, a messy, mascara running down my face, kind of shuddering cry which is hugely relieving of all the pent up “yukiness” lurking just below the surface. But this build-up takes time, well for me anyway. And I just can’t “make” it happen, it has to occur when I’m ready which is the hard part because I never really know when that will be.
The bottom line is, I’m scared. Petrified, actually. Both my BF2 and sister-in-law have had babes over the past month and the reality of having a tiny, defenseless newborn in my life again is absolutely terrifying! Every time I hold one of them it dawns on me this will be my very reality in a mere 7 weeks time – holy crap! And please don’t get me wrong, I love these little babes dearly, it’s just an overwhelming feeling when I’m helpless to control the flooding of memories from the LM’s birth and his first 6 months of life every time I’m cuddling one of them. That feeling of being completely out of control (a biggie for me), paired with my fear of the past recurring, and all of a sudden everything’s heading in a downward spiral again. Irrational? Yes. Do I need help? Yes. When will I get it? I’m not sure. I have an appointment with Dr B (my OB) in a week’s time, so am confident I will be able to discuss a “management plan” with him then for the remaining weeks until our little one’s birth. And I also know I have the love and support of not only my HF, but some very dear friends, who will not let this issue remain unresolved. But for that matter, nor will I! Whilst it may seem there’s some denial at play here (which I can acknowledge), I certainly didn’t work this hard to get through the past 2 years to let it all fall down again now. I simply cannot allow that to happen.
As always, I appreciate your sharing this journey with me and look forward to any comments you feel like making… Perhaps even with regard to your own experience? I would love to hear how you’ve managed through a second pregnancy/birth with regard to postnatal depression. Did you feel the same?