This is the story of my battle with depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression), and post-partum depression. As I have stated before, these are feelings that I wish I never had felt. This is not the way I wanted either my pregnancy or post-partum experience to go. But this was my reality, and I am not going to sugar coat it. That doesn’t do anyone any good. I have decided to share this for the benefit of other women, especially those who may be going through, or have gone through similar experiences. While I was in the midst of my battle with PPD I desperately searched the internet for stories of experiences like mine, and came up with only a few results.
This was not easy to write, and I suspect it’s not going to be easy to read. But the ending, though still in progress, is a happy one. This should be a story of hope and preservation as opposed to one of sadness and bitterness, and I hope that it touches you.
On July 24, 2010 N and I were married.
On August 9, 2010 N’s father was tragically murdered.
On August 26, 2010 we found out we were pregnant.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE RELATED TO ME PLEASE SKIP THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH.
Grief is a funny thing. Especially when it hits suddenly and all at once. It can completely overpower you like a psychedelic drug trip- but without the ability to hear colors or see dragons. It can make you lose control over yourself. It can propel you to do things that you wouldn’t usually do in order to find some semblance of solace. After N and I learned about his father’s death (from his ex-stepmom who heard it on the news) we were thrown into a kind of grief I had never experienced before, and hope to never experience again. We clung to each other as we felt the world slip out from beneath us. I’m sure I don’t need to outright say what happened that night. Only that it didn’t happen out of any sort of lust, but a primal need to be as close to each other as possible. In our haze we didn’t use protection, didn’t even think about using it or what the possible ramifications of our actions were. It just happened, and that’s the only way I can explain it.
The next week was a steady stream of visitors, ignored calls from news outlets, and conversations with the police/ victim’s advocates/ etc. It wasn’t until after the funeral, and after N had returned to work that it hit me what had happened, and what possibly could happen. At that point in time I knew nothing about fertility, and turned to the internet to research what my chances were of being pregnant. I found an ovulation predictor and typed in my information. My last period had come during our honeymoon. When I saw the results my heart dropped. My calculated ovulation happened exactly on the day it had happened.
N was convinced I was probably pregnant but I wouldn’t hear a word of it. He went out and bought me a two pack of pregnancy tests and I took one immediately. It came back negative and with a relieved sigh I threw it in the trash can, hoping to just move on. As the day of my expected period got closer I started to get the precise kind of cramping I always get when it’s close. But there was still a tiny seed of worry in my mind that I had tested too early, and that I could still be pregnant.
On the night I decided to take the second test I couldn’t sleep. I waited in bed with baited breath until N’s alarm went off signaling him to wake up and go to his second job delivering newspapers. He hit snooze a few times and I practically exploded with impatience. But I didn’t let on that I was awake, and when I finally heard his car drive down the street I dashed to the bathroom. I grabbed the second test from where I had stashed it at the back of the cabinet and suddenly feeling hesitant, sat down on the toilet to take it.
I watched the test saturate slowly. I watched as one line appeared... and then another. I immediately dropped the test to the ground as if it was burning my hands. I pulled up my pants and flushed the toilet before sinking to the ground in uncontrollable sobs. At that point the sobs were from fear. It wasn’t a good time to be pregnant, my parents were going to be so upset (my mom had explicitly told me not to get pregnant right away if ever), and I was scared of the actual pregnancy itself. The sickness and the stretching and how the baby is supposed to come out of course.
My sobs dissolved into numbness and I went and got my phone.
“Can you pick up a few more pregnancy tests from different brands?” I typed to N.
“Was the other test positive?” he replied.
He brought home 3 other tests from different brands and I took them all at once. N watched with me as they all came out with very clear positives. I was crying and shaking again but he was comforting me. “It’s all going to be ok,” he reassured me. But I wasn’t so sure.
I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night and counted the hours until I knew my psychiatrist would be in. I called him immediately and let him know that I was pregnant. He advised me to stop the anti-depressant I was on cold turkey (I was on an MAOI which is a medication that is poorly studied in pregnancy/ breastfeeding and is not considered safe) and let me know that I could continue on my mood stabilizer if I felt it necessary, but that it would give my child an increased risk of birth defects. I decided to stop both, but in a few days later that decision wouldn’t have been my own anyway. I got so sick I couldn’t keep anything- especially pills- down.
The second call I made that morning was to my (feisty) gynecologist. “Oh shit your mom is going to be so mad!” she exclaimed, and I had a bad feeling she was right. Since her practice didn’t oversee pregnancies she referred me to a group of OB/GYNs at a local hospital. I gave them a call and they scheduled me for an appointment- over a month away. They let me know that they don’t see patients until they are at least 8 weeks pregnant, but I got another appointment for the following week to talk to one of the doctors about my psychiatric medication. During that appointment the doctor essentially said the same things as my psychiatrist, but as I said before continuing to take pills wasn’t an option anymore. We decided to continue to monitor my moods throughout my pregnancy, and she wrote me a script for Zofran.
When it came time for my first real baby appointment I was a ball of nerves. N had taken the day off from work to go with me, and sat patiently by my side. When we were called back (after waiting for what felt like forever) they directed me towards the ultrasound room. I was confused, and told the nurse that I hadn’t even had a blood test yet and wasn’t sure I was pregnant (despite all the positives tests, lack of a period, and constant sickness I didn’t feel, deep down, like I was pregnant.)
I got on the table in the ultrasound room and was disappointed to hear that it was going to be internal. I had had an internal ultrasound before to check for ovarian cysts, and let me tell you, it’s not exactly a fun experience. As the technician did, uh, her thing I kept waiting for her to turn to us and go, “Well you’re not pregnant! You can be on your way now!” But that’s not what she said to us. In fact, I don’t remember what she said to us because I went into a sort of shock. She turned the monitor towards us and there was a funny little lump on the screen, with an even smaller pulsating lump at the top of it. “That’s the heart,” she pointed out, “let’s give it a listen.” And for the first time I heard a heartbeat inside me that wasn’t my own. I was shocked, incredulous, and to be honest, a little bit horrified. It was getting harder and harder to try and convince myself that this wasn’t actually happening.