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More than the baby blues…

by Martha, a mother in Maryland

As the days passed, I secretly wished for a miscarriage. I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. It wasn’t right. My father’s words loomed before me, “Don’t forget, you were a second child.” I buried the pain deep inside, dismissed my negative thoughts, and superficially accepted my fate. It was meant to be, a `blessing in disguise’.

My due date drew near. I had done all the appropriate things-gotten out the baby clothes, reviewed my childbirth techniques. I had even made a point of not apologizing for being pregnant, not to myself–not to anyone. But something just wasn’t right. I was depressed, really depressed, all too often. It was the kind of depression that leaves you apathetic, alone, and helpless. The kind that drains you mentally and takes away what physical strength you might have. I seemed to cry daily, placing the blame on my husband’s demanding schedule. My emotional state was certainly not conducive to pregnancy so it was no wonder I started having early contractions. My doctor, fearing I would have a premature baby, ordered me to stop working and stay in bed for the remaining ten weeks.

As our income dropped and my physical discomfort escalated, my resentment mounted. How unrealistic to expect me to stay in bed and manage a toddler too! I begged to be induced. My doctor refused. I didn’t care if I was four weeks early, I just wanted it to be over.

Finally I delivered, but I continued to block out what another child would mean, not only to me but Brandon as well. The fact that he slept most of the time simply reinforced my denial. It was easy for me to say, “Such a good baby.. .no trouble at all.” But my maternal feelings for Brandon were so powerful that another child prompted a surge of resentment. Resentment that said, ” How dare you try to take his place. How dare you expect me to share my love.” Those once-so-special baby clothes were now being worn by another. I told myself how wrong I was to feel that way and pushed my thoughts aside, hoping time would erase the bitterness.

Somewhere along the line, this new addition began sleeping less and demanding more of my time and I could no longer ignore his presence. The reality of a third person in my life evoked an intense degree of anger. Where were all those maternal feelings -the protectiveness, the warmth, the sympathy? Preventing Brandon from becoming jealous or feeling abandoned had become the paramount issue. Something had to give. I could not continue to be so intolerant of this baby’s existence.

It was not long before these negative feelings surfaced full-force. It took a whole night of an inconsolably crying baby to let it all out. Brandon was sleeping peacefully in the next room and as usual, Nick was gone. I had tried everything: nursing, walking, rocking. Nothing worked. I was tired and getting angrier by the moment. I looked at the clock…4.OO A.M. I found myself shaking and yelling, ” I don’t want you. I don’t want you. I’m not ready. I’M NOT READY!” Exhaustion and frustration set in. I cried.

The next day I knew I had to take a closer look at what was going on. Surely I should’ve seen it coming- the denial, the anger, the resentment, the depression. I needed to talk. I reached for the phone and dialed a familiar number. Susan listened while I blurted out the awful feelings I had experienced the night before; all the thoughts I had never dared to speak aloud.

When I finally fell silent, Susan asked only one question, “Are you afraid you might hurt the baby?” The idea had never crossed my mind. Was she suggesting I might lose control?
“Of course not,” I was quick to reply. ” I’m mad but that doesn’t mean I’m going to abuse my child. Save your psychiatric nursing for someone else.”
“Are you sure?” She persisted.

What a frightening thought. I found myself speaking involuntarily, in a detached sort of way,”No, I’d never hurt him. Never… never…” But as I spoke, the events of the previous night flashed before me. I said good-bye and hung up the phone, knowing all the while I had to take her question one step further.

I slowly made my way to the baby’s crib and stood motionless above this helpless little human. Am I really capable of abusing my baby, I thought. How could I be mad at him anyway? It wasn’t his fault. He had done absolutely nothing, except to be born, and that wasn’t his choice. It wasn’t even his fault that my pregnancy had been so unbearable or that I was now torn between loving two babies.

So who was I really mad at? I was mad at an ambiguous entity unable to wave a magic wand and make everything all better. “Ryan, Ryan,” I heard myself saying, trying to make it sound real. Then for the first time, I focused in on this tiny stranger. There he was, a chubby little bundle with a triple chin and fuzzy blond head. I locked in on the blues eyes peering back at me. We held our gaze for a few minutes and then he broke into the widest, most toothless grin I’d ever seen. My heart melted. I knew it was time to give him another chance, a chance without anger.

…Eight years have passed since that new beginning, eight years of loving and growing. I smile smugly as I reflect back, knowing I’d never trade this special boy for anything. You see, this morning after he bolted through our front door, hurrying to be the first at school, he paused, glanced over his shoulder and left me that same toothless grin once more.

Postpartum Support International.