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Brea on having an “only child” after having postpartum anxiety

brea with baby- postpartum anxiety

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

When my son was born in November 2018, the first night home I had a mild panic attack. This was after suffering severe anxiety throughout my entire pregnancy, in silence.

I spent my pregnancy telling myself, if we just make it to the birth, everything will be okay. He will be here and healthy and alive and we can move on. I still can’t believe how oblivious I was to the possibility of depression and continued anxiety.

That first night home was a huge wake-up call. From that panic attack, I knew, it wasn’t over. I spent the first few weeks crying all day, every day. I was breastfeeding in the beginning and only made it three weeks because I felt like I was drowning. My whole life was nursing, passing him off to sleep, nursing, repeat repeat repeat. So, I quit. I still struggle with hating myself for stopping.

I was put on medication after my supportive husband and sister pointed out that maybe these feelings weren’t normal. This sadness. This anxiety. This defeat.

Two weeks later I was a new woman. I finally felt that my son had a mom—a mom he deserved. It doesn’t always feel that good of course, but what a difference it made.

I knew within the first week of my son’s life that I never wanted to do this again. I never wanted to suffer through severe anxiety for a whole pregnancy. I never wanted another emergency C-section that blew up my whole dream of labor and delivery. I never wanted to fail at breastfeeding, and hate myself all over again. I never wanted to have to start all over with postpartum depression.

At first I was afraid to tell my husband. We always assumed we’d have a few kids. I shared my feelings with him when my son was two months. And to my surprise, my husband felt the same way. He said he hated seeing me struggle and was grateful to have our healthy, happy, perfect boy.

He said another baby wouldn’t make our lives complete. Instead, it could break us. I was so relieved. So, we agreed. No more. My son is almost one and we just started telling family members that we are not having any more. It took us this long to share, because we knew the responses we’d receive.

“You’re in your 20s. You’ll change your mind.”

“You have to give him a sibling. That would be so cruel to him.”

“Just wait until he asks you for a sibling. Then what?”

“That’s so selfish.”

I could go on. It’s hard to hear and not feel supported. I feel anxiety around certain family members all the time. I hate it. But, none of this has changed our minds. We know one perfect boy is just right for us. Hopefully my family and friends will learn to open their minds and hearts to others’ struggles and experiences and to stop forcing their ideas of “normal” on us.

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