When you’re a kid, there’s always this feeling of excitement as each day ticks by. You can’t wait to get older. Get taller. “Grow into your shoes.” Kids have this amazing sense of optimism. I once knew a guy that became friends with someone in the primary school because he got shoved by him on the playground. Being a kid is a beautiful blind faith that everything is and will be okay.
You are pregnant is kind of like living in a short manner. You start off with that blind optimism that everything is going to be really great. That giddiness of making your first OB/GYN appointment, the anticipation of “when will I feel my baby kick for the first time?” You’re so busy thinking about the beautiful outcome of holding that little baby that you forget there are nine months between here and there. But just like life, you grow, and you learn. Suddenly, you realize all of those “side effects” that come with it aren’t really what you thought they’d be. Today I want to talk about prenatal depression.
We’ve all heard the doctors and parents talk about postpartum depression. The effect can have on mom and baby. Even the effect it can have on dads. We always hear to “watch out for the signs.” Insomnia. The anxiety. The weepy detachment. What they don’t tell you is that you can feel like this while you’re pregnant, too. Prenatal Depression? What’s that? We haven’t heard this term before. We don’t read about it in the books. They don’t mention it in the appointments. Depression during pregnancy? No way!
The thing is that depression during pregnancy tends to be overlooked and unrecognized. Especially because they frequently have the same exact symptoms…
- changes in sleep
- changes in the sleeping pattern
- increase or decrease appetite
- increase or decrease in libido
Sound familiar? During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in your brain, which are directly related to depression and anxiety.
My Story of Prenatal Depression
When I saw the results on my pregnancy tests, I didn’t know much, but I did know that I was prepared to encounter morning sickness, fatigue and even swollen feet that would no doubt leave me aching all day. What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional toll pregnancy would take: Beyond what we consider the normal fluctuations of hormones, I am among the estimated 14 to 23 per cent of expectant mothers who experience prenatal depression—admitting it has been one of the hardest things.
I am struggling. Becoming a mom has become one of the most vulnerable things I have ever done. I am growing something inside of my body and opening up my heart to loving something so deeply, so unconditionally. Sometimes it feels like I’m hurting. And sometimes that hurt feels so real. Physically. Emotional.
This hurt has left me feeling unenthusiastic toward otherwise happy moments in life. I feel uninterested in the activities I usually love, and to be honest, I’m unsure of my role outside of mom-to-be.
Since I’ve dealt with similar experiences in life, I’m not a stranger to my own downward spiral. The silence. The blank stares of nothing. The crippling sense of apathy that tends to characterize my depression. But this time is different. I feel caught off guard – unaware that there was even a thing such as prenatal depression. When I’m struggling, my confusion and guilt only complicate matters.
I’ve been working on it day by day. I was trying to open up more and shed light on my situation. And part of that is saying, “..here I am. This is me. This is how I’m feeling right now.”
In a sense, I feel lucky. I do have a great supportive circle. But sometimes, it’s overwhelming to be constantly supported by people who don’t truly understand. So the best advice I can give myself and give to others is this:
- Keep Moving
- Speak Up
- Remind Yourself, “It Is Okay.”
That last one is the hardest piece of advice because it applies everywhere. It is okay to be depressed. It’s okay to feel how you are feeling right now. To have good days. To have bad days. And to not know what it is you’re doing just yet. It is okay to ask for help.
It’s important for me to tell you that if you’re experiencing depression before, during, or after pregnancy: you are not alone.