Postpartum depression is getting a little more attention these days, but when it comes dealing depression while you’re pregnant, there isn’t as much out there. Here’s one woman’s story about what that was like, and how she got through.
But you wanted this Becca.
My friend was right and those words were true. I did want this. I wanted this little baby inside of me so bad. This little baby not larger than the size of blueberry seed had been hoped for and planned for. Since I was a little girl there was never a question that I would be a mommy. I was one of those people who had thought of names for my future children long before I was ever married. I was absolutely elated when that double line popped up on the pregnancy test. I hurriedly got the confirmation blood test, and Eric and I ecstatically shared the news with the future grandparents. Yes, I had wanted this pregnancy. But what my friend couldn’t possibly understand was that I had never wanted THIS.
My first 7 days of pregnancy were filled with pure smiles and giddy behavior. I took photos of my belly and imagined what it would look like 35 weeks from then. But on day 8 it all changed. I pulled into my work parking garage and in an instant my pregnancy went from unquestionable happiness to unrelenting despair. My world suddenly got dark; thick clouds of depression and anxiety obstructed my view.
Then the tears began.
Those tears were all too familiar to me and I hated them. I could not stop them. I knew what they meant and how devastating they could be. I also knew that they did not come alone but in a package full of insomnia, weight loss, hopelessness, and fear. Twice before in my life the tears had knocked me down, but with medication and time I had been able to fight them off. But now I was pregnant.
Depression while pregnant? This was my worst nightmare.
I knew that it was optimal to be off of all antidepressant medication when pregnant so I had worked with my psychiatrist and had stopped medication 4 months prior to getting pregnant. I tapered slowly and was confident that I was doing the right thing for myself and the baby. Was what I feeling just normal pregnancy hormones? Everyone cries while pregnant, right? But I knew this wasn’t right. It was not right to not be able to make it into work, to barely eat, to think that showering was a humongous task. It was not right to be up all night googling hospitals to check yourself into and to think you were going to die. In my darkest days I wished that I would miscarry and be put out of this misery. I even discussed the possibility of termination. I was defeated and I knew it.
People tried to comfort me by saying there were people way worse off than me, with terminal illnesses, from broken homes, who had no money. I was told to look on the bright side of things, rejoice in my pregnancy. These comments made me feel like such a loser. I had such a fabulous life and I knew it, but it was my mind that I could not escape.
I was screaming for help. This baby needed help.
My OBGYN told me to try to meditate more and to see my psychiatrist. I saw my psychiatrist and he gave me medication but told me to try therapy first as medication was a last resort. I was eventually referred to my therapist, Stephanie. Apparently unstable moms were her specialty. I was at work when I called her and broke down the instant I heard her voice. I was crying, unable to formulate rational, coherent sentences. That day I was able to see her and ask her the question that was plaguing my thoughts – “was I going to make it?” With utter sincerity she said that I was going to be ok, that I could DO THIS. We made a plan that I would start seeing her 2x a week and that she was even available for texting, which I took full advantage of. The very next day she stayed on the phone with me for an hour, instructing me to eat protein, while I cried and waited for my mom to come into town to help me. Stephanie was my lifeline those first days.
I’d love to be able to say that therapy is all that it took and I was able to will the anxiety and depression away, but that is just not how it worked. It was extremely evident to everyone, even Stephanie, that I needed more help. She referred me to Dr. R., a leading psychiatrist specializing in women’s health. She assured me that Dr. R. was the best of the best. I was advised that she did not take insurance and would be expensive, but my husband strongly encouraged me to make an appointment with her.
We were all desperate by this point.
I knew that medication was inevitable and that I could not go on living like this, but that didn’t stop the barrage of racing thoughts. What would it do to this unborn baby? Would I ever feel better? What about what my other doctor had said about it being a last resort? Am I a bad mom? With complete confidence Dr. R. responded to every one of my questions – my baby would be perfect, you felt better before and you will again, this was not the other doctor’s specialty, you are not a bad mom. She insisted that medication for me was a necessity and that I did not have to live like this. That I WOULD get better. What is the worst thing that can happen if you take medication? She asked. My response was quick – that it affects my baby. She reminded me that I had been thinking about termination and THAT was the worst thing that could happen. A very real possibility without being treated. That day I began my medication. “The medication will not let you go back to that horrible place” Dr. R. assured me.
Work encouraged me to take a medical leave because it was evident that I was deteriorating fast. I spent two weeks at my parent’s house where they coddled me while I had brain zaps and headaches. My mom forced me to go on walks with her every day and made sure that I ate plenty of protein for the baby because “it builds brain cells.” Morning sickness set in which brought about even more anxiety – how did women do this??? I did not think I was strong enough to endure this for months and months. I had zero confidence in myself and my abilities, a far cry from the confident, working woman that I had been just a month back.
The simple fact was that I was suffering from depression while pregnant and there was no quick fix.
It took about 10 weeks for me and Dr. R. to figure out a therapeutic dosage of medicine. My husband was amazing and would let me go to work beside him because he knew I didn’t want to be home alone yet didn’t feel strong enough to go to my own office. My work celebrated the days that I could make it in, even if it was only for a few hours where I would leave crying. Stephanie made comments that I started doing my hair again. I found a new OBGYN who believed that in order for me to take care of the baby, I had to take care of me first. Eric and I even bought our daughter her first item – a pair of ruffle socks.
Every day I am thankful for the Team that stood behind me through this time. My doctors, my family, and my friends created a support system that absolutely saved my daughter’s life. I had the A-Team. I had no trust in myself, but I had trust in my Team. They would not let me fail.
Depression and anxiety are so selfish. It’s me me me on a loudspeaker. I did not have the capacity to look outside of myself. But my Team was always there to listen. My boss had told me that eventually one day I would look up and see blue sky instead of clouds. I was starting to see the possibility.
My Team was right, I was going to do this. I WAS doing this.
I call the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy hell. Everyone said that the pregnancy would be worth it. I strongly doubted that that was true. It has been 3 years since I was pregnant. Was it worth it? I have chosen to be a stay at home mom and I love my daughter more than I could ever imagine. Yes, it was absolutely worth it. THIS is what I had wanted.
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