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Finding out you are pregnant is supposed to be the most
magical day of your life. Well, OK, maybe your wedding day is high up there
too. When you are pregnant you nest, watching your boobs swell until your belly
surpasses it. Life is grand. Your baby is blossoming and so are you.
But what if you aren't?
I remember the moment I became aware of something being off
in my pregnancy quite distinctly. I was only a few months pregnant with my
second son. I was curled up on the couch in my bathrobe while my oldest, who
was 2 at the time, played on the floor in front of me. I looked at him.
I knew I loved him, but I really didn't want to take care of him anymore.
I was exhausted. I felt like crap. Nausea wasn't a
hypothetical thing; it was a living breathing being in my body. I was convinced
it would never end. All I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball for the
next seven months and not come out again until this baby was born, when I would hand
him over to his dad and I could just go back to sleep.
I craved solitude, but I wanted to be with my friends.
However, when I was with my friends, I didn't want to be with them. I just
wanted to be left alone. I was more confused than ever over how I was feeling.
How could I not want to take care of my own child? How could I, who loved
socializing and being surrounded by people, suddenly want nothing to do with
There were very few people I could talk to about this with.
I felt like I would be ostracized or people would think I was a horrible mother
and mock me behind my back. Luckily, I had a very dear friend who started to
recognize what was going on. She lived in Switzerland, so we chatted over
instant message and video chat a lot. She saw me deteriorating. She knew what
was wrong before I did. She had experienced it herself.
I had prenatal
Tom Cruise had said we should get over it without medication. Brooke Shields screamed back that post partum depression was a real thing that women needed medical help with to overcome.
According to Wikipedia, "Antenatal
depression, also known as prenatal depression, is a form of clinical depression that
can affect a woman during pregnancy and can be a precursor to postpartum depression if not properly
treated." The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states
that between 14 and 23 percent of women will struggle with some symptoms of
depression in pregnancy.
In my second trimester my friend suggested I talk to my
doctor about my feelings. "No, no," I
said. "I'll pull through. I'm just tired,
but I'm getting out more. It will be fine."
It wasn't fine, and I wasn't
getting better. I was just plain scared. What if I wanted nothing to do with my
new baby? I continued to care for my oldest like a good mother should, but I
just wanted to lock out the world. I held it together for him, but most days I
felt like I was ripping apart at the seams.
In my mind, prenatal depression wasn't a real thing. Women
only had post partum depression . Everyone knew that. Tom Cruise had said we
should get over it without medication. Brooke Shields screamed back
that post partum depression was a real thing that women needed medical help
with to overcome. Friends told me about their own struggles with post partum,
but never prenatal depression.
Prenatal depression is the one thing no one was talking
I was alone in my
struggle. This could only be happening to me. Something was extra wrong with
me. It was obvious.
We need to be able to do this without fear that we will be labeled unfit or unworthy of the title of "mother."
I read through every list known to man to see if I really
had prenatal depression before I talked to my doctor. According to the American Pregnancy Association, possible triggers of prenatal depression include:
Family or personal history of depression
Previous pregnancy loss
Stressful life events
Complications in pregnancy
History of abuse or trauma
There was nothing major happening in my life, besides the
fact that we were having another baby. I didn't have an abusive marriage, my
relationship with my parents was great, I'd never had infertility treatments or
lost a baby, and I was eating just fine. Yet here I was showing none of the triggers but, according to the APA, many of the signs:
too little or too much
of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
thoughts of death, suicide or hopelessness
I was lucky that I had an amazing doctor. She had known me
through my first pregnancy and knew that I was generally a very happy, if not
slightly crazy, pregnant woman who liked to ask a lot of bizarre questions (re: Can you give birth naturally if you have a
broken leg? Yes, as long as your pelvis isn't broken. These are the
conversations we had while I was pregnant with my first child. I was curious.
She satisfied my curiosity.)
By my third trimester, I got up the courage to talk to her
about my struggles. She didn't blink an eye. She didn't try to play down my
emotions. She simply handed me a tissue, gave me a hug and began discussing my
options with me. She suggested we start an antidepressant treatment right away.
Nothing major. The lowest dose you could possibly take to see if it helped. She
knew what was coming after my son was born. The hormones would start shifting
again and my depression could get even worse.
This was something I didn't want
to have happen. I wanted to get on top of this before it took a turn for the
worse. We've all read the headlines when post partum isn't recognized and/or
treated. Neither of us saw it going in a downward spiral, but when it comes to
those post partum hormones, you just never know—especially if you are already
having trouble prenatally.
The point is, I started to feel more in control of my life again.
Within a few weeks I was perking up. I felt myself looking
forward to outings with friends. I'm not saying things were perfect. I still
wanted to lie in bed most of day, but, let's be honest, by this point I was
eight months pregnant, potty training a toddler and hauling
him all over the place to keep him entertained. Any woman would want to lie
down after that.
The point is, I started to feel more in control of my life
again. I talked about it more freely with my friend who had encouraged me to
get help in the first place. Another friend had stepped forward to share her
own pregnancy struggles, adding another friendly face that I could rely on when
I needed to talk. Both of these women had suffered from depression in their
lives and needed help medically and/or through professional counseling. There
was no shame in getting help. This was the one thing I had to get over.
Prenatal depression is a real thing. It is something that
needs to be talked about more often. Post partum depression still holds a
certain stigma for women who suffer, many in silence, as they juggle motherhood
and society's expectations. Prenatal depression needs to be brought into the
post partum conversation. If these things can be caught earlier, and we are
encouraged to talk more about it, fewer women will suffer in silence. There is
no better medication for a tired and scared mom than talking and having someone
relate to what she is going through. She needs to be encouraged to get help, or to at least know she is not weird or a freak for needing support.
My two friends knew about my struggles, and my husband of
course, but no one else. I couldn't even bring myself to tell my parents, because I didn't want them to worry about me. It was an easy thing to hide. I
lived 3,000 miles away. As I came out of the shadow of infanthood with my second
son and into the crawling years, I began to talk a little more with friends. I
made it my mission to check in on my pregnant friends and moms with infants to
see how their mood was and if they needed a listening ear. Many did, others
We as women and mothers should not be ashamed when our bodies throw a
few curve balls our way. We need to educate each other and ourselves, creating
a comforting environment to address our concerns and needs. We need to be able to do this without fear that
we will be labeled unfit or unworthy of the title of "mother." We all have a
defining moment in our pregnancies—some see joy, while others face sadness. As
you move through your day ask yourself whether you have a pregnant friend who might
just need to talk today?
You never know what that simple question will bring.