mother guilt

Experiencing Postpartum Depression After The Birth Of One Child But Not Another Can Bring On Serious Mom Guilt

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mom-holding-newborn-babyI had a baby 6 months ago and I experienced the sort of palpable joy you read about in all the preparatory books and blog posts. From the second I saw him, I was hooked. I would sit there for hours on end gazing at him while he slept on my chest. The nurses who came to check on us would smile down at me sweetly and say, “Oh, you are so in love.” And I was. I am. I just never realized how guilty it would make me feel.

Three and a half years ago when my first child was born, things didn’t go quite as smoothly. I felt the same boundless love, but it was marred by anxiety and sadness that I understand now was Postpartum Depression. The changes in my hormones, or the exhaustion, or my inability to breastfeed her — something triggered in me feelings of deep sadness, fear, resentment, and frustration. Instead of just feeling happy, I spent my time worrying myself to sickness, going through compulsive rituals like checking to make sure she was breathing 24 times a night, feeling angry and overwhelmed, and wishing for things to get easier.

It took me seven months to get diagnosed, start taking anti-anxiety medication, and begin therapy. Seven months of huge, dark clouds obstructing the rays of joy and love I should’ve been showering on my little baby girl. I was lucky to have help, both in the form of family and access to treatment, and I was even luckier that I never got sick enough to lash out at my baby, but I’ll never stop wondering what we lost those seven months. I’ll never stop wondering if she felt my sorrow, my fear, my frustration. I can’t help but think my having Postpartum Depression took something away from our relationship, even if she has no real memory of it.

When I gave birth to my second baby, I was better prepared. I knew how to cope and I got on medication as soon as I felt those normal baby blues creeping into a darker place. He’s always had the benefit of a present, healthy mom, and I wish so desperately that I could say that about both of my kids. I know my daughter won’t remember the way I struggled when she was just a baby. I know what matters is what we have now: our bedtime stories and trips to the zoo, our cuddles and laughs, and the strong, loving bond between the two of us that was always there, even in the hard times. But, none of that stops me from looking at her and wondering if I’m giving her brother something extra, something I didn’t or couldn’t give her.

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