I Think I'm Ready: Having A Baby After Maternal Mental Illness

Fingers are crossed.  

We have hope. 

We have a plan. 

When I first found out I was pregnant I thought of it as a second chance.  Then I thought of all the things that could go wrong. I've been bouncing back and forth between those feelings for the last 8 months. To friends and family I look confident and happy and excited. These are the same people I fooled the last time though.

Adam knows differently. He's seen me read ALL THE BOOKS and he's stayed up talking about options and making plans and refining plans and throwing them out and starting over. We've talked about his worries for me and mine for him and our fears for our whole family. That may be my best piece of advice for anyone who is thinking about taking another ride on the Maternal Mental Illness Merry-Go-Round - TALK ABOUT THIS.

Walking around with a smile on while you are anxiety and worry ridden does no good. Sitting up at night with your fears is counter productive.

I don't know exactly what you should do to prepare - that will depend a lot on what you went through last time and how you're feeling right now. I can only tell you what I did.

First I freaked out. I cried and I froze and I pretended to an excitement I didn't feel but desperately wanted to.

Then I went to my happy place and I made more lists than anyone has ever made in the history of list making. I made lists of what I wanted to happen, what I didn't want to happen, what I thought was likely, and of all the things I had ever heard of helping. I made lists of all the books I should read and the blogs and support groups and medications.

Then I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I don't necessarily recommend this. The list making helped me to clarify exactly what my fears were and what my hopes were. The reading quickly became overwhelming and fed into my anxiety.  The two books I would definitely suggest are "What Am I Thinking", by Karen Kleiman, and "Mothering The Mother", by Marshall Klaus. The first is about how to make decisions that are right for you and the second is about what a doula can do to support you before and after the baby arrives.

We decided on a doula, even though I'm having a scheduled c-section. This will take a huge weight off of Adam - he know's that our doula will be there to take care of me no matter what happens. If he ends up needing to be in the nursery with our baby again like last time he won't feel as torn in two.  Our doula also has decades of breastfeeding support experience and PPD/A experience. She's coming to our next doctor's appointment and we'll be walking through how everything should go, what could go wrong and what we want to have happen in case of emergencies.

I went back on my meds, Zoloft specifically, a couple months ago. I started at a really low dose and then slowly stepped up. Right now I'm back at the dose that worked for me when I was sick last time. The hope is that it will give me some protection from he hormonal storms headed our way.

The first week in October is therapist week. I have appointments with three therapists who have PPD/A experience. I want to be seeing someone for a while before the baby’s arrival. I want to go ahead and cover everything that happened before and give them a baseline feeling for who I am when I'm healthy. I want to have someone I am comfortable with so that if I need a hand to hold in the storm I don't have to reach for a stranger.

I have three online support groups that I'm a part of. THREE. One is specifically for mamas going through all this again. One is a general moms group and one is a PPD/A survivors group. If I end up not being able to leave my house for a while I won't be as cut off as I was last time. I also have a network of real life support groups that I can attend.

I've been transforming our porch into a postpartum oasis where I can go to breastfeed or blog or just breathe. I wrote about it here and I'm really excited about how it's coming together.

I even have an exercise plan. UGH.

Most of my friends and family have specific jobs to do afterwards. Adam and I will also have list put together and posted in our house so that when people ask, "What can I do?" we can point to the next thing on the list. His parents will be keeping the Buddy while we're at the hospital and for two days once we get home, so that we can get our sea legs. Then they'll be bringing dinners for the rest of the week. My mom will be taking Buddy once a week for a day of running around and being the center of attention. My dad is paying for our house to get cleaned each week. I'm already planning out meals that I can freeze. Adam has promised me that he will continue to go to the gym and take care of himself so that I don't have to carry the guilt of 'ruining his life'.

Will any of these things help you? I don't know. Make your lists. Figure out what your fears are as specifically as possible and figure out what triggers those fears. Then see if there is anything that you, or anyone else, can do to avoid them.

I have no idea what will happen this time. I do know that we are as prepared as we can be. I do wish that I had a plan like this the first time around and that makes me hopeful that whatever happens we'll be able to handle it.

Are you staring down your second or third time around? What are your hopes and fears and plans? Have any advice to share? Please let us know in the comments!

Graeme Seabrook