“So when are you planning to have the next child?”
It’s the question everyone seems to be asking, especially as my son has reached the grand old age of 2.5 years. My voice quivers, I take a deep breath and quickly say “I had health problems when we had our son so I am not sure when we will have the next one”, leave it at that and change the topic abruptly.
The truth is I am not sure if, not when, we will have more children. Our hopes and dreams were a family of four, for our son to have a sibling to grow up with and to have our two children with a reasonable age gap of 2 to 3 years. The nightmare of Postpartum Psychosis has changed this considerably.
I was chatting with a friend this week about having more children and it shone light on another perspective I had not considered. My friend has one child and she too had severe health issues during her pregnancy and after birth. My friend weighed up having a second child against her first born requiring more care, attention and resources due to special needs; her marriage was on the rocks; and she was living a considerable distance from her parents. Her hormones were wanting another baby but her head was saying one child is enough. My friend was grateful to be able to have the joys of one child in comparison to her close friend undergoing IVF at a similar time. My friend could not imagine going through her health challenges with a toddler and a new born, as the toddler would effectively not have a mother for the 9 months of pregnancy and she would not be able to manage the care of two young children due to her health. She herself did not want to go through the experience of severe ill health again. Her choice was to be content with one child.
What is if there was a way to skip pregnancy and birth and be given the child when they reach say 4 years old? A way to skip over the pain of labour, the sleepless nights, the endless demands on you as a mother as well as the health challenges the mother may face? We had wondered if there was a way of fast forwarding this joyous stage we are in currently of toilet training. But what fun would that be missing all those snuggles, the smell of a newborn, and reaching those precious milestones?
Perhaps an option could be surrogacy? My friend had considered this but a suitable close family member or friend was not in the picture at the time to make it an option. I hadn’t even thought of this possibility as a way to expand our desired family. Sure surrogacy would be a way to eliminate the hormone crashes one experiences after birth that may contribute to Postpartum mood disorders, but you still have the cruelling routine of sleep-wake cycles attuned to the newborn. Disrupted sleep for me was a huge factor in tipping me into Postpartum Psychosis.
My husband and I had always joked that if we were to go through Postpartum Psychosis that it would be ok for me as I wouldn’t remember it. There is a period of about a week, around the time my son was 3 weeks old, where I have no memory whatsoever thanks to the psychosis. My memories of the first year are shaky at best and I so grateful to have done Project365 to capture these precious moments. So I wouldn’t remember the full force of another psychosis but those close to me would remember. I don’t want to put my husband through this traumatic experience of seeing his beloved totally out of her mind. I don’t want to put my parents through this stressful harrowing ordeal. I don’t want to cause worry and concern from fear of the unknown onto my family and friends. How fair is that especially the second time round?
One child could work for our family. At this stage I am able to manage caring for my son, working part time, and running the household. Our finances are managing the cost of a family of 3, though at times it can be tight. Growing our family would be a greater expense. However, the stress of full time work is daunting and having two children in day care is not an option for our family. Our family of 3 could continue comfortably living in our lovely unit without the pressure of upgrading to a house due to space constraints. We could devote more time and resources to our son, and with a small family there is a greater possibility of travelling together.
But the longing of having another child is still there. It would be ok if I were to experience Postpartum Psychosis again as we would know what we are dealing with this time round, what signs to look out for, and how to minimise the triggers. We would devise a support plan including regular psychiatric monitoring throughout pregnancy, and voluntarily going to the Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit straight after delivery before I even develop psychosis. Scripts would be written just before I give birth so that I have the medication on hand to buffer me as soon as possible after delivery. I would plan to formula feed right from the start to minimise the hormonal impact on myself. I would have a support team around me to manage with the feeding, sleeping and to be with me closely in the first few weeks. But I still have this big “What If” hanging over my head, a toss of the coin, a 50% chance of it occurring a second time. I really do not want to have people hovering around me, watching over my shoulder and waiting even if they are doing it with the best love and intention. I just want to be like every one going through pregnancy and birth.
Truth is I am scared. Scared of developing Postpartum Psychosis again. This new perspective has rattled my husband as he hadn’t fully thought through the impact of a second episode of Postpartum Psychosis would have on me and on our family. I do not know what the universe has up her sleeve for our family. At this point in time I cannot make a decision as to if one child is right for our family, nor do I need to make a decision yet.
Have you had more children even if it means confronting your own health issues head on?
I keep hearing this song this week “Where’s your head at”. Very timely!
P.S. Cyndi from Changing Habits has released dates for her Australian ‘One Day Speaking Event’ tour commencing in May 2015 . Get in quick as tickets are on sale now! Highly recommend this event as I attended last year and this is what catapulted my journey of health.