Living with Prenatal depression and anxiety

Guest Author: Katie

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

This time last year I was sitting in our old condo angry that my little sister was pregnant. I wanted to be pregnant but we were “waiting.” Waiting until we bought a house, waiting for my husband to hear back from a prospective job, waiting until we were “ready,” waiting, waiting, waiting. I was angry, annoyed, and downright desperate for a baby. Baby fever consumed me.

Then it happened. A night of too much wine in our new home and 6 weeks later we discovered that I was pregnant, ahead of schedule! I was happy. My husband was happy. We were (and are) so blessed. A new home, a thriving business (me), a fulfilling career (him), family we loved, a perfect marriage – we had it all.

But now here I am, 24 weeks pregnant and miserable. Not because I should be but because I am and I don’t know why. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 10% of pregnant women will experience depression and anxiety during their pregnancy. The American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society estimates that it is closer to 14-23%. Either way, that is a lot of women. I can’t speak for them but I can tell you a little about what I deal daily in the hopes that maybe you will find that you are not alone.

1. Panic attacks: I experienced my first one quite early on (I can’t remember when exactly) but I was driving home and I had to pull over because I couldn’t breathe. It was like someone was sitting on my chest. I am an asthmatic so when my inhaler wasn’t working, even more panic set in. I can remember gasping for air, the car closing in on me, and this overall sense of dread that was debilitating. Eventually it went away and I cried the entire way home thinking that I just screwed up my child for life.

2. Forgetfulness: This goes far beyond the normal “baby brain” that people talk about. It is like my brain completely shuts off for parts of the day. Large parts of the day will go missing and as a result, I can’t remember what I did or didn’t do. I will go to work in the morning and be completely convinced that I left my dog outside in the cold. I will literally not remember if I brought her inside or not. Then anxiety sets in and I will have myself convinced that she has frozen to death outside. Then panic will set in and, well, see above description.

3. I don’t trust myself:
Because of the forgetfulness and anxiety combined, I will wake up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking that [insert anything here] was or wasn’t done so I will get out of bed to check on said thing. I will then proceed to check it a bazillion times because I don’t trust that my eyes are working. I will repeat to myself things like, “the computer is shut down” or “the door is locked” all the way back up to bed only to get out of bed and recheck it because I don’t know for sure.

4. Guilt:
I want my body back. I want to rip my baby out of my body. I want to be done. I want to have my life back. I want my brain back. The guilt of thinking that is like cancer, slowly killing me. What kind of mother am I going to be if I think that? My baby is likely better off without me. Then the guilt of what that would do to my husband is like a knife to the heart.

5. Exhaustion:
I cry almost constantly and if I am not crying, I am on the verge of crying. This is exhausting both physically and mentally. Trying to care about the lives of the people around me is further exhausting. I don’t care about my best friend’s new boyfriend. It is too exhausting to listen to. Being a friend, being a wife, being a sister, being a daughter, being whatever, is simply too exhausting.

6. I don’t want to eat
: Prior to being pregnant, I was the anti-eating stressor. When my friends would binge eat their feelings, I would do the opposite which is exactly what I am doing now. The ironic part about this is that my body doesn’t care. I am constantly hungry (thank you pregnancy) even though I hate the thought of eating. It’s a constant battle. Thankfully, my body usually wins out. But there have been times when I will go all day without eating which doesn’t help the guilt (see above), the panic (see above), or the exhaustion (see above).

I went months thinking that everything I was feeling was normal, I thought that this is what pregnancy hormones are like. That’s what everyone told me. Crying is normal, feeling anxious is normal, but when I started feeling like I wanted to rip the baby out of me, that’s when I knew that this wasn’t, in fact, “normal.” This was far from it. I even had a psychologist brush this off as “normal.” I wanted to kill her.

My battle is not over, in fact I have a sneaking suspicion that it has just started. There is a lot of evidence that says women who have prenatal depression and anxiety are at a higher risk of postpartum depression. Both my husband and I are now acutely alert to the possibility that this could get a lot uglier before it gets better.  In the meantime, what has been helping me through these tough times is just simply knowing that this isn’t my fault. This is some type of weird chemical imbalance that I don’t have any control over. I recently gave therapy another chance and found a psychologist who specializes in prenatal and postpartum depression. It took 3 therapists to find her, but I did! She gives me homework that I am not qualified to pass on to you but I really encourage anyone going through this to find a therapist that understands, even if it takes shopping around to find the right fit. Somehow just getting validation as to what I am feeling has been really helpful. I feel less “crazy” and more “sick.” The only other words of advice that I can pass on to anyone going through this is to try to remember the big picture – your baby. There are many days I want to rip him out of my body but then I look at his cute little toes in the ultrasound and remember that somewhere, deep down there is an extraordinary love that I have for this little human whom I haven’t even met yet. This love will change my life, I just need to hold on to that golden thread of hope.

If you are experiencing any of the same symptoms, I urge you to speak to your doctor and get the help you need. Don’t walk, run! I wish you luck and love, mamas. We will get through this, together.


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