Prenatal Depression: A Tale Of An Unhappy Pregnancy
I wanted to have another baby. My first child was one of those “perfect” babies who slept all night and never cried. And while I joked that baby number two was going to be the “payback” baby, I had no idea what life had in store for me.
We planned to try for another baby next summer – after my sister’s wedding. I was the maid of honour after all, and it was a role I had waited my entire life to fulfil.
My son was 18 months old and I was just starting to adjust to working part time while caring for him during the day. He was my entire world and I loved spending every single moment with him.
It was a hot summer day and I opened all of the windows in the house to let in the fresh air. Then, I smelled it… cigarette smoke. It was so strong and offensive that I assumed someone was standing outside the window smoking, but upon investigating I realised it was coming from a neighbour in the next yard over.
There was only one reason for this extremely heightened sense of smell. I knew this because I had experienced it before – when I was pregnant. My heart sunk into my stomach and I immediately went out for a pregnancy test.
Taking the test this time was unlike the last time. Or the two times before that which ended in miscarriage. I wasn’t excited and hopeful. I was overcome with anxiety and dread.
I prayed hard for the test to come back negative but it was a hard positive. I cursed and smacked the bathroom door out of frustration and disappointment.
My Unhappy Pregnancy
Counting out 9 months on my fingers got me to May, 2 months before my sister’s wedding. And if this pregnancy was anything like my first, I would be mostly out of commission for those 9 months (thanks a lot hyperemesis gravidarum).
To make matters worse – my husband was thrilled. Since we both wanted another baby, he couldn’t understand why I was so devastated and so I pretended not to be, to avoid putting strain on our relationship. But it was an unhappy pregnancy.
As the weeks went on, I got sicker and sicker. It became very hard to keep down much food at all and eventually I had to go on disability leave at work. I stopped taking my son to the playground because I no longer had the energy.
In fact, I stopped doing almost everything with him because of how sick I was. I felt so guilty for not being able to do the things I used to do with him and blamed the new baby for it.
The only thing that got me through my first trimester was the hope that this pregnancy, like my first two, would end in a miscarriage.
Everyone told me that the morning sickness would go away after the first trimester, and perhaps things would have gotten better if they did. Deep down, I knew they were lying because I suffered with HG for the entire 9 months last time. The first trimester came and went… still pregnant, and still nauseated.
Finally, I decided to seek help. I started seeing a therapist once a week. She was sympathetic and kind. But she looked at me with sad eyes as if she felt sorry for me. She told me cliché things like “babies are blessings” and “a lot of moms have a hard time adjusting to two kids.” Eventually I stopped going.
For the birth, I started looking into different options, such as a water birth. Maybe if the experience was peaceful and soothing, this baby would come into a happier world than the one I was currently living in. My midwives were amazing and supportive but I was embarrassed to tell them about my unhappy pregnancy and prenatal depression.
They were so positive when they talked about babies and motherhood and childbirth, how could they possibly understand what I was going through? I didn’t want to sit through another lecture about how blessed I was.
For the rest of the pregnancy, I stayed distracted. I didn’t take pictures of my growing belly every week or go shopping for tiny baby clothes. I didn’t have an ever-changing list of baby names this time. I kept track of how far along I was, but only because I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Time For The Birth
And then one night – it was…
I went into labour at exactly 1 am on a Monday morning. It happened just like in the movies: I sat up in bed with a sudden pain and just knew it was time. After an hour of frantically running around gathering up everything we needed in between intense contractions, we made it out the door.
As soon as I got into the vehicle, I felt the urge to push. I completely forgot about breathing techniques and instead screamed the entire way at the top of my lungs as my husband sped through the city living out his dream of being a Formula One driver. We made it with only 7 minutes to spare.
My baby was not born in a peaceful and soothing atmosphere, in fact it turned out to be quite the opposite. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the water birth I was hoping for, but I was happy that she was the girl I always hoped for, and that the nausea that plagued me for the last 9 months had finally ceased.
Everything all happened so quickly. A precipitous labour meant a precipitous recovery as well and I went home only hours after giving birth. I should have relaxed in bed. I should have spent time bonding with my baby girl and enjoying those first few days.
I should have had others waiting on me hand and foot. But instead I resumed all my normal activities.
I swept the floors and hosted guests and played with my son and ate and ate and ate. It was the best I had felt in a long time. My midwives screened me for PPD for the first 6 weeks but I passed with flying colours because I was ecstatic to no longer be pregnant and sick!
That high lasted about 2 months.
And then one day, I realised that I had no idea who my baby was. The more I looked at her, the more she felt like a stranger. I never bonded with her while she was in my womb, and I had done everything in my power to ignore her for the last couple months.
I was so annoyed by her presence, this baby that I never wanted. And now I was stuck with her. To make matters worse – she was an extremely fussy and colicky baby.
Another few months went on, with her crying and refusing to sleep and me resenting everything about her, when I finally suspected something was wrong. I thought that it would get better eventually.
Not all mothers bond with their newborns, I mean, they don’t really do much at that age. But now she was old enough to recognise me and smile and laugh and play and interact… and I still felt no love for her.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was, perhaps, a continuation of the prenatal depression but because I felt so entirely happy after giving birth, I didn’t see it that way.
But I wasn’t really happy – I was distracted and relieved and able to eat again and those things gave me the illusion of happiness after 9 months of vomiting and pain and guilt.
And so my battle with postpartum depression began. It started from the moment of conception and gradually voyaged further and further into the darkness.
It has been a journey of ups and downs over the last 6 years but I can finally confirm that I do LOVE my daughter.
I have even more love and appreciation for her now because of what we’ve gone through together.
So, it does, in fact, get better. But not by ignoring it – by facing it head on and dealing with it – no matter how scary that might seem.
BIO : Vanessa Rapisarda is a stay at home mom of three kids living in Manitoba, Canada. She blogs at www.RunninginTriangles.com where she writes about surviving postpartum depression, sleep training and breastfeeding, among other topics. As a prenatal/postpartum depression survivor, she has made it her mission to help raise awareness about maternal mental health issues. You can visit her website for more info at: http://runningintriangles.com