Two weeks ago I featured a guest post from Shannon, who chose to have a second pregnancy after her postpartum depression. Today’s guest post is a different version of that story line — coping with an unexpected pregnancy after postpartum depression. Please welcome Gemma Hartley from Journey of Love:
I chose young motherhood for myself. I would choose it a thousand times over. But if a younger version of myself were to look into a crystal ball — if she were to see me lying on the floor, crying, picturing myself running away while my baby screams inconsolably — I’m not sure she would have chosen this path. I’m not sure anyone would.
It took a long time for my postpartum depression to subside. My son was a year and a half before things finally started to turn around. When I stopped counting down the minutes until naptime, then bedtime. When I finally started to enjoy my days with him. When I felt that aching, wholehearted bonding of our souls that I had expected the moment he was born. We had made it through to the other side.
We made it. We made it. We made it.
And our life together was all the more beautiful for the struggle. I truly believe that. But I never, ever, wanted to feel that depth of despair again. I knew, even as I experienced this wonderfully unbridled joy in motherhood, that I never wanted another child.
My husband, after watching my struggle with postpartum depression and quietly supporting me in what little way he could, agreed. We decided not to have any more kids. We were enjoying our son and enjoying each other, and we couldn’t imagine a more complete and happy life. We decided to give ourselves a year, in case we changed our minds. But we both knew, deep down, that wasn’t going to happen. We had chosen our path. We were happy with our path.
. . .We didn’t know I was already pregnant.
I stood in the kitchen and stared blankly at the two pink lines, then foisted the test into my husband’s hands and sobbed. I felt dreams slipping through my fingers and fear creeping in to take their place. I remembered my long, uncomfortable pregnancy and frightening, complicated birth and the months upon months of constant darkness.“I can’t do this again,” I whispered, “I can’t.” My husband held me while I cried.
I remember screaming those words at the nurse who told me to push again while I tried, desperately and hopelessly, to climb out of my stirrups. The epidural had long since worn off, 21 hours of labor had gone by; I was defeated and scared and in pain. Everything in my being told me “I can’t.” Yet somehow, all the while, I was doing the thing I thought impossible. Suddenly it was over. My son was here, and he was beautiful.
And I remember so many days in that first year when I would say beneath my breath, “I can’t.” Days when I couldn’t imagine another minute of surviving motherhood, when there were still hours until bedtime and so many tantrums left to endure (and a lifetime of days yet to come). Yet the days still passed and the darkness eventually lifted. No matter how many times I said, “I can’t,” I always did.
It’s how all the transformative and beautiful paths through life have been for me. Screaming “I can’t” while in the midst of proving otherwise. Managing the trials which I claimed to be unmanageable.
Because we don’t know what we’re capable of until the path is chosen for us. The path we can’t turn back on; where the only way forward is through a thicket of impossibility. The moments when we’re forced to endure, when there is no choice but to persevere; those are the moments we find strength we never knew existed. They are the moments that prove there is so much more within us than we ever imagined.
When the hard path is chosen for us, it shows us we are capable of the unthinkable.
So, although I’m still frightened of the known and unknown challenges this new baby will bring with her, I know, deep down, that I can do this. Even through the moments when my darkest insecurities and doubts arise. Even when I tell myself I can’t. Because this is, quite simply, the call of motherhood: to do what we believe we can’t, day after day.
And because I truly believe in the depths of my soul that the path chosen for me was chosen for a reason. That this unexpected baby, my daughter, has always been my fate.
So I can do this. And even when I can’t, I will.