Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

My Golden Hour Was Unforgettable

When I became pregnant with my daughter, a flurry of emotions rushed through my system, but throughout my pregnancy one emotion stayed the same: fear. I hadn’t meant to get pregnant again. I had actually decided to have only one child because the first year of my son’s life was marked by unrelenting postpartum depression and anxiety. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I felt certain it was the right choice, until I found out I was pregnant the second time. Instead of looking forward to delivery and my golden hour — the bonding time immediately following birth — I was scared. I couldn’t shake the fear that the moment she arrived I would descend into the darkness of postpartum depression again.

I spent my entire pregnancy vacillating between joy and fear. On one hand, I was excited to welcome another baby into our family. I was happy, in a way, to have the choice made for me. I didn’t have to agonize about whether or not it was selfish to deny my son a sibling. I didn’t have to worry about baby fever creeping up on me years after making my one-and-done decision. Becoming pregnant with her seemed like it was meant to be.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

On the other hand, I often found myself crying over the possibility of going through postpartum depression again. I looked at my son, now 2, and imagined how horrible it would be for him to watch me go through that. Even worse, he'd remember it and experience it in a way he didn’t have to as an infant. I felt like a horrible mother to him for getting pregnant again, to even allow the possibility of postpartum depression back into our lives.

I tried to convince myself that worrying wouldn’t do me any good, but still, I worried. By the third trimester, I was able to remain cautiously optimistic most of the time, but in the days leading up to her birth I could feel the fear rustling deep inside me. The moment of truth was about to arrive, whether I was ready or not.

Then one morning, a week before my due date, I woke early to find that all movement had stopped. My belly, still round and hard, was immobile. I tried to poke and prod her awake, drank orange juice to get her to stir, but hours later there was nothing. I rushed to the hospital, my fear of depression now eclipsed by a much darker and more sinister fear. I thought she might be dead.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I arrived at the hospital, where I was admitted to a monitoring room. Every minute that passed seemed like an eternity. The nurse turned on the heartbeat monitor and turned it towards me to show me my own and my daughter's, just before she finally decided to shift in my belly. The nurse looked at me and smiled.

It was instantly clear to me that this time was different.

“The reason she wasn’t moving for a while is because you’re in labor,” she said.

I immediately reverted back to all my delivery fears and excitements as I drove home to wait out the early stages of labor. That evening, I returned to the hospital and a few intense hours later, my daughter was born after a mere 10 minutes of pushing.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I had very little memory of my son’s golden hour, other than our first moments breastfeeding, but my daughter’s I would remember in vivid detail. I remember the way her cry sounded, the jet black mat of curls on her head as the OB held her up for me to see, and the way her weight felt as she was placed immediately on my chest. I could hardly wait to have her back on me once she was weighed and checked. She looked up at me, quiet and calm, and I felt all the fears of the last nine months fade away.

It was instantly clear to me that this time was different. That this time I knew how to love instinctively, and there was no shred of doubt in my mind that postpartum depression wouldn’t come for me again — and fortunately, it didn’t. I will always remember the smell of her, the softness of her skin, the exact size and shape of her body curled against me. It was my most beautiful parenting moment yet, and finally I was excited for what lay ahead of us.