Do I tell her the truth? A half-truth? A lie?
I went with the second option, “Well, my health really took a nosedive after giving birth to my first, so most likely we’re a one and done family.”
See? I didn’t lie, but between you and me, it certainly wasn’t the whole truth. We don’t have to get into the fact that you should never ask those types of questions – you never know what a woman is going through. The real issue here is that I couldn’t be fully honest with her. Why? Because the truth is deeper than a single sentence answer.
The biggest reason we’re not having a second child is that the birth of my daughter put my husband through some of his worst anxiety. My husband experienced PPA (Postpartum Anxiety), which is very much a real thing for men. According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, 1 in 10 men can suffer from PPD/PPA. Sure, we moms do the carrying and the birthing, but the fathers do the watching and the helping.
My husband is a provider through and through. He is strong-willed and loves my daughter and me fiercely. He witnessed her traumatic birth, he witnessed my struggle with the development of an autoimmune disease, and through it all, he played out the worst-case scenarios. He can’t help it; it’s in his nature to do everything in his power to ensure that the future is secure for his family. Through all of these struggles, he was relatively silent.
The stigma of mental health is still alive and well, and even more so among men.
When we finally faced those discussions about having a second baby, he remained neutral. He didn’t want to be the bad guy. Talks of my health and the risks would float around. I brushed it all off as a ‘what if’ situation. It wasn’t until I witnessed his reaction to a pregnancy scare that I finally confronted him about it and learned the depth of his anxiety.
Prior to this discussion, we had been attending therapy as a couple and individually. It’s because of this therapy that we were able to be real and honest with one another. Therapy isn’t just for when the word divorce comes up. Therapy can be maintenance; think of it as getting your oil changed or tires rotated. Except it’s not a car; it’s the gap in the communication you’re sharing with your partner.
If you think your partner is struggling but is reluctant to go to therapy, go with him! Open that door and walk in together. You may find out things you never knew that weren’t being addressed, or your partner might see the benefits of having a therapist.
So, no, we are most likely not having another baby. Though I yearn for that sweet bundle of joy at times, none of it is worth putting my husband through the stress, anxiety, and depression again. Don’t twist my words: my husband has no regrets about having our daughter! But just like a traumatic birth can hinder a mother from having a second child, the same courtesy should be extended to the father.
Dad, you are loved and appreciated. Your mental health is just as important as ours.
And moms? Maybe we could do a better job at checking in. It is easy to get wrapped up in the pressures of being well, a mom, and to just keep our husbands in their own box. I suggest taking 20 minutes after the kids are in bed to have a check-in. Ask questions and listen. You never know what you might learn!