Meredith, Remington VA (USA

My husband and I have known each other for 20 years and married for almost 11. We met in high school and knew from the moment we met that something between us was happening. We never thought he could have children because of an accident when he was young. Long behold, I ended up pregnant, at the age of 18. Unfortunately, regardless of beliefs, it was just not the right time, and we terminated the pregnancy. We ended up having to drive to Tennessee because of the laws in Virginia. No one knows – not even our families – but I don’t mind talking about it now because it was a long time ago, although that event took a major emotional toll on us. I was in college then, and he would drive 6 hours every weekend to come and see me. It was rough, but it led us to hope that when we would try to get pregnant again, it would work. And it did. Many years after, I got pregnant with our son, who’s now 8 and a half. He was an “oops!”. I was on the pill and planning on waiting another year, but as with my first pregnancy, I got hyperemesis very early on so I knew I had gotten pregnant right away. I lost 35 pounds but didn’t tell my doctors, because I was afraid they would take me out of work. I also have dealt with depression and subsequent anxiety pretty much my entire life, and it made me worried because we had a lot of issues prior with our family. I was constantly feeling that I had to prove I was adult enough and that our relationship was meant to last. That’s why we waited so long to be okay with trying to have another child. We got married in October 2007, and he was born in December 2009. I was 28, we had a house and were both successful, but my mother was very stand-offish and verbal about the fact that I shouldn’t have children. She actually wanted us to terminate the pregnancy. That didn’t help anything, especially once he was born.

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My parents moved to Georgia when I was pregnant. We actually had a lot of support from my dad, which made it even more difficult after we had the baby. But they drove up when he was born, and my sister also came to help. They stayed here for two weeks, but pretty much close to that full amount of time, our son was in the NICU because he was meconium aspiration. I knew from the moment my water broke that it might happen, but the day after he was born they just took him without telling me where. That set off a chained reaction. I didn’t get that bonding time, and my mom had to stay with me at the hospital because my husband had to go back to work. Living where we do, it was 50 miles back and forth every day. I was so hard, and it’s like something broke inside of me. I am Jewish, and we follow the traditions. We originally had planned for the Bris to be at our house for the circumcision ceremony and the family celebration, but that had to be postponed. When our son finally came home, we did a very small and private ceremony, but I still wasn’t well mentally. I felt very disconnected like he wasn’t mine. I was off 12 weeks after from work, and during that time, I would call my husband crying. Not because I didn’t know to do with the baby, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was feeding him and taking care of him, but I had no connection whatsoever with this child. At one point, I even called him and said: “I can understand why mothers shake their babies to death.” Not that I would have done it, but you have all these emotions and hormones rushing through you… so I directed the anger against myself. I had intrusive thoughts. It took a good 6 months before I even said something to my doctor.

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Part of the reason I hadn’t gone before was that I think we normalize this feeling of depression, or at least that’s how I perceived it. You are told “it’s normal to feel depressed, a lot of people go through it,” so you think what makes me any different and why do I need to get help? It made me feel even more disconnected, and I thought, “Well if everybody else can get through this, I can surely do it on my own.” Which is the worst thing you could ever do. It took two and a half years to pull me out of it. I knew I was his mother, but I couldn’t feel connected to him, I couldn’t feel real love – or what I thought should be real love. My husband really helped me through everything, and it goes back to him being my rock. He had the male version of postpartum depression, so we helped each other. We both struggle with the fact we didn’t fall automatically in love with our baby. It was a huge stress, but for us, it brought us closer; he can’t always fix everything, but he listens so well. Outwardly, everybody puts on that smile and tells the world how much they love their new child, but I do wonder… It started to get better at the two-and-a-half-year mark. No switch flipped, but we settled into a routine, and life just became… normal. After everything we had been through, we weren’t sure if we’d ever want another child. But last year – so 8 years after our son was born – my husband told me he’d always wanted a second one. We talked a lot about it and decided to do it, to make it real. So, I had my IUD taken out, and it took under three months for us to get pregnant, which was surprising, especially at our age. It all went very quickly, but we knew we were going to need a plan.

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The plan was that he would have to be honest with me about my behavior and emotional state, and I would do my best not to get mad at him, or take it as an attack. We talked about the fact that I may have to go on something prior, too, and I spoke to my doctor about that. I had those discussions from day one with my doctors. I wanted to be prepared, because there was a big probability that a few things could be worse, like the depression and the hyperemesis. The biggest difference, between this pregnancy and the last, was that I now had this eight-and-a-half-year-old to care for. I couldn’t afford to be as anxious as I had been. When it’s just you fighting with yourself in your head, it’s one thing, but with a child… My doctor said they would put me on something, but I worked my way back after talking to my husband. He’s been my best therapist. I’ll be 37 weeks tomorrow, and I feel she’s ready to come out. This pregnancy came with its own set of difficulties as she has a cleft lip and palate. We went through a lot of stress and depression after we found out because the doctors wanted to do a battery of tests, to find out the reason and be overprotective, but sometimes there is no reason. They kept telling us “You need to do this and this in advance,” but why? I finally told one of the nurses at the hospital to stop saying that to us. Sure, we’ll meet the people that need to be involved in the surgery after she’s born, but for now, it’s just causing our family more stress. There will be a change of lifestyle because I’ll have to figure out different ways to nurse or bottle-feed her, but none of those things we can prepare for. But we are ready for her now. We have our support ready to go, and our son is very excited and more than willing to help. Pregnancy, family, it’s not perfect. People think we have the perfect relationship because we are high school’s sweethearts, but we did a lot of work to get there. Just going through life… nothing is easy.