There’s an unfortunately common refrain in my family about my reaction to pregnancy, particularly in the last couple of months: I’m a bitch. I’m mopey. Pregnancy agrees with me physically but psychologically it has turned me into my own evil twin, a shadowy reflection of myself that my mom promises Brian will “disappear…hopefully” once Arthur is with us. I’ve hinted toward it in previous posts, but I think it’s time to confront the possibility head-on. Maybe it will help me come to terms with my own feelings; at the very least, it may help other expectant mothers who think they’re suffering alone.
I’m afraid I may have antepartum depression.
Really, it’s a thing. Just Google “antepartum depression” and you’ll find a wealth of first-person accounts, as well as far too little insight from psychological organizations. It’s a “thing” that resembles the normal hormonal symptoms of pregnancy (mood swings, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc) so it can be difficult to distinguish from just “being pregnant”, but as with any clinical psychological issue there are some characteristics that make this something more than normal (symptoms and triggers below, among others, from American Pregnancy Association’s “Depression in Pregnancy” page):
- a family history of depression (check)
- persistent sadness (check)
- difficulty concentrating (definitely check)
- anxiety (check)
- feelings of guilt and worthlessness (are these people spying on me??)
Turns out my fears of losing control are legitimate.
Some days, all I do (or all I want to do, if I’m at work) is cry. Cry over nothing, cry over everything. I stepped on my cat’s paw Saturday night and it unleashed a torrent of sobbing over the thought that I had hurt my precious furbaby – if I can’t even keep him safe, it must be a sign that I’m going to screw up the rest of my family too. I cry that the dishes aren’t done and that I want to want to do something (anything) but that I’m so tired and all I can muster the energy for is slowly climbing the stairs to go back to bed in a monotonous routine. I’m a terrible wife and does that mean I’ll just be a terrible mother too?
There have been fleeting moments when – and I cannot believe I’m about to admit this to anybody but Brian – I considered that things might be better if we just hadn’t gotten pregnant. That thought makes me feel like a monster, never mind that I love this little guy so, so much and couldn’t imagine actually losing him. I hated myself for allowing the thought in, and I hated myself for looking my husband in the eye and voicing it out loud. And, I hate myself just a little bit for writing it here. But I can’t be the truest version of myself and deny that the thought ever existed. I am not a monster, despite these sometimes monstrous feelings.
Every day isn’t awful – in fact, some days are downright fantastic. I’m down-in-the-gut thrilled to meet Arthur, and even on the horrible days my rational brain is pounding at the door of my crazy brain to step aside and let in the light. That contradiction has kept me from fully entertaining the possibility that the bad feelings could be anything but normal hormones, but I have to confront these feelings for what they may be – for Arthur, for Brian, for myself. I may not be strong enough to get over it on my own, but by reaching out I hope that it’s something we can overcome together.
(And yes, I’ll tell my doctor – always mention important things like this to your OB!)