"It took me getting completely hysterical at my doctor's office for my feelings to be recognized and taken seriously."
I was an emotional and physical wreck while pregnant
I was very excited about becoming a mom and had no problems getting pregnant. But pretty early on, I started feeling uncomfortable. I developed a corpus luteum cyst on my ovary, which is harmless and usually disappears on its own. But mine grew to softball size, and as the baby grew it caused more pain.
I'm tiny – 5 feet tall – and I gained about 50 pounds. I also had really bad sciatica – at one point, I lost all feeling in my left thigh. I couldn't do normal things: walk up the stairs, tie my shoes, roll over in bed at night.
On top of all that, I started feeling mentally impaired. It was like I had no backup mental reserves to compensate for my physical limitations. I had no inner voice able to laugh at silly things like not being able to lace my own sneakers or to remind myself that this was all temporary. My brain processed every one of my physical deficiencies as dire. I remember thinking, "I'm trapped in my body and I'm losing my mind!"
By 5 months, I started to feel enormous depression in addition to the physical pain. I've experienced depression on and off in my life so I know a good deal about it, but this was different. I felt like I had no power to make myself feel better. It didn't occur to me to ask my husband for help – my depression was that paralyzing.
I had no gnawing fears or worries about being a good mom. Instead I felt that literally everything was overwhelming. Just getting up and going to work was all I could manage. I cried every single day.
One day in my seventh month, I came home from work and just sank to the floor in the hallway, sobbing. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself in a chair in the living room, staring out the window, and it was three hours later. I had no idea where that time had gone, and that scared me.
What helped me when I was depressed
When I next went to see my gynecologist, I became hysterical. She referred me to a therapist who specializes in pre- and postnatal depression. I was put on a very low dose of an antidepressant, and we decided that I would stop working and stay home. This combination definitely helped alleviate my depression.
I didn't have to juggle everything, and I didn't have to hold it together anymore. I slept a lot. Disturbing things like losing chunks of time stopped happening.
The minute my son was born, I felt better. He was two weeks early, just 5 pounds, and had trouble maintaining his blood sugar, so he was in the NICU for a week. Interestingly, that didn't freak me out. It was like as soon as he was out of my body, I got my head back.
While my husband and I have several reasons for deciding not to have another baby, my fear of going through a pregnancy again is the biggest. Being pregnant was the second-most traumatic experience of my life, after losing my mom as a child, and I don't want to go back there again.
What I wish other moms knew
When you're pregnant, you're warned about all these physical symptoms to watch for. But it's important to also watch for changes in your normal temperament – any emotions and behaviors that just don't feel like you. If something doesn't feel right mentally or emotionally, don't brush it off. Call your doctor right away.
When I was suffering during pregnancy, I believed that everyone could see – or should have seen – what was wrong with me. Maybe I was holding it together well enough that no one saw the depression? It took me getting completely hysterical at my doctor's office for my feelings to be recognized and taken seriously.
Read more moms' stories about depression during pregnancy.
As many as 1 in 10 pregnant women suffers from depression. Many don't get help because they're ashamed of how they feel or dismiss their feelings as normal pregnancy moodiness.
If you experience symptoms of depression, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Or contact Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773 for free, confidential advice and help finding a therapist or support group in your area.