The Story of My Pregnancy Depression
Something that not many people know is that I was severely depressed during my pregnancy with Calvin. It wasn't that I was embarrassed to talk about it, but rather I was in so much pain that I didn't feel like I could easily discuss it.
The depression was entirely hormonally based. I'm very sensitive to hormonal fluctuations and I had horrible depression when I was taking birth control pills a few years ago, which is when I first became aware of this sensitivity.
This time, the depression came on before I had even taken a pregnancy test. I was on day 19 or 20 of my cycle and felt like I couldn't handle myself. I couldn't stop crying and getting hurt or angry at every little thing. I remember Brock coming into the kitchen where I was trying to pull myself together and he said, "What is going on? Are you okay?" And I said, "If I'm not pregnant then I need to see a psychiatrist. Something might be up with my hormones." A pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions.
While the depression continued during the first trimester, I wasn't too worried. I had experienced a very slight bout of sadness while in my first trimester with James, so I assumed it would clear up the way that had.
But it didn't. Instead, it got worse and worse. Soon, I felt unable to do the simplest things, like fix myself lunch or wash my hair. I began having panic attacks, sometimes for no reason at all. I cried every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I couldn't make conversation with people or paint my toenails or wash dishes.
My mind began turning on me in a horrible way. I would find myself doubting all my life choices: why had I wanted a second baby? Why did we move to California? Why did we even have a kid to begin with? Should I have even gotten married? Should I have changed my major in college? And I would be swamped in a sea of self-doubt and regret.
The worst thing, the part that scared me the most, was when I began having suicidal thoughts. When I got really low, I would imagine ending everything. Different scenarios would play out in my head and I couldn't stop thinking about hurting myself. It was always frightening to wake up the next morning and think, "What was that? Did I really think about that?"
In the middle of December, when I was about 3 months along, a health scare with someone in my family turned my mental health upside down. I was a mess for days. My heart was always pounding and I could not calm down. As the thoughts of self-harm got worse and my ability to function decreased I realized I needed help.
I began looking for a therapist. In college I had seen a therapist and it helped me a lot. But when I finally found someone to see, it didn't work. The best thing the therapist did was encourage me to talk to my doctor about my symptoms.
Once I told my doctor, I felt so much better. She was amazingly understanding and told me how often she sees pregnant women struggle with depression. It made me feel less alone, and when she prescribed me anti-depressants I felt hopeful for the first time in months.
The medicine helped me feel so much better, but it didn't take away all my feelings. I still woke up most mornings wishing I could run away from my life and I still felt exhausted by 7 p.m. just by doing normal daily tasks. My depression affected me every day.
It was hard to talk about, especially when I often got comments from acquaintances that were along the lines of, "How are you feeling?" I wanted to say, "Physically I'm fine, but I'm also in the midst of the most debilitating depression of my life." It was also hard to tell people and have them begin talking about someone that they knew who had postpartum depression. I don't know why it bothered me so much, but I was not experiencing postpartum depression. I did not have the baby blues. It was something different that was equally as horrible, but in its own separate category.
The depression was why I knew I couldn't even attempt delivering Calvin without an epidural. There was no way that my mind was up to handling the pain and stress of childbirth, and that is why his birth was so much harder for me than James's was.
Afterward, I experience hormonal shifts like I never had before. It started in the hospital right before we were discharged. The discharge was asking me a bunch of question and I just started crying. For nearly a week after that, I broke down multiple times a day. Everything made me violently sad. I cried so hard that my eyelids were swollen and puffy. I began to worry about postpartum depression and wonder at what point I should call my doctor. What I was experiencing was worse that what it had been during my pregnancy.
And then it calmed down. Around the time Calvin was a week old, my hormones turned around. I could feel it happening, feel myself slowly getting back to normal. After a few truly frightening days that gave me a glimpse into just how terrible hormones can be, I settled into a more regular rhythm.
And now I'm a lot better. I'm still taking Zoloft because I think it helps me in a lot of ways, and I feel so good. While pregnant I could always feel an undercurrent of sadness, but that is gone now. I'm capable of being with friends, playing with my kids, having neighbors over for dinner, and managing to live a more balanced life.
This experience has definitely changed me and I feel so different from what I was a year ago. It was one of the hardest years of my life. But during that time, I discovered things about my faith that I couldn't have without this experience. I learned more about God's love, His hand in my life, and the realities of mortality than I ever had before. And that has been invaluable to me.