During the summer, at the time when anxiety had reared it’s ugly head again, I found myself crying in the kids section of Next. I was early for work and had gone in to spend my birthday money but, as usual, found myself drawn to the adorable tiny outfits at the back instead. I’ve always loved their baby clothes and, if we’re being frank here, used to peruse them in a daydreamy way a long time before I was ever actually pregnant. I’ve posted before about my big plans and impatient wait for a child.
But this time felt so different. My innocence is gone, shattered. When I was pregnant with Caterpillar I feverishly took adorable onesies to the till and picked his going home outfit grinning and feeling nothing but pure joy and excitement. Those purchases symbolised all my dreams coming true because of the new life I was growing inside me. I walked around in a bubble of daydreams about how I was finally going to be a mum, and thus fulfil my life’s purpose and naturally be the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
I didn’t know how much I’d struggle. I didn’t know the mental and emotional battle that lay just around the corner. I didn’t know how anxiety felt, how every hour feels like a year. I hadn’t experienced insomnia, I’d never lost my appetite. I’d never experienced true, pure terror. Now I have. Now I’ve experience Postnatal Depression and Anxiety and I’ve worked very hard during the last two and a half years to get to a mentally healthy place and to feel (more) comfortable with motherhood. I’ve developed and nurtured an intense love for my son.
So I’m no longer innocent. I walk among those beautiful clothes and a huge, deep part of me longs for another little one to fill them. I want to feel a baby move in my belly again. I want to smell that newborn smell and watch them grow every minute. I want the chance to create another awesome little person who makes us laugh so much and brings us so much happiness. I want to give Caterpillar a sibling, I want him to experience the love I feel towards my brother and the fun we had together growing up and the great bond we have as adults. I want to give my husband another child and feel my love for him expand all over again.
I want another baby.
But it’s not simple for me. I’m frightened, too. The cautious (irrational?) side keeps speaking up – but why on earth would you put yourself through that again? Why do you want another baby when the first one brought you so much turmoil? Why would you risk the anxiety that you know is triggered by lack of sleep? What if you can’t cope with two, what if you don’t enjoy it again? What if you go back to square one and all your hard work was for nothing?
And what about antenatal anxiety? I had two instances during my pregnancy, that I now recognise in hindsight as mild anxiety attacks. Am I going to struggle with depression and anxiety during pregnancy as well as after? These are very tough thoughts and fears, and on that day, next to those cute sleepsuits, the battle raged in my mind until I was crying next to the miniature socks.
That was several months ago and I’m now in a really good place again, a strong place, where those long, frightening days are just a dimmed memory again. I’ve had a lot more therapy and feel stronger and more healed than ever before. The chance of experiencing PND to the same extent as last time, after all this hard work, seems pretty remote. And yet I felt this way before and it did return, and that was without a new pregnancy.
I always imagined we’d be a family of four and that desire still burns very brightly. But then I used to imagine a lot of things that haven’t worked out – like how motherhood would come naturally and how I’d love my son instantly and how I’d want to be a stay at home mum for five years. These wishes didn’t happen. But plenty of other awesome things have happened that I didn’t imagine – I’ve learnt to embrace the present, I’m less of a worrier, I’m a more compassionate person, I’m stronger. I write again and started a blog. I work part-time and love it.
It’s a huge decision, probably the biggest I’ll ever make. Bigger even than the decision to have Caterpillar in the first place, which felt natural and obvious.
I’m currently reading Elaine Hanzak’s book Another Twinkle in the Eye: Contemplating Another Pregnancy After Perinatal Mental Illness which offers some brilliant advice and insights for anyone else going through this thought process too (I’ll be reviewing in a later post).
For me, I suppose this is a classic head vs. heart choice. Although really I guess it’s heart + logical, strong mind vs. cautious, perhaps irrational mind. Who knows really. Who can possibly know what the future holds? I guess I should hope for the best, prepare for the worst and continue to live for the present in the meantime.
I’ve been agonising over the decision to have another child for the best part of a year. But, truth be told, when I hold a friend’s sleeping newborn, or I laugh with my brother, or I see Caterpillar dancing and playing with his cousins it feels like it’s not really a big decision after all, because the choice is already made. My heart has won.