Postpartum Depression

Cover Story: The Postpartum Roller Coaster

Cover Story: The Postpartum Roller Coaster

Two kids in two years! Frustrated, angry, tired, bored, mood swings; I had all the signs/symptoms of postpartum depression and…my relationship with my first child was really suffering.

We conceived again within two months of my firstborn’s first birthday. Having a second child along with a toddler, I guess my body wasn’t ready because I showed earlier than usual. People in the society noticed and worried for me. That was so funny because the same folks lavished smiles and praises at my first pregnancy. I often wondered why these aunties thought the small age difference between siblings was not a good idea. We wanted it this way, though. We wanted them close together so they can grow together, be best friends!

Honestly, I had such a great first pregnancy and first-year mommy hood that we couldn’t wait for the next baby for too long. Turns out, those sympathetic aunties were right. My second daughter Ezra came into this world at 10 in the morning, after a planned second c-section. She was a tiny little thing and we breastfed immediately, within 45 minutes of the second c-section.

Once the baby comes, you don’t think of the pregnancy you endured for so many neverending months!

Sure, second and third pregnancies are a big deal too but what follows next, the postpartum months is even bigger! My in-laws and my siblings were waiting for us, but my 20-month old daughter seemed anxious. I could see it on her face when she saw us coming into the hospital room. Even the big box of mega Legos wouldn’t cheer her up. I wondered about that moment – was it going to be that dreadful? I was optimistic though. We had planned and prepared for this moment for so long! During my second pregnancy, my toddler and I watched animated TV shows about new little siblings. We repeatedly read picture storybooks about big sisters and brothers. We prepared for it all.

And yet, I never thought about planning and preparing myself for this new change!

As my mother-in- law took Ezra for a diaper change, Aria crept on my bed for a restorative huggie. We were breastfeeding throughout the second pregnancy also, so Aria wanted to breastfeed as usual. Was I still her mama? But she wasn’t the same Loopy I knew before this surgery. Somehow, she grew up in a day and she was now this big girl I didn’t even recognize. Discharged from the hospital in just two days, I happily went home to start this new life as a mama with two kids! Two kids! Two kids in two years. My in-laws helped me that first week at home, and it was great to be looked after and cared for so lovingly after a major surgery and all. But after they left, I was wholly unprepared for what came next.

What happened next to the young mom of two kids!
Praise God! The new baby Ezra was a good sleeper, she slept for 5-6 hours straight after every feed and wasn’t a demanding baby at all. Even then, the next few months were a nightmare for me.

I figured it was postpartum depression . I was barely eating, breastfeeding, looking after two small humans and still freelance writing; no maternity break or anything!

I started working from home within 10 days of my delivery. Coupled with depression, using my brain for crafting analytical writing exhausted me beyond compare. I was so frustrated, angry, tired, bored, fed up with mood swings. Up and down, up and down, and down I went to despair.

I spoke in a sweet voice to the new baby in one second and snapped at my toddler in the next. I well became a monster mother.

Loving and caring for the baby was almost like second nature. Taking care of the new baby did not worry me as much as loving my firstborn did. Now that had me running around in circles! Having this postpartum depression somehow got me feeling repulsive towards my firstborn.

Feeling overwhelmed, feeling guilty, couldn’t understand what was happening; feeling irritated and angry, feeling nothing, feeling sadness, hopeless, not sleeping when the baby sleeps, afraid to call for help. I had ALL these signs/symptoms of postpartum depression for nearly four months.

Mending the relationship with my first child after my second
I loved my firstborn. I cared for her basic needs but I somehow couldn’t find that same attachment we shared before. My toddler was barely breastfeeding now. We didn’t share a bed anymore and I didn’t carry her post delivery to avoid body aches. Wasn’t attachment parenting all about breastfeeding, bed sharing, and baby wearing? I felt like the worst mother, ever. My firstborn tried her best to come close.

She would ask for “moambo” (that’s the nickname she gave for breastmilk), hug me and climbed on my shoulders whenever I sat down to change baby Ezzy’s diaper… all her efforts to get my attention backfired though because I was more irritated and angry with her for bothering me like that. This was not what I wanted at all. Maybe it was nature telling me to focus on the vulnerable baby instead of the grown toddler Or was it the postpartum depression? Maybe it was my mothering capacity or all of the above. With hardly any sleep, house chores, freelance writing, and through-the week church meetings, I couldn’t deal with it all anymore.

A mother’s love can falter.
Loving children is difficult but God had a great design in mind when he created children. Children forgive so freely. No matter how cruel I was to my firstborn the day before, she’d call me and want me the first thing in the morning and the last before sleeping at night. She smiles at me and loves me like nothing ever happened. Little kids don’t hold grudges and their love is unconditional. It’s no wonder Jesus says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

There’s so much to learn from children and become better people. But I can’t do it in my capacity. Only God can change people’s hearts if we asked him. My supportive church members continued to care for me during this difficult season of my life. I took no medication for my postpartum depression, what I did instead was to focus all my attention on God. Reading the Bible and reminding myself about how much God has done for me already and being grateful shifted my focus to what I had from what I “thought” I wanted.

God, through Jesus, said “Ask and it shall be given to you”  and so I asked for help to get over this crazy hormonal depression and to mend my relationship with my firstborn. After about four months, I went out on regular walks in the park with my children. The fresh air, enough sleep, eating well, and working at a normal pace helped me get my physical and mental strength back. What an excellent reminder that God’s power is only made strong during your weakness!

Mending relationship with the first born
You can say it’s something like working for a better marriage. Spending more time together, being kind and being there for her with full attention is what I worked on to mend my relationship with her. Here are some of the things we did to keep our love alive and restore our bond.

  • Early morning cuddles.
  • Making breakfast together.
  • Random snuggle times during the day.
  • Play and laugh together at least once daily.
  • Looking at old photos and videos to reminisce those lovable days.
  • Exclusive time together; reading with her on my lap, while the baby plays at a distance.
  • When both children nap together and wake up together, I go to my toddler first. 
  • More eye contact by kneeling down and coming down to her level to talk with her.

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