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Ready for Another Baby
After Postpartum Depression?

QUESTION: I have two daughters and I've had moderately severe postpartum depression following both pregnancies. We have recently had lots of changes in our family and we have worked through many problems and I feel very positive about adding another child to our family. One worry though is my depression. How will I know when -- and if -- the time is right for having another baby?

ANSWER: Postpartum depression is often more intense following the birth of a third child. Given your previous struggles, it would be wise to consider not only your mental health, but the sacrifice that adding a child now would require from your two daughters and your marriage. After all you and your family have been through, perhaps it would be wise to leave well enough alone for the time being. Nothing stops you from having more children at a later date when your older children are more secure in the family stability and you have earned your degree.

Life is very full for you right now. Your sense of fun and romance are vital to your recovery from previous postpartum depression. Is it possible that you are uncomfortable with things going well for you? Having another child at this point could end up sabotaging your currently hard won happiness.

Reflect on your reasons for having another child, now. Are you afraid of defining yourself outside of motherhood for any reason? Do you feel you have more happiness than your own mother had (has) in her life? Is there some way you feel guilty for being content and happy in the present? Did the role of "mother" imply a tone of martyrdom in your childhood? Or is it simply that you have created a habit out of "living life on the edge" and are having difficulty making choices which sustain rather than challenge your happiness?

It is possible to become addicted to pain and struggle. Certainly, you may desire more children, however it is important to define your limits so that you are free to devote energy to planning a future for the family you have, rather than be tethered to managing the latest life crisis. Reflect on the possibility that you may be expressing some motivation towards recreating the number of children you experienced in your family-of-origin (childhood) in an unconscious attempt to "remedy" your past. If this strikes a chord, consider individual counseling focused on unresolved childhood issues before adding another child to a family recovering from the effects of war, depression, miscarriage, infertility and long work hours!

It may be that you are accustomed to going from one crisis to the next, and since the universe is not offering one up, you are creating your own! Consider the quality of your family life. What does it really mean to have a mother pressed to take psychopharmacological drugs in order to fulfill her parenting role? Naturally you should make use of medication if it is needed in a crisis, but is it right to depend on it as a way of life in the future? What are you teaching your children about the role of "mother" in the family?

Your authentic happiness and well-being are an important part of your family's emotional health. What makes you feel happy can make others smile. Your daughters will benefit from seeing their own mother make the choice to satisfy rather than delay her needs in the family.

Is there anything wrong with living life on the sunny side for a while? You may be amazed at what you can create in your life when your energies are not siphoned off for survival and coping!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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