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A Fourth Child?
Integrating Wisdom with Desire

QUESTION: I'm very confused about having another baby. I am 38 years old and have three children. I am remarried and have one 18-month-old son with my husband. I experienced postpartum depression after he was born and I'm still taking Wellbutrin. I recently had a miscarriage. If I were to follow my heart I would have another baby without question, but I am so afraid of having another miscarriage or going through postpartum depression again. Should I just stop and be happy with the healthy children I have?

ANSWER: Motherhood does involve some sacrifice, which in the first two years of life may seriously curtail answering your own needs. Postpartum depression is cumulative. Given that you remain in the midst of great adjustment, it is likely that you will experience depression brought on hormonally and situationally by the demands of another child in the family.

The fact of remarriage, midlife and a previous miscarriage may have played into the depression you experienced. You have traversed many changes and are still not out of the woods in terms of your subjective feelings of self-confidence. And adding a sibling before your daughter is even two and a half would be another significant stress to your already vulnerable sense of security. No wonder you are questioning having another baby at this time.

Because your feelings of instability are still so fresh, because you would be running after a toddler in the height of her developing autonomy (formerly labeled "terrible two's") stage of development, while adding a newborn (not to mention physical changes and psychological adjustment in the family and stepfamily!) and you are still on the wellbutrin, which is not thoroughly researched for effects on pregnancy ... What do you think your chances of smooth adjustment to another pregnancy and child are at this time?

You are right to be afraid of adding significant change to an already full life. Perhaps your reticence and your previous depression is nature's way of slowing you down.

Integrate your mind's wisdom with your heart's desire. Check to see that you are not merely trying to replace your past family constellation by adding a second child to your new relationship. Grieve past losses before adding changes to the future. This will allow you to construct a more solid foundation in the present on which to build your family, whether or not you later decide to have another child.

Your fast pace may be covering previous loss which gives way to depression when you push forward too quickly. Slow down, take time to feel and enjoy your present family relationships. Your life has taken some sharp turns. Adjust to the road's curves in order to stay on it!


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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