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Maggie on having prenatal depression and being afraid to have another baby

black and white photo of a pregnant belly - essay on prenatal depression

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 decided to take a pregnancy test just for the hell of it.

“Pregnant.”

I was shocked! We had started trying for another baby, but didn’t think it would happen the first month. With Stella, it took almost two years. I called Robert right away. We were so excited and over the moon. We couldn’t believe it.

That bliss feeling lasted about a week for me. All of a sudden I started getting extremely depressed. Every night I would go to bed so anxious I couldn’t fall asleep. I couldn’t stop thinking the worst—going through pregnancy again, possibly having another miscarriage, bringing another baby into the world when we already had our perfect Stella, having another c-section, going into preterm labor again, etc.

I would be sobbing into Robert’s shoulder, “I know I’ll love this baby, but I just don’t feel that way right now.”

Related: How to foster deeper connections with your baby

I felt so disconnected to the tiny human growing inside of me. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t excited. And I hated that I felt this way. I felt like the most awful mom. How could I possibly think this way?

The first month of pregnancy I had spotting every day and so I felt like I was just waiting for a miscarriage to happen. Even though I had a successful birth with Stella, I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby I miscarried before her.

All I could think of was failing. Not being able to be a mother who was present for two children or who could even take care of two children. We created such a routine with Stella—how was that going to look adding another newborn into the mix? And while I have my husband and our families, I am the stay-at-home parent who does most of the caring.

Related: Why routines are the key to a happy, thriving family

I didn’t think there was any way I’d be able to take care of two children and also take care of myself. How could I take care of them if I don’t get sleep? Or if my depression and anxiety takes over? How could I breastfeed if I’m stressed or not eating enough? I look at all these other moms with multiple children and it seems so easy. I thought, “If they can do it, of course I can!” But I honestly couldn’t see how it was possible.

Guilt. So much guilt. How could I bring another baby into this world? What will Stella think? How will Stella feel? What if she feels unloved and not wanted by me because of this? There’s no way she understands that we’re having another baby, as she was only 15 months old. I felt so selfish. I don’t want her thinking she’s not enough, because she is absolutely everything!

Shame. I felt so much shame. How dare I feel this way toward this tiny life inside me. This was everything I had ever wanted—a family, children, to be a mother. I couldn’t understand how I could feel anything but joy. I made Robert promise to never tell anyone I was feeling like this, because I was so embarrassed. I felt so disgusting.

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

I started seeing other moms talk about their depression during pregnancy and realized that this happens. This fear, being disconnected, and feeling worthless happens to other pregnant moms too—even the ones who want and plan their pregnancies. There are so many things that us moms don’t talk about but feel all the time. I had never imagined that someone who wanted a baby so badly could be depressed about having said baby too.

These feelings eventually went away for me and I am so excited to have another baby! I still have fears of having more than one child, going through another c-section, and being a good mom, but I ultimately am not scared of having this baby come into the world anymore.

I don’t have all the answers and I’ll probably still have doubts in my mind, but anyone that feels this way needs to know they’re not alone. That they are still an incredible mother or father and it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. I felt so alone in the way that I felt and I hope by speaking up, someone else doesn’t feel as alone. You are never alone.

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