Hi. My name is Emma.
I have been pregnant three times. I've spent the better part of four years trying to get out of, what I call, The Rabbit Hole of perinatal mood disorders.
My first pregnancy ended in a missed miscarriage. Grief turned into depression. It went undiagnosed because I was grieving. I was told to "get over it" more than once. I couldn't. And the shame I felt because of those statements left me unwilling to seek help.
As you can maybe imagine, or maybe know if you've been through a miscarriage, I became extremely anxious during my second pregnancy. My husband questioned our OB about how normal my level of anxiety was. It was dismissed as a normal feeling due to my previous loss.
Finally that second pregnancy was over, but I feel that I had a less than stellar birth experience...and it landed my first son, G, in the NICU. The birth of my son was supposed to make my anxiety and depression go away, but it only made it worse. I was in too deep to recognize I needed help. I later learned my friends and family saw the signs. But they didn't do anything. Some of them didn't know how to help. Some of them were scared of upsetting me even more.
It was the nurse practitioner we saw at G's one month well visit that suggested I discuss how I was feeling with my OB. That's when I started thinking maybe I did have a problem. I kept saying I was trying to get used to being a mom, but maybe it really was more than feeling new at the Mom Thing.
The two weeks I (stupidly) waited for my six week postpartum checkup, I started getting scared. I read and re-read the information about postpartum depression at Postpartum Progress. I began thinking I really did have it, but I was scared the doctor would tell me I didn't. What then?
The day of my six week checkup arrived and I couldn't answer the nurse's "How are you doing?" without bursting into tears. She told me to talk to the doctor about how I was feeling.
The midwife came in and I told her I was concerned about postpartum depression. She asked me a series of questions: how well are you eating? How much sleep are you getting? (Apparently I was getting more than the average new mom, though it didn't feel like it.) Are you breastfeeding and how is that going? Do you have help at home?
I was able to give pretty positive answers to all of her questions (except breast feeding, that was a major stress factor with G). I thought for sure she'd tell me what I was feeling was normal, and I didn't want to hear that.
Then she asked, "Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy?"
That's when it dawned on me: I didn't enjoy the visits we had from friends and family. I dreaded them and hated how everyone oohed and ahhed over my baby when I felt so distant, and sometimes resentful, towards him.
"There's your depression," the midwife said. She handed me a prescription for Zoloft with instructions to wean myself off of it after three months. If I felt okay, great! If not, I was to go back on it another three months and try again. She told me I should start feeling better within a year.
It wasn't until I tried weaning off Zoloft for the first time that I realized I needed more than drugs to keep me sane. Everything set me into a fit of rage. I was crying all the time. I wanted to storm out of the apartment and not come back. I felt bombarded by intrusive thoughts. I needed to see a therapist.
I worried a lot that I would need to be medicated to be a decent mother. I worked on this issue at each therapy session for the next four months; until we moved to Fredericksburg. Then, I weaned G off the boob and myself off Zoloft. I felt okay. I got pregnant again and I felt good for the first time since my miscarriage.
That is, until I was about seven months pregnant and my husband was working late most nights and weekends. G was being a normal 18 month old with fits of rage when he couldn't communicate his frustration. I'm sure I could have chalked up the meltdowns I had myself to pregnancy hormones, but I felt like I was drowning. How was I going to cope with a two year old, an infant, and a husband that worked crazy hours?
I needed a plan. I needed to find a therapist in the area. I needed to know how my new midwife would handle postpartum depression if it became an issue. I couldn't bear the thought of going through what I went through when G was an infant.
Next post: how the rest of this pregnancy progressed, and how I fared after giving birth to my second child.