I had more postpartum depression with one baby than with twins. Society gave me more support as a mom of multiples.
- I had twins first, and three years later had a singleton.
- During my twin pregnancy, those around me gave me more grace and options.
The nurse at the birth class pointed to me. "I hope you have help," she said.
She didn't say this because I had a panic attack during the first class; she said this because I was pregnant with twins.
"Do you have help?" she repeated. I searched my brain. Did I? Her question made me reexamine my choices to ensure that I had adequate support.
What I came to learn after the twins were born was that society had given me grace because I'd had multiple babies. When my daughter was born years later, it wasn't the same. I didn't suffer from postpartum depression with the twins, but I did with my singleton.
Everyone told me to do what worked best
At a breastfeeding class before I had my twins, a new nurse singled me out again. "You'll probably have to supplement with formula," she said. While I was determined to breastfeed, the expert giving me permission to supplement felt like a blessing. As a new parent, I had no idea of what a commitment breastfeeding would be. All that newborns really need is food, and what a gift it is to not have my body be the only way they can receive it.
I ended up having a vaginal — but medicated — birth for the twins. One of my friends who tends to advocate for home births said, "Well, of course, you had an epidural, you had twins!" But I grimaced because every woman deserves a guilt-free epidural.
My husband and I booked a package with a postpartum doula, which was expensive, but turned out to be invaluable. We had family members and caretakers set up to visit frequently for the first six months of the twins' lives.
After the twins were born, I waited for the inevitable postpartum depression that everyone had warned me about. Yet, as the months passed, I felt taken care of — happy, even. Everything you expect to hear about motherhood.
I believe these events explain why I had no postpartum depression with my twins, but did with my incredibly easy single baby that came after.
I struggled with my singleton
Three years after the twins were born, I had another baby. She was a textbook good birth. She latched easily and even slept through the night. Yet, a month after she was born, I found myself struggling to get up in the morning.
With twins, society gave me grace. With a single baby, it didn't. The passes I had for time off, breastfeeding, epidurals, and hiring help were gone. I even had one friend say to me, "I can't believe you didn't have a water birth."
Specifically, with the twins, there was both spoken and unspoken permission to fail. With one baby — and perhaps as a seasoned mom — there was the expectation of greater perfection.
Research has found that postpartum depression is tied to the disparities in the mother's expectations. With twins, others drilled into me how hard it would be and how much support I would need. With a single baby, it was par for the course. Any time I spent on self-care and any money I paid for extra hands met me with a feeling of guilt.
As with any personal experience, there are gray areas and nuances. It's impossible for me to say with complete confidence why I had a negative experience at one time and a positive experience at another. But my wish is that instead of singling out parents of multiples, every parent can have someone look them in the eye and ask, "Do you have help?"
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