My husband wanted to have a second child a year later because he wanted our child to have a close sibling, and I agreed, although I wasn’t sure I was ready. Because of my advanced maternal age we thought we shouldn’t wait. I got pregnant again right away.
We started to look for a house but couldn’t find one we both liked. I remember being afraid of the stairs in so many of the houses. Stairs that were narrow and steep and curved and I couldn’t imagine safely negotiating them while pregnant or with a baby and toddler. So we moved to a larger apartment instead and I had everything I needed there. It was close to my friend’s house and an Early Years Centre in addition to coffee shops and grocery stores and a well-used park all within an easy walk. We had a wonderful view of the escarpment and all our windows faced south which meant it was sunny and bright! We even had a tonne of closet space and the place had been freshly decorated. The elevator took us up and down the stairs to the bright clean laundry room and it was literally a one block walk to buy milk.
My husband hated it because the woman who lived in the apartment below us who would either have horribly loud fights or else extremely loud sex with her boyfriend at 1:00 in the morning. We lived there for six months. I gave birth in the second bedroom in a bathtub full of warm water with three midwives in attendance. My husband caught the baby and was in the water with me.
A house came up for sale about a block away from my husband’s best friend that we could easily afford with one income, and it had a single floor plan with a basement. It was a dump but fixable, and it was close to a good little community school and a great park in our urban neighborhood. I really didn’t want to move but my husband insisted. I agreed because it made sense financially and it was a good opportunity, but the prospect of moving so soon after the baby was born was scary. I would lose my view, my south-facing windows, my closets, my Early Years Centre, my park, my shops, my coffee shops, and be much a farther walk away from my friend.
When my firstborn was less than two years old and my secondborn only three weeks old we took possession of the tiny house. My spouse took six months parental leave this time, and it was easier when he was home. I would nurse my infant and then my husband would wear him while I lay down with older one and napped with him. After six months parental leave, my husband again returned to work.
On my own again, I discovered the new park was mostly unoccupied except by elderly people and the kids from the nearby school who would swarm it for twenty minutes twice a day and then after school – times I learned to avoid the part because it was terrifying for the little ones. I did have another Early Years Centre to go to, but every time we went there the kids got SUPER sick. And we got together with my best friend and her family as much as we could.
When I look back on this time I realize that most of my actions were driven by the needs of my children and my husband. I rarely even had the time to have a shower, or to sit and have an uninterrupted conversation with a friend. I took care of the children, slept when they slept, and did my best to keep the house clean & the laundry done, but it was a challenging time.
I rarely had the mental focus to follow a knitting pattern, let alone multiple characters in a fiction book. We co-slept with our kids but it was always me who woke up when they needed anything, and since my husband had to go to work I didn’t want to compromise his sleep if I didn’t have to. Looking back I can see that I was at the limit of my ability to cope most of the time. This was hard on me, and on my relationship with my husband.
My saving grace at that time was my best friend who was going through similar things at the same time. Laughing with her and hanging out with her and her kids kept me going. It was the other mothers from La Leche League who saved my bacon. So if I could offer any useful advice to people suffering postpartum depression it would be to find a mom-friend to help you through this time. Go to your local La Leche League meeting, the Early Years Centre (or whatever Baby enrichment activities you can make it to around nap times!) until you find someone. Someone who you can be vulnerable with and who can be vulnerable with you. Someone who accepts you and whom you also accept. Someone who fully gets the crazy shit you are going through right now. Because as much as your husband or partner loves you, it’s really not possible for them to understand this part… and you need at least one person who ‘gets you’ to keep you sane. That, and probably coffee.
For further reading about Postpartum Depression, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association.