two kids isn’t like having one kid twice

I posted on Instagram today how much yoga has meant to me these past two years and in that post I mentioned the post-partum depression I had after Holden was born. I haven’t talked about it much (if at all), but now that almost two years have passed, I think it is safe to release. I feel like “post-partum depression” is a bit overused and over diagnosed, so let me preface this by saying I have not been to a shrink and been formerly diagnosed, but I do know that the depression I felt after Holden was very real and very strong. So call it what you will, but I will categorize it as “post-partum,” whether that is correct or not.

So here it goes: my catharsis. There are many factors that contributed to my depression, and they all came at once like a giant thunderstorm. First, I had been fired at seven months pregnant which was a massive blow to the ol’ ego. Then I found myself looking for a temporary job with a giant belly, ashamedly explaining why my last job had ended, even though it was nothing I should have been ashamed of. I pride myself on good work ethic and my productivity and I have always been valued in the workplace, so to feel not only unimportant, but also discardable hurt.

I did take a temporary job, wherein I was trapped in a windowless cubicle staring at the computer screen all day with very little people interaction. It was a less-than-ideal job for me. I got through it by telling myself it was only for two months and then I wouldn’t work anymore and would be home with my babies. I thought that was the silver lining.

But then I actually was home every day with my babies. To say I felt useless was an understatement. I know I wasn’t – I know those early days and weeks and months were so important for Holden to be safe at home in his haven, becoming close to me and his brother. And it was important for Brandon to adjust to home life, recovering from the chaos that was daycare. But not having a job made me feel as if I was a person without ambition, which I have never been. Rather than feeling like a strong independent woman, I suddenly felt like a dependent, weak one. I had become that cliche’. I was no longer all the things I once was, now I was just a mom. I had lost myself in adding a epithet.

I hadn’t expected too much to change with Holden, quite honestly. I had had one child already, another boy, so I thought this would be much the same, just two years later. I had taken to motherhood quite proudly, even blogging here that I didn’t feel any depression at all, but rather like a better version of me. I didn’t know that the second child would be completely different in every way. The day I was induced, I was crying in the bathroom changing into the hospital gown. Holden wasn’t even born yet and I was sobbing already, because I was away from Brandon, and Brandon was my world. I tried to think of anything other than Brandon, coping by scarfing down raspberry ice after raspberry ice. But then my water broke and the emergency C-section all happened so fast.

I didn’t hold Holden for about an hour after he was born – I was still under anesthesia. And although I think a lot of that “skin to skin” is bullshit – children will love their parents for how they treat them, not based on whether or not they had bare skin touching each other immediately upon introduction – I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a reason that I didn’t instantly bond with him the way I did with Brandon. The first I knew of Holden was his scream whereas the first I knew of Brandon was his cuddle.

At home with two boys, I was recovering from the C-section surgery, I was fat and tired all the time. Being a stay-at-home mom means the parenting duties are no longer shared equally – the lion’s share falls on one who stays home, but you can’t bitch about it because you don’t want to sound ungrateful to your spouse who makes enough money that you even have the opportunity to stay home in the first place. And I was overwhelmed that two children is more than double the work. I had hit a nice plateau with Brandon nearing age two and becoming much more independent, and then Holden came and required constant attention and screamed what felt like endlessly.

On April 27, 2014, I journaled this:

I’m afraid I have post-partum depression. I just read about it online and many of the symptoms fit me. I am haggard and frazzled and stressed out and wishing I had a job to return to so I could get a break from the constant caring of these kids. 

Holden has started screaming for no apparent reason and I can not take it. I scream myself when I can’t calm him down. I feel like I am a bad mother because I can not deal with this calmly.

…I also feel like my bond with Holden has been weakening ever since his crying spells began. I feel like I can’t do anything but hold and rock him when he’s screaming and that’s infuriating because I have other things to do and another child to care for. 

I am angry that I can not give Brandon the attention he deserves now that Holden is here. I am angry that Holden screams so much and that I don’t know why or how to help him. I am angry that I don’t feel the same bond with Holden that I felt with Brandon. 

Oftentimes I regret having two kids. I feel like I was a better mother with one. 

When I was reading about post-partum depression, it said one of the risk factors is experiencing stressful events during the past year such as pregnancy complications, illness, or job loss. 

Holden’s birth in itself was stressful, as was losing my job in January as a result of my pregnancy. I don’t know if I need to seek treatment or if I can heal on my own by airing all of these thoughts – writing them down and getting them out of my head so I have space for happiness. 

Fast forward to two years later and I have healed from that, thanks to the people who recognize my need for a break once in awhile. I am grateful for yoga and running, reading and writing – my hobbies that remind me of who I was before being a mom and who I can continue to be while being a mom.

Having two kids isn’t like having one kid twice. It is completely it’s own experience. The second child doesn’t come with the same fanfare and enthusiasm the first one does. The second child comes out like a hurricane – whirling childcare and jobs and money as worries in its wake. The second is welcomed, of course, but by frazzled, weather-worn parents rather than by bright-eyed naive ones.

When you advance from a one-child family to a two, you are no longer that cute couple with a child that accompanies you as if he is a miniature adult, your lives slightly changed. Now you’re saying, “fuck it, we’re all in on this!” and soon your house, your mind, and your days are consumed completely. So if you’re in the midst of that complete consummation like I was once, remember you. You. Not the parent, but the person. And god damn it, let yourself be again, even if at first that just means screaming into a pillow.

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