QUESTION: I have two daughters and
I've had moderately severe postpartum depression following both pregnancies.
We have recently had lots of changes in our family and we have worked
through many problems and I feel very positive about adding another
child to our family. One worry though is my depression. How will I
know when -- and if -- the time is right for having another baby?
ANSWER: Postpartum depression is often
more intense following the birth of a third child. Given your previous
struggles, it would be wise to consider not only your mental health,
but the sacrifice that adding a child now would require from your
two daughters and your marriage. After all you and your family have
been through, perhaps it would be wise to leave well enough alone
for the time being. Nothing stops you from having more children at
a later date when your older children are more secure in the family
stability and you have earned your degree.
Life is very full for you right now. Your sense of
fun and romance are vital to your recovery from previous postpartum
depression. Is it possible that you are uncomfortable with things
going well for you? Having another child at this point could end up
sabotaging your currently hard won happiness.
Reflect on your reasons for having another child,
now. Are you afraid of defining yourself outside of motherhood for
any reason? Do you feel you have more happiness than your own mother
had (has) in her life? Is there some way you feel guilty for being
content and happy in the present? Did the role of "mother" imply a
tone of martyrdom in your childhood? Or is it simply that you have
created a habit out of "living life on the edge" and are having difficulty
making choices which sustain rather than challenge your happiness?
It is possible to become addicted to pain and struggle.
Certainly, you may desire more children, however it is important to
define your limits so that you are free to devote energy to planning
a future for the family you have, rather than be tethered to managing
the latest life crisis. Reflect on the possibility that you may be
expressing some motivation towards recreating the number of children
you experienced in your family-of-origin (childhood) in an unconscious
attempt to "remedy" your past. If this strikes a chord, consider individual
counseling focused on unresolved childhood issues before adding another
child to a family recovering from the effects of war, depression,
miscarriage, infertility and long work hours!
It may be that you are accustomed to going from one
crisis to the next, and since the universe is not offering one up,
you are creating your own! Consider the quality of your family life.
What does it really mean to have a mother pressed to take psychopharmacological
drugs in order to fulfill her parenting role? Naturally you should
make use of medication if it is needed in a crisis, but is it right
to depend on it as a way of life in the future? What are you teaching
your children about the role of "mother" in the family?
Your authentic happiness and well-being are an important
part of your family's emotional health. What makes you feel happy
can make others smile. Your daughters will benefit from seeing their
own mother make the choice to satisfy rather than delay her needs
in the family.
Is there anything wrong with living life on the sunny
side for a while? You may be amazed at what you can create in your
life when your energies are not siphoned off for survival and coping!