Moms Behind Mental Health: Jennie braces for PPD

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had a mix of emotions ranging from fear to excitement to absolute anxiety. I read every book available on pregnancy and motherhood, and tried to be as informed as possible. In the back of my mind, I felt very detached from the baby that was growing inside of me. I didn’t connect the pregnancy symptoms to an actual, growing person. As the week’s ticked by, my anxiety would rise. Would I be a good mother? What is labor like? Will it hurt? Will I be able to do it?

With additional family issues occurring, I buried these fears, making the rookie mistake of not
confiding in my loved ones. I pretended that everything was fine, that I wasn’t waking up each
night in a panic, and that I was enjoying the “miracle of pregnancy”.

The day of my daughter’s birth was a blur. My husband and I had gotten into an argument, and
although we made up, I still felt uneasy. My water broke, and while there was excitement, I was
had to be pushed aside while we all focused on the task at hand; delivering a healthy baby girl.
Audrey was born after a fairly tough delivery, and the doctor gently handed her to me for skin
to skin. I looked at her, this tiny person, trying so hard to connect the pregnancy to this human
being on my chest. The room that was once bustling with doctors, nurses, and staff was
suddenly empty, and I felt immediately overwhelmed. I had no idea what to do. Was she latching correctly? Am I holding her right? Is she crying because something is wrong? I panicked, begging my husband to go find a nurse, a technician, anyone who could come and tell me what to do.

Visitors would stream in, asking me if I was so in love with this baby. The problem was, I didn’t
get that overwhelming rush of love for my daughter when she was handed to me. I was
terrified of her. I loved her, of course. But my main objective wasn’t to snuggle her or smell her
skin or kiss her fingers and toes; it was to keep her alive. That was all I could focus on through
the dark cloud that followed me everywhere. I pretended that everything was as it should be. I
posted diligently on social media, gushing over her milestones, taking monthly photos on
pristine pink and white blankets, taking obligatory photos of her food covered face and her
gummy grins, all while trying so hard not to crack under the pressure.

Audrey’s first 6 months were a blur. I mourn for the moments I’ve missed. I look at pictures and
try as hard as I can to remember that moment, but it’s just not there. My love for her grew, as I
got to see her personality shine through and felt the bond forming day by day. It was a gradual
love, that soon became the all-consuming affection that I thought I was meant to feel at her
birth.

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As time went on, I got help for my PPD, and through the support of my husband, family, and friends, was able to find my way out of the darkness. We moved to a new state, and talked about trying for another baby. After what I had experienced, with my daughter, I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready to go through that again, but we agreed to start trying.

I was in a very different state of mind throughout my pregnancy with my son. Many of the issues that existed during Audrey’s pregnancy had been resolved. I made sure to voice my feelings and concerns to those close to me, and never felt alone. It wasn’t a breeze by any means (including throwing up every day for 3 months!) but it felt different. I was both relieved and felt immense feelings of guilt for my daughter, and how different the experience was.

I felt more prepared for the birth of my son because I had gone through it before. I braced
myself for the emotional rollercoaster and worked through the feelings of panic. I assumed that
because I had PPD with my daughter, that I was destined to have it with my son. However, his
birth was easy, relaxed, and calm. There was laughter and comfort, and as soon as I held him I
knew exactly what to do, I knew exactly what he needed. It was everything that I expected to
happen with my first.

I fought off feelings of guilt. Why was it so different? Will Audrey be effected in the long run because of her first few months? It wasn’t fair that she didn’t have a mother who was present and comfortable, but instead had a mother who was consumed by sadness, fear, and anxiety. As time went on, and I saw my daughter flourish and thrive, I let go of the guilt I was holding on to so tightly. Having PPD with one child, but not another is no one’s fault. There was nothing that my son did differently, and my love for them made me feel like I was going to burst. My heart felt full, and I tell both of them every day how much I love them. Because I had an incredible support system (along with medication and therapy) I am able to be there for both of them in the way that they deserve. By ignoring my emotions and feelings, I was doing more damage than good to everyone.

Right now, I’m listening to them both giggling upstairs as they play together. They are both
happy, wonderful people and I wish I could show that terrified woman four years ago what the
future held. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and this is it.

- Jennie is a rock star mom to 2 kiddos. You can see more of her beautiful family over on her Instagram.