Promised Joy

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men  

Gang aft agley

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Robert Burns, “To a Mouse” (1785)

You know that tendency we have to plan? You might not have much of it. But I would guess it’s there. Even if it’s buried under apathy, exhaustion, or a truly laid-back attitude. We are all human, and humans like to plot.

Never more so, it seems to me, than when we think we have found a rhythm in something.

In my case this applies to planning children. I know that is patently not the case for many people. I am anguished for those who have trouble falling pregnant. And grieved for people who struggle through pregnancies they didn’t expect. My hat is off to the men and women who perservere through those trials, and similar.

Me? I didn’t have the grief of difficulty conceiving. I haven’t lost babies to miscarriage. I know I am incredibly blessed in that regard. I know what a privileged position I am in: that I have been able to make decisions about my fertility that were not possible for previous generations of women. That I have been able to have children at all. That they have been well.

Post-natal depression (PND) has been my difficulty. And it did affect my ‘plans’.

We had our first two girls quite close together; 21 months apart. I didn’t have depression after my first baby at all. That was one of the factors that lead to planning our second; I doubt I would have considered another so soon had things not gone smoothly at that point.

It all sounds very neat. In reality, I know how much is beyond my control. How much a gracious God has gifted me and my husband.

I always knew I wanted more than two children. In fact, that rather added to my stress during the PND after my second child. I thought, “if I can’t even handle two children, how on earth will I cope with three?”. (If that’s your thought-path, can I encourage you to redirect? That way lies madness. Live the moment. Take one chunk of time and live it, then move to the next one.)

Ever present in my thinking the first time I experienced depression was how to press on past that ‘obstacle’.

The plan, for me, for my husband, with help from my counsellor, was to eventually get to the stage where I could wean off the anti-depressants. I was able to do that, over a period of half a year or so, in 2008. It went well. Because I was ready, because I had good professional advice, and excellent support.

Then commenced ten weeks (it felt like much longer) of planning, dreaming, thinking, feeling nervous and excited. We were anticipating our third pregnancy.

If you could have told me what was ahead of us back then, right at the beginning of 2009, I would have run away. Truly. To this day I am thankful for the gift of human-ness that means we usually do not have foresight.

to be continued

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9 thoughts on “Promised Joy

  1. Wow Sally-I felt exactly like that after my first baby, when I was experiencing PND. I had wanted a big family but thought ‘if I’m like this with one, I could never had more.’ And I think in some ways I added grief over the big family I thought I wonder have to my PND ‘load’.
    Happily I am not feeling the same with #2, we have enjoyed our first 6 months (with a couple of stumbles back towards the edge of the abyss, but this time with a rope & harness firmly attached to me in the form of good help option. Now I’m back to daring to think ahead & wondering who else might join our family in the future.

    • It’s so good to hear that you’re having a better time after #2. And I’m both sad and happy to know that you can identify with what I wrote. Sad that you’ve been through that. Happy that I’m not babbling on about experiences that no-one can relate to.

  2. Ergh-sorry for all of the typos & thought jumps in that reply-was interrupted by kids whilst typing it & didn’t read through it on my phone first!

  3. It’s interesting what we worry about: I worried during second pregnancy about how I could love another child as much as the first. But unlike love which multiplies, energy, tolerance and even depression definitely have limits! I guess for me I’m learning (still..) to identify what thoughts, actions and feelings are based in fear (worry, frustration, some expectations) or which are based in love (acceptance, courage, tolerance and letting go). It’s important in the role of mum to love yourself, deeply and with much care, and to have the courage to move on and to know when to let go and ask for help. Here’s an interesting quote that dad found:
    “You can’t cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” (Christopher Columbus) – but he’s only a man! I say, its sometimes good to stay ashore to shield from wild weather, clean off the barnacles, go into dry dock for a while….etc and then when you’re seaworthy and strong – go out and discover some of this beautiful, unexpected and sometimes dangerous world (take a good crew, some rum and a map too!)

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