I had postpartum anxiety, OCD, and depression with my first baby. I’m trying hard to make the best preparations I can for myself and my family with these twins so that I can avoid or address it this time. I did a lot on my own last time, not because my husband slacked off or something, but because I was alone while he worked and because I felt very possessive of the baby and in need of control. A lot of things felt very out of control for me then.
This time, I want to accept more help and learn to live with less control, but the help I’ve already had is stressing me out, making me very vulnerable, and in some ways really disrupting me emotionally. I need a particular kind of help to feel okay. I do not currently feel okay. But I’m not in a position to take care of everything myself with such a tiring pregnancy.
This worries me for when the babies are born. I want to have help, but it’s a delicate balance. In many ways, the people around me after my first baby was born exacerbated rather than relieved my anxiety. I cannot function like that again. But doing it alone isn’t a feasible option.
While my mother is here, I know I will have what I need. I trust her. She mothers how I mother. She mothers me so I can mother my babies. But when she goes back home, I will be alone again while my husband works. I will be fielding all the visitors and trying to maintain the boundaries I need without being rude or driving away help.
Sometimes I feel like people just expect me to let it all go. They say babies are raised by villages, that the mother isn’t supposed to do it all, that when she does it is the very reason she gets depressed. I can’t explain the panic I felt when others held my baby, but it was visceral. It did not go away by handing him over again and again. I couldn’t just get over it by trying to not panic. Loved ones who were openly disappointed when I didn’t offer him or when I asked for him back quickly did not seem to understand or even attempt to empathize with the urgency I felt, and they didn’t always respect my emotional needs, expecting, I think, for me to just override what I felt — to be normal. It’s hard to tell people what you really need when they disregard the cues you give. (I could give them the benefit of the doubt and figure they simply missed the cues or thought I had some other trivial reason for withholding my baby. It still would have been hard for me to voice my needs when I felt like my needs were not normal.) I began to dread company even though I craved connection and needed other kinds of help. I isolated myself because the stress of visitors wasn’t worth it. The more they came, the stronger my need for control over everything became.
So I’m having twins, with a toddler, and I’m already stressed negotiating this help thing. I am considering hiring a stranger for practical help, if we can afford it, just to have someone without their own needs of cuddling with my babies or the baggage of an established relationship. I am not ashamed to have help, but I think the black and white of a contract, of a professional relationship, will be easier for me to handle than the gray of help from those close to us. I can’t isolate my family from loved ones just to preserve my own emotional stability because it would damage those relationships, but maybe having paid help would mean I could not rely on the loved ones for housework and other needs.
I don’t know. This is a big issue for me. I need to be proactive about it and make choices where I can so I don’t just feel stuck.