I knew I was at risk for PPD. My 13 month old daughter, Elli, died in a tragic accident in April 2002. I was pregnant with my second child, a boy, due June 2003. After Elli died, I tried desperately to get pregnant again. After a long five months, I was pregnant. Everyone was so happy for us. I was happy too, for awhile. Then came all of the feelings of self doubt. "You'll be fine once the baby comes." That's what everyone said, what everyone hoped. I tried to believe them, but as my son Declan was born, I knew this wasn't the case.
I remember looking at my son, thinking to myself, "He is beautiful. He is my son. He is here now. Why am I still not happy?" I felt like all of my mothering instincts had died with my daughter. I remember thinking, "This is so not how I remembered it." This experience was just so different from when I brought home my daughter. I remember struggling with breastfeeding, not wanting to give my son a bottle. To me, that felt like I was a failure and after all, my daughter never needed to be supplemented. I put so many unrealistic expectations upon myself. I thought, "I got through my child dying, I can certainly get through this." My son was more tempermental than my daughter was, and this just confirmed my feelings that my mothering skills died with Elli.
I remember feeling somewhat relieved when I had to go back to work after 5 months of being home with my son. Then I felt guilty for feeling that way. I went on like this for 5 1/2 months, struggling with my feelings of self doubt, still grieving for my daughter and trying desperately to bond with my son.
I finally called the Post Partum Stress Center and left a message. Declan's pediatrician had given me the information for the center 2 months earlier and I thought, "Oh, I'll be fine." Being a social worker, you'd think I'd know that it was okay to ask for help, but I didn't. I left a message on the machine and got a phone call back within an hour. I remember I was sitting at my desk at work, I leaned over and shut the door and just sat on the phone sobbing. It felt so good to have someone listen and know what I was talking about. If it was possible, I felt like I was being given a HUGE bear hug over the phone. Karen Kleiman was so good to me. She arranged for me to come in and talk with a therapist and I have been going there for counseling ever since.
I was so afraid to admit that I was having a hard time bonding with my son. If I said that to anyone in my life, I was afraid they would think that I was wishing I had my daughter instead. While of course I wish my daughter was here, that wasn't it. I realized that when she died, I closed a piece of my heart away ... that piece that is capable of unconditional love. The hurt just runs so deep when your child dies, I had to close myself off from experiencing that pain again. The only way to do that, was to never love that way again. So, when my son was born, I had to learn how to open that part of myself back up again and learn how to love him as a mother should. It was hard. I am not going to lie. But I was able to do it, with the help of my therapist and also, an antidepressant helped as well. I was able to continue breastfeeding and develop a wonderful relationship with my son. I am still nursing him at 14 months old. He is the light of my life and I am not ashamed to admit that I just needed a little guidance through some darkness to be able to see that light once he was born.