I'm not going to delay or postpone this any further. It's time for me to be open. For the past few weeks I have been slipping into a deep antepartum depression.
It's hard to believe that for eight months my husband and I had tried desperately to conceive this child. We had been waiting, hoping, praying and then it happened... in November of 2010, two pink lines confirmed what we had been wanting for months. We were going to have our second child.
Joy to Gloom
However, over the past month my joy has turned to gloom. I've found myself weeping uncontrollably night after night. One evening I cried for almost four hours. I used over one and a half boxes of tissue to blow my nose and wipe my tears. This tearful episode ended with a massive nosebleed which had to be handled with toilet paper as I had used up all the tissue in the house. Comical in retrospect but in the moment I knew that something was horribly wrong with me.
My husband had been aware of these bouts of tears. He is such a supportive and wonderful husband. He offered more help, more chocolate, more time for listening but this was not enough. His caring, gentle demeanor made me feel guilty. I felt guilt that he has to be married to a monster like me, guilt that I couldn't snap out of this funk, and guilt that I am not an ideal wife.
Moreover, on a few occasions my daughter has witnessed my breakdowns. She is only three years old. She of course doesn't understand what's wrong with her mommy. She would try to help by getting a band-aid, by holding her pretend stethoscope to my head, or she would simply hug me. The fact that she has witnessed these outbursts has also overwhelmed me with guilt. I don't want my daughter to see me this way. I don't want her to have memories of a depressed mom.
In one of my distressed moments I actually wished I had never gotten pregnant. If I weren't pregnant I could be the good wife and mother that I was before this pregnancy. Needless to say, I was the first person to emotionally beat up myself for having such awful thoughts. I remember thinking:
What's wrong with me? I've waited so long for this baby, how could I ever wish such a terrible thing? I don't deserve to be the mother to this child, a mother to my daughter, or a wife to my husband. I don't deserve them and they don't deserve this life with me.Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. The never-ending spiral of guilt. The worse thing is that it becomes a vicious cycle... the more guilt I would feel, the more depressed I would become, which would result in more guilt.
Last Wednesday I went to my Ob-Gyn. I had no intention of sharing these feelings with her. However, a routine examination turned into a complete emotional breakdown. She was concerned that if these emotions aren't resolved before I give birth, I would have higher chances of slipping into a postpartum depression. She suggested that I try to relax more. She also said that we could try antidepressants but that she would prefer to keep that particular mode of treatment as a last resort. I don't want to be on antidepressants while pregnant! So what am I to do?
My doctor told me there are a few reasons why I could be going through this:
- The emotions of trying so hard for a baby and having a miscarriage back in July could be all hitting now that my hormones are out of whack.
- The irregular heartbeat I developed as a result of this pregnancy has made me fearful of sleeping, which can also have a great impact on my emotions.
- Stress from work.
- This long, cold, and dreadful winter.
- I am juggling being a working mom and wife while dealing with the extra hormones and emotions that pregnancy brings.
- I could be carrying a boy (which for some women creates extra havoc with their hormones).
My doctor also helped me realize how much I've withdrawn from friends and family over the past couple of weeks. I am sure that social isolation doesn't help when one is facing depression. So over the past few days I have been sharing my emotions with my family and a few friends. And today, I am sharing this with you.
In sharing these feelings with my family I have already started to feel better. They have offered some tremendous suggestions. As a result of their help, I'm resting more, doing things I love (i.e. yoga), eating delicious "mood foods", and making an effort to get out of the house every day. I must say, as I write this I am struggling with an all-out chest cold. I should be glum, I physically feel like crap, but emotionally I feel good. This is a feeling I haven't had for a long time and I have been tear-free since Friday.
What I've Learned
I never knew that antepartum depression existed. Apparently 10 - 20% of expecting mothers encounter some form of depression during their pregnancy. Moreover, 10% of all pregnancies result in postpartum depression. We hear a lot about postpartum depression but what about antepartum depression? It seems like the statistics are just as alarming.
I have also learned that there's a lot of public expectations and stigma around pregnant women. As pregnant women, we are supposed to be happy, glowing and delighted in the fact that we are bringing life into the world. These societal pressures only add to the guilt we feel when we aren't exactly feeling the way we're "supposed" to be feeling. There is also a stigma around the emotions a woman feels while she's pregnant. Her feelings are often dismissed as "regular" pregnancy hormones. Such misconceptions can lead to more depression and increased isolation.
I don't know if my struggles are over. I will continue to make a conscientious effort to find joy in my days and in my life. I do know that I can look forward to meeting this little person who is growing inside of me... the kicks I feel serve as a constant reminder that I am one day closer to meeting my new son/daughter. I also know that if my state of depression persists, there are other treatments I can explore. But for now, one day at a time. That's all I can do.
UPDATE: If you're interested in seeing an update about my antepartum depression, CLICK HERE.
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ReferencesAmerican Pregnancy. (2011). http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/depressionduringpregnancy.html
Wrong Diagnosis (2011) http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/p/postpartum_depression/stats.htm
Photo CreditPhoto by Megyarsh/Lily M.A. Parminter http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en