I Didn’t Know How Depressed I Was Until My Second Child Was Born

Sara Mutchler Postpartum

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When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter I was filled with mixed emotions. We’d been trying for over a year after a miscarriage and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was afraid of losing another baby.

Then there was the fact that I was unemployed and searching for work.

On one hand, awful timing.

On the other hand, the miracle we had been hoping for.

Then the sickness struck: I was incredibly ill throughout my pregnancy. The first trimester was the hardest including an ER trip for fluids – but the rest was no cakewalk either.

I did, however, eat a lot of cake.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant. I didn’t like my doctor.

I was unhappy being unemployed.

I felt lost and depressed.

I had gone through what I like to call “down times” in the past. I was medicated for depression in my youth and I know the signs when I feel myself slipping into that dark space. I’d sensed this darkness before I got pregnant, and adding the enormous hormonal shifts that come with pregnancy didn’t help.

I went through the motions. I looked for a job. I planned for our baby girl. I wanted to be happy and excited—and I was to a certain point—but I was also sick and tired and scared.

Through it all, I survived the pregnancy and made it to the next part: the birth.

It was pretty awful. I was induced, and then it took two days for Elena to show up. She entered this world three minutes before the cutoff for a c-section.

You could say it all came full circle: a horrible childbirth experience was kind of the perfect ending to an awful pregnancy.

Regardless, she’d arrived. It’s all so foggy to me now, but at some point someone handed her to me. I just remember feeling so overwhelmed. I don’t know if I cried. I remember thinking I should cry, but I have no idea if I did.

My most vivid memory is the moment my mom came in the room: that’s when I know I started to cry. Moms, right?

Just when I thought the hard work was done (you know, 9 months of hell followed by 2 days of something worse than hell), we began the horrible, the awful, the no-one-can-prepare-you-for-it process of breastfeeding.

It didn’t go smoothly. I didn’t know what I was doing and my husband had no way of helping me. Having problems breastfeeding—especially initially—is very common. I know that now. But I didn’t then.. I didn’t know anything. I felt alone and like a failure.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the hospital mixed up my daughter and gave us the wrong baby.

No, I’m not joking.

It happened in the middle of our last night at the hospital. They had taken our daughter for her hearing test and my husband and I took advantage of the rare quiet time and turned out the lights and crashed harder than we’ve ever crashed before.

An hour(?) later a nurse came in with a screaming baby, telling me they couldn’t do the test because she was so hungry and upset. And I needed to feed her now. NOW.

She shoved the baby in my arms and kept forcing the baby into me until it was “working” and then she left.

Nothing felt right. My husband made the realization first. He lifted the baby out of my arms and returned her to the nurses.

And then we waited until our daughter was returned to us.

So, if we’re keeping score: I had a miserable pregnancy. A hellish childbirth. And then the hospital gave us the wrong baby.

While returning home was much needed, not much changed. It was all new and overwhelming and I still couldn’t get her to nurse and I was recovering and I was having nightmares about losing her (thanks hospital) and there were the hormones.

It took about a month of struggling to nurse for me to give it up, and through it all I didn’t feel any “bonding” with my daughter. I felt frustration. Shame. Guilt. Anger. And whenever I read about how nursing is so important to mother/baby bonding I got even more angry because I just wasn’t feeling any of that.

To be honest I wasn’t feeling anything.

I started to feel better after I stopped trying. Whoever said quitting isn’t the answer never struggled with breastfeeding, because quitting was absolutely the answer.

To add insult to injury my daughter had tummy problems. The pediatrician called her colicky. We tried several formulas and finally found one that worked—the most expensive one, naturally.

In the middle of all of this…I found out I was pregnant again.

What do you get when you mix an exhausted first-time mom dealing with a colicky 12-week-old baby with a new pregnancy?

A freakin’ mess.

Hindsight is always 20/20. When looking back on an experience, it’s so much easier to pick it apart and understand why things happened the way they did – why you felt the way you did — or even just how you felt at all.

When our daughter was four months old we started to see a shift: she was crying less and eating more. She was smiling! Laughing! She was actually pleasant to be around.

And I started to feel a shift. I wanted to hold her and cuddle her and smother her in kisses. I couldn’t get enough of her. We were finally bonding.

After the initial shock of finding out I was pregnant again wore off, I made some changes.

I found a new doctor who was associated with a different hospital. I vowed to never return to that place (and I still haven’t).

I had a much healthier pregnancy and took better care of myself—mainly because I couldn’t just lay around and be miserable, I had an infant I needed to care for. It’s amazing what you are capable of working through when you are forced to do so.

I went into the hospital with a feeding plan that did not include nursing. Breastfeeding works for a lot of women – and maybe it could have worked better for me the second time – but I needed to protect myself and nursing was not an emotional commitment I felt I could make.

And, thank the lord, through nothing that I did, I had the easiest birth experience ever. The one push and “holy moly, we gotta get the doctor now” kind of childbirth. I guess that’s what happens when your give birth twice in eleven months.

That’s when the most amazing thing happened—the second he was born and he was placed in my arms, I felt pure joy. We had an immediate connection.

And that connection strengthened the love I felt for BOTH of my kids. It was as though having my son finally allowed the cloud that had been over me throughout my previous pregnancy and the first 11 months of my daughter’s life to fully lift. I saw and loved them both so clearly and fully that it was overwhelming—in the best way possible.

Postpartum depression is a real and dangerous thing. I was not diagnosed so I would never go so far as to say that I had that. But I will say that I had a general darkness over me and even though I noticed it starting to lift prior to the birth of my son, his arrival was the perfect closure for that part of our lives.

He was the bright spot that broke through the darkness and reminded me of the light.

We were ready to begin the next chapter.

Life with Irish twins.

What were we thinking?


About the Author

Sara Mutchler

Sara is a Minnesotan, a bookworm trying to raise bookworms, and a wannabe minimalist mom constantly trying to declutter in the clutter-full world of life with kids. If she’s not chasing her Irish twins, she can be found watching bad reality TV or reading—anything from a novel to a tweet—and sipping coffee or wine, depending on the time of day. You can find Sara at .

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