I never thought, especially after my last postpartum experience, that I would be open to getting pregnant again. But here we are, trying for another baby. Before we start this journey, however, I want to be very clear about what my next postpartum needs will look like.
You see, statistically, not only is it incredibly likely that I will suffer from some sort of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, it’s also likely that it will be even worse than last time.
Now, I will do my darnedest to make sure that doesn’t happen. I will work really hard in therapy and make sure I’m on top of my meds. I will be proactive in seeking help. This time, I will be as prepared as I can going in.
But I’m still going to need some help.
First of all, those three weeks of paid paternity leave your company gives you? Yes. You will be taking all of it. ALL OF IT. No going back early. I don’t care how much your team needs you. The simple fact is that I will need you more. Postpartum is hard for me.
Next, I’m going to need you to give me permission to take it easy on myself. As much as I say I’m going to take care of myself, inevitably, I will feel too guilty to actually do so. I will tell myself I’m not pulling my own weight–which is INSANE, because I will have literally grown a human being, evacuated them from my body, and dealt with the raging sea of hormones associated with that. Still, I’m going to need you to remind me that it’s okay to ignore the kids long enough to shower. You’re going to have to tell me that it’s okay to send the baby to the nursery that first night in the hospital so I can get a little bit of sleep.
And while we’re talking about sleep… I’m really going to need you to make sure I’m getting some.
Last time, the little sleep I could’ve gotten between feedings was often stolen by anxiety and all-out panic. I need you to tell me it’s okay to wake you up when I’m struggling like that in the middle of the night. Deep down I know it is, you’re always there for me, but I’m still going to need you to remind me. I need you to take one night feeding so I can get one small stretch of sleep. I’ll try to pump ahead, but I also need you to give me permission to supplement with formula if it is the only way I will get some sleep. You see, exhaustion makes my OCD worse. I’m not expecting to get a full eight hours by any means, but I need a little sleep.
I’m also going to need help. All kinds of help. I can’t relax when there are things to be done. It’s just not in my nature. So I’m going to need help with laundry, dishes, and chores.
Most of all, I need you to be watching for red flags. I need you to make sure I’m actually fine and not just trying to look like I am.
I want you to make sure I’m smiling. Really smiling. I want you to make sure I’m still able to hold a conversation. You see, when my intrusive thoughts are at their worst, I can’t concentrate. If I can hold a conversation, I’m probably okay. Watch to see if I’m not picking up the baby. Last time, I was scared to hold our daughter. Watch to see if I’m overprotective and constantly re-checking to make sure the baby is okay. This will be my third go-around, so if I’m acting like an anxious first-time mom on steroids, I’m not okay.
As we get closer to a due date, I’ll think of more things I’ll need. As I do, keep a running list. I’m not gutsy enough to advocate for myself and chances are I won’t ask more than once. So pay attention.
I love you, honey. I trust you. I know I can count on you. That’s why I’m willing to go through this again.
That, and we make pretty amazing little humans.