Imagine feeling excited about the prospect of motherhood one minute, then fantasizing about jumping off a building the next. Or shopping for onesies for your future child, only to break down in the changing room because you suddenly feel like your baby will hate you. While it's normal to experience a number of mood fluctuations when you're pregnant, prenatal depression is on another level. I know, because I experienced it first hand. Twice. There were so many things I was afraid to ask for while experiencing prenatal depression that, in retrospect, I truly wish I had.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), 14-23 percent of women will struggle with some sort of symptom of depression during pregnancy. Depression — whether prenatal, postpartum, or general — has a way of isolating even the most outgoing of people. And while every person is different, so their experience with depression will vary, in my experience prenatal depression has a knack for causing you to feel as though absolutely no one cares about you. When I was depressed I felt like I was worthless and unworthy, and even selfish for choosing to become a mom. I was suffering tremendously, but in silence because of the prevailing stigma of depression. I mean, I was pregnant, so I was supposed to be happy, right?
During those 40 weeks (more or less) of pregnancy, depression made the smallest thing feel like the end of the world, I felt fragile every hour of every day, and that certainly prevented me from advocating for myself the way I needed to. Looking back, these are so many the things I wish I’d asked for during those long and complicated months. Perhaps if I had simply spoke up, things would have been different. Perhaps.
Someone To Talk To
Most of the time all I really needed was a friendly ear. But I was working, my husband was working (a lot), and I didn’t feel comfortable opening up to any of my family members or friends. So, for the most part, I was lonely.
Sometimes all I wanted was to go back to the life I lived before I was pregnant and before I met my husband, just so I could hang out with my friends. Back in those days my friends were my lifeline, but things changed when I got married and wound up pregnant. Most of my friends mistakenly assumed I didn’t need them, but nothing could be further from the truth.
To Travel Alone
With my first pregnancy, I had an OB-GYN that was just completely clueless. He had terrible bedside manner and made jokes at all the wrong times. At the end of the day, all I wanted was a doctor who would listen, who would advocate for me, and who would take care of me and my baby-to-be.
More Time For My Writing
While I was unemployed on and off during both of my pregnancies, I didn’t always have time to write. Sometimes my husband would get back from work and want to vent about his day, or my mother would burst in the door (as we were living together) and interrupt my flow.
All I wanted was some time alone and away with my thoughts and my words.
I knew then that I needed therapy. I know now, in retrospect, just how badly I needed to speak with a professional during both my pregnancies. As someone prone to anxiety and depression, I had heavy doses of both while pregnant. It would have helped to get a diagnoses and know I wasn’t as “screwed up” as I thought.
I know that medication is often frowned upon, whether a woman is pregnant or not, but I do think that something low dose and safe to consume when you're pregnant would have helped me tremendously. It was so, so hard to get through prenatal depression all on my own. Especially at my darkest moments, something to ease the pain would have been extremely beneficial.