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CH on postpartum depression, anger and three babies in three years

picture of a sky - essay on three babies in three years

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.

I had my first baby girl 10 days before my 36th birthday. I was terrified. I had met her father about 2 weeks before I got pregnant, and moved in with him 6 weeks before she was born.

I desperately wanted to do the whole breastfeeding thing, but my new daughter and my own body had other ideas. She refused. I started bottle feeding her and exclusively pumping up to 12 times a day, sometimes an hour or more per session. I couldn’t get more than about 10 mL per session and my nipples began to bleed. I remember I kept it up for about 6 weeks. I was devastated.

I also had many markers for postpartum depression, so I called the lactation consultant to schedule a third meeting in tears after my daughter’s tongue-tie was clipped and I still couldn’t get her to nurse. My fiancé heard me set up the appointment and called off work to go with me because he had a bad feeling about it.

Related: True life: There was SO much about breastfeeding I didn’t know

We were met by a psychologist and a CPS agent at the office. I was shocked and upset. My fiancé told me afterward that I couldn’t ask for help, that I had to figure it out on my own, that as far as anyone else was concerned, I didn’t matter–only my daughter did.

If I told the doctors or anyone how much I was struggling, I was risking having a DCFS case opened and my baby taken away. So I bit down on my emotions and dealt as best as I could on my own. 

Just before she turned 3 months old, my daughter got sick. Really sick. When my fiancé came home for lunch, he said she didn’t look that bad and just kept an eye on her. I knew something was really wrong by the end of the day, and told him we needed to get her to the ER as soon as he came home from work.

Related: True life: Once I started asking for help things got so much better

We rushed her to the hospital. She was gray and struggling to breathe and the doctor and nurses were very alarmed. They called for a med flight to get her to a children’s hospital. I felt like they were blaming me for not bringing her in sooner. She was intubated and put on a ventilator for 5 days.

I spent the time pacing the hospital. I got really sick too, but was terrified that if I showed it, they’d make me leave. So I did what I could to manage my own symptoms and paced the hospital. When they took the tube out of her throat, it was horrific to watch. I had to leave for a few minutes because they couldn’t tell me when I could hold her and I couldn’t stand the sight of her gasping, seeing the panic on her face, and not be able to go to her.

When I got back, my mom, who had just shown up, was holding her. I was so upset that she’d stepped in like that and my own mom guilt re-doubled. When we were finally ready to leave the hospital on the 6th day, I was an emotional wreck, sick and exhausted from being unable to sleep. I didn’t feel like I could handle her recovery at home. I had completely lost my confidence in being able to care for her. My mom didn’t help, second-guessing and criticizing just about everything I did in regards to my daughter. 

Related: Mom Guilt is a symptom of a much deeper problem

Two weeks after we brought her home from the hospital, the country shut down because of the COVID pandemic and I lost touch with the church group that had been my lifeline since moving in with my fiancé. In the months that followed we noticed definite signs of brain damage in my daughter. She didn’t respond to us like she had and she didn’t make any cooing or babble sounds anymore. She had also lost most of the control over her arms and hands that she had learned before. 

Three months later, I got pregnant with my second daughter. My first was a very large, very willful 15-month old when my second was born. She was recovering well and I was slowly gaining back my confidence. My second daughter’s delivery was induced 2 days early and it was a rather traumatic delivery because the doctor had 3 other births going on at the same time and didn’t get there until she was crowning.

She had the cord wrapped around her neck. The nurses held me down while the doctor untangled her. Thankfully, she was all right, except for some pretty extreme bruising on her face. She is a really sweet baby, very easily soothed and generally content, but I really struggled to bond with her.

Related: To the mama struggling with postpartum: It doesn’t make you any less of a mother

I was angry a lot. My toddler was infuriating, and on two separate occasions, dropped objects into her sister’s mouth, causing her to choke. Both times I saw and was able to remove the objects, but I was terrified I’d miss something. I did my best to keep them separate but we live in a very small home. 

My fiancé was going to get a vasectomy while I was recovering postpartum, but it didn’t work out. I got on the pill, but it made my mood swings and anger outbursts so much worse. They almost always happened within 30-60 minutes of my taking the pill. So we started using a spermicide for birth control instead. 

When my second daughter was nearly 5 months old I got sick. It was on and off, this bone-deep fatigue and nausea all day. After 2 weeks of this, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. The first ultrasound showed the baby was already 2 months along and due two weeks after my second turns 1. 

Related: Mom perfectly nails the issues at the core of ‘mom rage’ in viral TikTok

I am excited and apprehensive about this new baby. The thing that concerns me is how angry I am. I don’t feel like I can talk about it, given my experience with the lactation consultant calling CPS under the guise of setting up another appointment.

Everyone and everything upsets me. I can’t keep up with the housework. My toddler is absolutely refusing to nap and cannot tolerate me setting boundaries and telling her “no.” I spend way too much time hiding and crying in the bathroom and my fiancé is exhausted from work and not able to give me much of a respite.

My relationship with my mom is also pretty distant as she feels a need to criticize me and my fiancé whenever I say anything about what I am struggling with. I am a stay at home mom and quite frankly, feel like I’m terrible at it. I feel like it’s important, what I’m doing, but I also question how I can handle a third pregnancy in three years and then three babies once it actually comes.

I don’t go out much and I feel so completely cut off from any respite or support I had built on before the pandemic. My first is so willful that I avoid visiting relatives because I can’t keep her out of their things. 

Angry and pregnant is the most used search phrase on my browser.