Emotionally I think I might not be on the same positive level. This was a planned pregnancy I was excited for! But now I'm filled with fear. What if, what if, what if??? My biggest fear is that I won't be able to cope with four children, especially a toddler and a baby, and I will go all emotionally crazy and, well, go crazy. Huh. It's pretty hard to argue against that being a possibility, given the fact that I've gone crazy before after adding a kid. In fact, I've kind of gone crazy TWICE in a ROW after adding a kid. So I have some pretty strong precedence set for fearing I might go there again. And the crazy is just indescribably awful, the kind of experience you'd cut your fingers off or gouge an eye out to avoid, and here I am risking it happening again by having another baby. Don't worry, I won't actually cut off or gouge out anything, because i think that might put me far enough over the definition of crazy to get myself committed. =)
There's nothing wrong with hospitalization to deal with mental illness--I've known several well functioning people who have hospitalizations in their past, and all of them, without fail, describe those hospitalizations in positive terms. FINALLY getting the help they needed, and getting out of their thought cycles of depression, fear, or psychosis. However, it's nice when one can avoid needing to be hospitalized. Or losing a finger or an eye.
Anyways, I'm afraid I'm going to go crazy again. I'm afraid of the anxiety returning. I'm afraid of the mental images that loop through my head, the constant rehearsals for coping with catastrophe, the memories from things I've seen at work, the nightmares, the sleeplessness--what new mom wants to lie next to their sleeping baby and stay awake to make sure it keeps breathing--for hours and hours and hours??? New moms want to SLEEP EVERY SECOND THEY CAN to make up for all the getting up and feeding and burping and changing and resettling. Riley slept like a dream baby. Six hours at a time, 6-12, 12-6. I lay awake, watching him. You know, so I could keep him alive.
I have to remember that I have some big things in my favour this time around. #1 BIG thing in my favour: I know what I'm dealing with. With Matthew, I had no idea what was wrong with me--I just knew that I wasn't depressed, but that something was very, very wrong. I had a good friend recently apologize for judging my parenting at that time (she's going through a hard time with her children now, and she empathizes a bit more). It was quite apparent that I didn't cope well. But it is so hard to tackle the problem when you don't know its cause. And coping poorly as a parent is so full of social stigma, it's hard to get adequate help once you recognize that something is wrong. I went to a counsellor, and he was nice and all, but he didn't really help. He took the worst off the top, by helping me recognize that I was consumed with guilt over Matthew's life story before he came to us, and slathering layers of guilt on top for the ill coping I was doing once he was adopted. But it was a long, long 18 month plus another year and a half of coping better but not REALLY feeling settled or loving him the same as my other kids before that was resolved. That whole process could have been telescoped down to probably a 3 month process if I had had proper recognition of an anxiety disorder, good support, and appropriate help. It's no one's fault that I didn't have this: it's a natural consequence of living in a society that doesn't understand or adequately support mental illness. Period.
But it is what it is. I can't change the past, and I have come to terms with that. And being open about the process and journey and how I treat my illness just might push back against that social stigma enough to help someone else. At the very least, those of you who read this blog and follow my journey will have some insight into the mind of someone with this type of illness.
Of course, after Riley was born the anxiety was so bad it triggered anxiety attacks, which is how I finally recognized what I had. At work we get lots of calls for people with anxiety attacks. They are not fun. When you have one, it really feels like you might be dying. And the ambulance personnel are all, without fail, rolling their eyes in private at the anxiety attack calls. You're not dying. It's all in your head. Relax. You don't need an ambulance.
So when I had anxiety attacks, I didn't call an ambulance. But I recognized what I had, at last, and so I'm eternally grateful for those attacks. I went to a new counsellor, four times, who helped me with immediate coping mechanisms. And THEN, when my allotment of sessions ran out (I had accessed the counselling services available through my work, since so many of my nightmares and anxieties were directly connected with stuff I'd seen at work, but work only pays for 4 sessions), I happened to be in my doctor's office for something unrelated, and I saw a poster for a postpartum anxiety and depression treatment and support group. I wrote down the number. And that group SAVED ME. I still use the techniques I learned there for coping with anxiety. It shifted my perspective on the WORLD, my life, and the thoughts in my head and emotions in my heart.
So. I have to remember that even if anxiety rears its head again (and I actually believe this whole fear fear fear process is anxiety attempting to return), I have recognition and coping tools at my disposal that I didn't have in the past. I don't have that group anymore, but I still have the workbook and the email addresses of the other members of the group. Hopefully that will get me through. I also have supplements to help me, a naturopathic midwife, my previous naturopathic midwife's email address and willingness to help, and all of you. If my emotions travel back to hell, I probably won't get too far on the path before turning around and coming back, because I have good support. And better coping mechanisms. And, most of all, recognition of what I have.
Another fear I'm harboring is that of a disturbance of the peace. We have a nice balance here, with three kids, and I'm loathe to upset the balance. Every day since Riley was born has been another step of redemption and towards peace, and I'm afraid to lose that. I'm also afraid to displace my baby. He still seems like a baby to me, though he's nearly two. He still needs me. He still nurses. He still wants to cosleep about 50% of the time. What if both babies want to breastfeed at the same time at night? I can't sleep through that. I don't even know if I can DO that. I know it's logistically possible, but will it be comfortable? Likely not. But I don't want Riley to miss out on baby led weaning and wean him from breastfeeding, either. I'm envisioning having to push away a crying Riley because I'm feeding the baby, and it being very disruptive for everyone's sleep, and awful rejection for Riley. Right now he has fairly free access and doesn't have to wait, because HE'S the baby.
I feel sad that he will have to move over, so to speak. And I worry about how I'll be able to cope. I want to enjoy life and my babies and my kids, and I worry about the inevitable hunkering down and surviving that comes with having too much to do and not enough time or sleep. Gosh, I worry too much.
I also feel a bit taxed. A bit touched out. A bit tired of breastfeeding. Not tired of breastfeeding per SE, but the thought of doing it nonstop for the next 2-3 years is a bit daunting. I believe in it, and I'll do it, but some freedom would be nice. A break between Ayden and Riley gave me enough time to miss it and look forward to it, and really enjoy it when Riley came along. But another 2 to 3 years of it? It's lots of work, and a pretty short tether to one's child to sustain for years. People understand if you can't go away overnight with a child under about 9 months. But a two year old? People just don't get if your tether to them is short at that age, unless they breastfeed forever too, or have good friends who do.
Even my husband doesn't really get it. He likes to dream about overnights away from the kids, and sometimes mentions two night getaways. He's dreaming anyways, since we can't really afford them unless we get some kind of a deal or freebie, but it's like he forgets how short my tether is to Riley. 14 hours, max. And I don't like doing even that.
Knowing that this baby will be my last, it would be nice to relish everything, including breastfeeding, but I guess we would never get to the point of feeling 'done' with having kids if everything was enjoyable and relishable and happy and sweet, would we? Kind of like pregnancy. We'd never be eager for labour to start or for sleepless nights with a new baby if we didn't get to that uncomfortable, can't sleep, feel like an overripe eggplant, grouchy stage late in the third trimester. I know I'm ready for my kids to grow, increase their independence, develop, and for me to move beyond the birth and baby stage. This is new for me. I haven't been ready for that yet. But now I am, which is a good indicator that 4 is just right for us. One more! Then we're done.
Thanks for listening. I feel much better. Hopefully I can push back the fear and just take life as it comes, even with four.